Paradigm Shifts for Business Analysis

We’ve all heard the arguments, and probably started a few as well, about the fact that business analysts are so much more than scribes, requirements clerks, documentation writers and the like. Yet the perception and utilization of BAs in this regard continues to permeate the profession. In looking at the responsibilities and actions of the general BA population, there are signs that may point to why this continues to be a problem. In 2011, Glenn Brule wrote a series of articles that discussed the progress ion of the BA career path and the shifts in focus, as well as skills needed for the changing competencies.

Transitioning into a senior role, the BA is acutely aware and well seasoned in technical skills and begins to flex business skill muscle in enterprise analysis-type activities, e.g., writing a business case, understanding business needs, conducting capability analysis, defining solution scope.

Glenn R Brule, Are Business Analysts in Danger of Becoming Extinct? Part 2

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Essentially, Brule was highlighting his foresight into the fact that business analysts had a path to remain relevant in their roles if they understood some basic phases of the BA profession and the general skill sets required for each. He painted a high-level picture that provided a road map for a practitioner to start with, as a basis for moving forward. Concurrently, the proliferation of the popularity of certifications such as ITIL and TOGAF have gained significant momentum while new organizations continue to form up, mature and provide a home to aspiring business architects. This year at the Building Business Capability conference in Las Vegas, there was noticeable on the push to add strategy to the mindset of the BA’s pursuit of excellence through exposure to more strategic process discussion and architecture modeling platforms. In fact, Sparx Systems we quick to espouse a recent partnership with IIBA to cement the importance being placed on the topics. Even more exciting is the increase in volume of blogs and articles peppering the Internet that promote these shifts.

But! There are two major things that I think are missing in the drive to mature the profession. The first is the recognition of the business analyst as a strategic analytical weapon by organizations, key business units in the organization and managers of individual or groups of business analysts.

While Enterprise Architecture is seeing a healthy foothold growing in many organization, that doesn’t always equate to the parallel creation of business architecture capability. Business architecture units are still relatively new ventures in the same organizations as additional focus on the business is added. Therefore, it might not be unreasonable to assume that good visibility in to the solution and technical architecture is present, yet there are holes tracing it back to strategic need and value statements, assessing fully the organization impacts or determining the level of change management.

“The crucial element is how well the Business Architects are integrated with the other architects and with the analysts. In many cases Business Architecture was within the Enterprise Architecture function – as an aside…”
What is Business Architecture?
By Allen Brown, President and CEO,
The Open Group

Additionally, the word “solution” in many instances has somehow come to signify the technical product delivered to the customer in project execution, and I think that is a massive and dangerous proposition. The dumbing down of “solution” (which is not a comment on the high value of technical awareness and delivery) makes it easy to simply forget that the technical product should be assessed against the organization that will install it and turn it on. Without clarity on what will happen to existing process, resources, workload shifts, data flows and the need for communication and training, there is significant failures to occur. Combine the project execution missteps to understand business impacts with lack of business architecture viewpoints, stakeholders and interaction points; the business understanding becomes even muddier. The best thing to resolve this obstacle has already started, and that is the aforementioned increased dialog.

I think the second major point is more problematic. After watching many, many business analysts, reading the content in the BABOK (all three of these fine, fascinating tomes of career non-fiction) and also reading the general flavor of dialog in the community; and managing, mentoring and guiding business analysts, I’m convinced that the younger, less experienced analysts today are short-changed by focus on tactical execution of requirements identification and techniques without realization on the value of those skills in a strategic setting. So, for those of who just choked on hot coffee reading that, I’m NOT espousing that we stop understanding and analyzing content to produce great requirements. Our current jobs are more essential than ever. I am stating that training and cultural awareness that targets our up and coming BAs earlier on the value of their current skills and how to better apply them in different scenarios must gain more traction. The IIBA® has taken a huge step forward in the new BABOKv3 by introducing the Core Concept Model (page 12) to all business analysts. The model applies a framework to every action we will perform and uses it mentally chop up and reframe the work we are doing and the questions we are asking. This is the first piece of the strategic puzzle communication, but it must be followed by reinforcement of more experienced analysts guiding the professionals who will take over in the coming years. While the collaborative dialog HAS increased, I’m hoping that there will be movement, by our own hands, to increase the clarity and applicability of the BA value into enterprise and business architecture.

Let’s start here.

IIBA President and CEO, Stephen Ashworth, in closing remarks at BBC 2015, put out a call to the community to give back and add value. I would like to propose this as one starting point for us to put some focus on. I’d like to also add anything I can to what may be the first major movement of business analysis since the IIBA formed a qualifying body for certifications and standards. This will be a recurring topic in this blog from time to time and part of my mentoring regimen with willing participants.

Interested in everything you wish to add to this conversation, good or bad.

 

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