The IIBA was formed in 2003. As I look back over 15 years of the business analysis association I am proud of how important the profession has become and how many opportunities are now available for professionals who are passionate about enabling success through analysis. I also see changes, ways that we have evolved over the time. A few observations:
Does Business Analysis include “Design”?
When we wrote the first version of the BABOK® Guide we discussed the word “design” and most contributors felt that we should not use the word. IIBA wanted to be clear that BAs don’t design software systems, deliverables like technical design specifications, databases, networks, and client-service distribution strategies are outside our domain. Today the word design is being used more broadly and the current version of the BABOK® Guide V3 contains a knowledge area called Requirements Analysis and Design Definition. This change recognizes that business analysis professionals are often involved in designing the portions of the solutions that are user facing (e.g. user interfaces, process flows, dashboards, reports). Business analysts have the detailed understanding of user needs which drive solution design. Business analysis professionals should lead design efforts facilitating experts in all design areas to collaborate on solutions.
Direct Customer Access
The most important part of analysis has always been stakeholder engagement. Stakeholder identification, analysis, elicitation, collaboration, and facilitation are core to the business analysis profession. As use of technology spreads outside organizations, a new set of stakeholders have become critical, in many cases, the most important stakeholders: customers and potential customers. Business analysts have not traditionally elicited requirements directly from external customers, instead working through a marketing or sales organization. Now we need direct interaction with customers to perform high quality analysis. Customer needs and wants must be elicited directly to assure their desires are incorporated into solution designs. If you don’t have access to customers, push your management to allow you direct access. Lead the development of ground rules for interactions with customers honoring company policies and customer privacy.
Innovation and Industry Disruption
In the 2000’s many organizations were focused on streamlining inefficient processes and automating manual work. Many business analysts were focused on redesigning business processes and enabling manual processes with technology. Early adopters of business analysis roles, insurance and financial services companies, looked to BAs to enable automation of manual processes. As technology continues to evolve, business analysts must now approach business needs with innovative, leading edge recommendations; not just looking for cost savings, but generating ideas for new products, new services, and disruptive changes which will leap frog their companies ahead of the competition. Business analysis professionals need to lead innovative thinking.
When the IIBA was formed, the word “agile” still meant the ability to move quickly and easily! As agile software development methodologies were introduced, the role of business analysis was severely challenged. Many software development leaders believed that business analysis work only involved writing requirements and saw no need for analysts on their teams. Fortunately, the agile processes have matured to understand the importance of analysis, architecture, planning, and lightweight requirements. People performing business analysis on software development projects may be called Scrummasters, Product Owners, Product Managers, even SAFe® Release Train Engineers! Titles change but the work remains critical. Business analysts in todays world can be found working in any number of different types of teams using numerous approaches to performing and delivering analysis and design work. IIBA has published an Agile Extension to the BABOK® Guide to help support new agile techniques. Business analysis professionals are leading many agile transformations because they understand the current state (e.g. waterfall), future state (e.g. scrum), and are comfortable working with all the stakeholders affected by the change.
Linking Strategy to Execution
From the beginning of IIBA, we recognized the importance of aligning all project work to organizational strategy. The first version of the BABOK® Guide in 2005 used the phrase Enterprise Analysis which was new to most organizations. It took us a few years to educate the industry on what this phrase referred to – the idea that analysis must be done at the highest level of organizations and communicated throughout the organization to all operational and project teams. What has changed over the last 15 years is the awareness that BAs and PMs are the professionals best positioned to communicate the link between strategy and execution. BAs and PMs analyze ideas and make rational recommendations about which projects and products should be funded to further the organization’s mission. We are best positioned to do this because we understand the organization from top to bottom.
You may have noticed my mention of leadership in each of the above topics. People who think deeply about organizational change and know how to facilitate and influence changes are leaders in their organizations. When we started IIBA we didn’t realize how many of our members would be great leaders! Leadership skills have always been key to organizational success and people who utilize business analysis skills show leadership.