Do we still need Business Analysts? The Future Role of the Business Analyst – Part 1

Posted on by Patrick

I constantly hear that with the advent of Agile in many major enterprises, the role of the Business Analyst will become redundant. After all, who needs someone from IT to represent the business when Agile methodologies dictate that the business should be sitting alongside the developers explaining their requirements in person. Also, in a Web 2.0 world, you do not hear the cry from Silicon Valley demanding more Business Analysts to go out and to start eliciting requirements from the consumer.

And what about the rise of Consumer Technologies in the Enterprise environment? With so many employees brining their own devices and accompanying software to work, surely all of our enterprise grade software will become redundant in the not too distant future?

So where does this leave Business Analysts? Are we destined to end up like so many other professions, replaced by new technology and new ways of thinking?

I don’t think so. While the rise of the bring your own device, consumer technology and Agile all represent a challenge to the role of the BA, this is also a time filled with opportunity for Business Analysts. I’ll talk more next week about how we can take advantage of those trends in the second part of this article, but for now, we should probably remind ourselves why the Business Analyst role is still very relevant to the Enterprises in which we work.

Co-location is almost always impossible:

In the last two years alone, I have worked with infrastructure teams in London and Germany, developers in the Czech Republic, Germany and India and with business clients spread across Europe.

Despite efforts to use Agile methods and terminology, no one has ever been senior enough to make business clients up root themselves from their homes and their families for months on end to go and locate themselves with development and testing teams spread across the four corners of the globe.

In most Enterprise organizations, there is no appetite to have a fight over co-location either. Many of the offshore locations were chosen on a cost first basis. The fact that we’re often working with very talented people is a massive benefit to us in the IT teams, but that’s not the main reason why so much of IT was outsourced in the first place.

A serious attempt at co-location would have to either put the business with the developers or move the development team to the business which would put a serious dent in the cost savings that Enterprises are trying to achieve.

It falls to the BA then to be the traditional link between the business and IT again. No matter how agile a project tries to be, in today’s Enterprise environments, you are not going to be physically able to put Developers and the Business in the same room for extended periods of time. The Business Analyst is always going to have to interpret Business Requirements and give guidance to IT as well as explaining IT decisions to the business.

Who else is going to go to all of the meetings?

Meetings are inevitable, although I highly recommend reading this book before your next one.

In a world where you can’t locate IT and the business in the same room, there are going to be a lot of meetings. Issue tracking meetings, prioritization meetings, catch up calls, swat teams, triage meetings, the list is endless. There will be meetings that the development team or testers should be at and meetings that the business should be at.

The Business Analyst will always need to go to these meetings in an effort to understand both the IT and Business perspective. In the end, both side always come to rely on the BA doing this and over time they attend less and less meeting, confident that the BA will cover any issues that arise.

IT Vendors are nervous of Agile:

They will talk a good game during the sales cycle, promises will be made in an effort to get a contract signed, but that contract will be based on known requirements and the statement of work that follows will have a milestone requiring the delivery of a Requirements document

Most contracts are fixed price. While this is still the case vendors will want requirements to be fixed at a certain point so that they can plan delivery. Within this plan there will be very little room for change. Even when a change budget has been agreed, both the Business and the Vendor will need Business Analysts to provide solid set of requirements and an acceptable scope at the outset of the project.

Enterprise software will be around for awhile:

There is some fantastic software in the consumer space right now and I’m sure that most Business Analysts would love to get their hands some of it to help them in their work. However, IT departments have legitimate concerns over what will happen to their data once it starts to live either in the cloud or on employees own devices.

This fear over security is causing IT departments to block these tools. It may not be a battle that they can win, but it will be an ugly fight, fought over a long period of time. In the meantime, the legacy software that exists in these Enterprises will not be going away.

As Employees start to look at the Enterprise software that they are given to use and compare it to the software that they’d rather use the role of the Business Analyst will become significantly more challenging, but that is a very good thing and will be something that I’ll concentrate on next week.

This has been a very negative article, defending the role of the BA and justifying the role’s continuing existence based on the fact that we don’t live in an ideal world. Next week promises to be a lot more fun as I look at the opportunities that these new methodologies and technologies present to the Business Analysis profession.

If you have your own ideas on the role of the Business Analyst, then please feel free to let me know by leaving a comment below.
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