The Coming Business Analyst Surge
With so much talk about “productivity transformation” and moving businesses to the “digital workplace,” I really thought we would see a huge spike in the hiring of one specific role: the Business Analyst. Did I miss something? Has it happened? Are companies hiring them, possibly under a different title that has, until now, slipped underneath the radar?
The role of the Business Analyst is, in my view, critical to the successful move of any organization into vNext of their business — even more so as companies make the transition from on-premises to the cloud. The BA’s core function is to help the organization both streamline business processes, and also to automate the company’s various productivity and collaboration environments. A good BA is constantly reviewing critical operations and processes, regularly connecting with the various business units as well as leadership, and holding both technical and business teams accountable for their activities. Without this important role, most IT organizations have a difficult time assessing what their end users truly want and need, and whether what is being delivered is actually meeting customer expectations or business goals.
I know some of you are thinking to yourselves “What’s the difference with this role and a Project Manager? We have a couple PMs….isn’t it the same thing?” No, most definitely not. And if you think “Well, our PMs do most of that BA activity.” then let me be the one to tell you that you’re doing it wrong.
Where Project Management is focused on execution, the Business Analyst is often the key to helping an organization understand ‘Why’ a decision is made in the first place. They then work with various stakeholders to establish the plan, which is then handed off to the PM to execute. To be clear, the BA function is not a glorified note-taker, but a senior planning and strategy role. The BA should not spend an inordinate amount of time documenting systems and processes, but instead should be working with stakeholders across various divisions to find ways to improve the business — and then working with IT and engineering teams to figure out the right technology path forward. The BA is often at the helm of your governance and change management teams, and is also well-positioned to help your HR and leadership development teams to better understand the cultural needs of the business due to their constant interactions with various teams, and their ability to bring people together to assess priorities and agree on a path forward.
The Business Analyst is one of the most underappreciated roles in the organization, but if well utilized, this person can be one of the most critical functions in your business. Every new project begins as a BA activity — from capturing requirements to ensuring compliance and regulatory standards are being met, and working closely with engineering to ensure that what is being delivered is correct and will meet stakeholder expectations. To accomplish these tasks, the role is centered around the continual effort to build a shared understanding of what is to be delivered, how it is to be accomplished, and how the end result will benefit the business.
If you haven’t properly defined the problem, you’re not going to build the right solution, plain and simple. And that’s why the Business Analyst function is so critical to your business, and should play a more pivotal role within the organization.
And so I ask again — where are all of the Business Analysts?
Christian,do you also lump Business System Analysts (BSAs) into this category? The distinction, to me, is that a BA is completely process-focused, with deliverables like swim-lane diagrams and functional requirements documentation, while a BSA focuses on both process and tools, with the capability to configure a tool like SharePoint to deliver some solutions. Of course, more sophisticated solutions require engineering and development resources, but the best BSAs with whom I’ve worked have been “sous-developers” who queue things up very nearly for their developer colleagues. If a solid BA is gold, a solid BSA is platinum. Have you encountered similar?