Rise of the Business Analyst

If there was ever a good time to be a Business Analyst it’s now and this is why.

Business Analysts have always played a key role in the design, development, and implementation of software by performing tasks such as: • Being the intermediary between business users and software developers • Writing business requirements used to build and/or enhance existing software • Selecting user candidates and orchestrating User Acceptance Testing (UAT) • Building and executing test plans if professional testers were not available • Writing training materials and teaching business users if professional training people were not available • Taking on project management responsibilities if a project manager was not available

There were also various classic questions/issues related to the Business Analyst profession, none of which was their fault, such as:

• Who do they report to IT or the business? • Do they need to have a technical (programming) background to do their job well? • What is their professional identity? Techies think of them as business people and business people think of them as techies. • As the creators of the business requirements, should they have any control over the programmers building software based on those requirements?

There was also an ongoing question as to how many business analysts do you need in relationship to the number of programmers needed to build the software they defined. These days are all but over. The role of the Business Analyst has dramatically risen in regard to its stature within the organization, demand for people with a Business Analyst skillset, and the desire for skills in all parts of the organization. This change has come about because of various IT mega-trends, including Cloud Computing, the movement from Information Technology (IT) to Business Technology (BT), Outsourcing, and the Consumerization of IT.

The reason these IT mega-trends are having such a profound effect on the Business Analyst profession is three fold:

1. Cloud Computing has caused a dramatic shift in the percentage of Business Analysts as compared to Software Developers. With in-house software development efforts the ratio is (give or take) about 10 to 1. With the implementation of cloud-based software, no Software Developers may be needed. 2. When programming resources are outsourced from the company, a much higher level of written business requirements is needed. With in-house programmers, over time, they very often get a deep understanding of the business areas their software is supporting. This is much less the case with outsourced software developers because of the physical and sometimes cultural divide between the ultimate business users and those developing their software. These two phenomenons, when put together, clearly make the Business Analyst role a key factor and focal point in project success or failure. 3. The advent of Cloud Computing now allows business areas to work directly with cloud providers to obtain needed computer functionality for their business areas, with or without IT’s consent and/or support. As a result, there is now a significant demand for Business Analysts capabilities directly inside business areas, unrelated and disconnected from their IT counterparts.

For all of these reasons, and many more, a strong Business Analysis skillset is very valuable and marketable.

This uplifting of Business Analyst stature brings with it a note of caution which has always been in place, but is now becoming much more profound. This is the rise of the Business Analyst with specific industry and software application specialties. Very often, IT groups would be willing to hire a Business Analyst based solely on their skills and ability to do business analysis tasks, such as writing Functional Specifications, with less emphasis on past business-related projects. IT organizations were willing to do this because there were other people within IT that had strong backgrounds in the needed business areas (programmers, testers, and trainers). As a result, the newly hired Business Analyst could be brought up to speed relatively quickly. This is not the case, however, within the business areas. If they want to implement SalesForce as their CRM system, they want someone who understands sales organizations and has past experience with SalesForce. If they want to implement a cloud-based version of the Oracle Financials, they want someone who understands finance/accounting organizations and has past experience with that specific software. This list goes on and on.

The moral of this last point is that it’s great to have a skillset that is in high demand, but true professional marketability comes with the combination of skills and specific business and application knowledge.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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