Recently I had the pleasure of attending the BBC Conference. We had a great week! Aside from the typical BA related topics, a couple things really stood out to me. The first is transformation – agile transformation, business transformation, digital transformation, etc. – everything is transforming. The other thing that stood out was around the business analyst role. Many organizations are eliminating the title of Business Analyst and others that have a dedicated role, are struggling with how to fit them into an agile team.
As I reflect on this, I can’t help but think of an article I recently read on the rise and fall of Sears. When my parents bought me a washer and dryer for my wedding present, we went to Sears. My husband’s mother was a Sears power shopper; rumor has it, she ordered at least a pair of shoes a week! For their generation, Sears was it. Why isn’t it that way for me? Easy – the convenience and ease of online retailers, and in particular, Amazon. I’ll be the first to admit that while I love to support more traditional retailers, I order a TON from Amazon.
In a world driven by rapid change, immediate gratification and transformation, Sears is struggling to remain relevant. Are BAs on the verge of extinction too?
Whether you are ready for this or not, it’s already starting. I even had a conversation at the conference with a customer who recently went through a re-organization and changed all Business Analyst titles to Technology Planning Analyst. (Side note: I love that along with this change came a more strategic role. Kudos to this company for realizing the strengths of the BA skill set). We also see it on a daily basis in our classes… our students’ titles contain “Business Analyst” less and less.
How did this happen?
I think the potential elimination of the Business Analyst title started with the emergence of the agile approach and the roles associated with it. The structured techniques that traditionally drove BA work don’t fit into an agile mindset. With the increasing implementation of an agile approach, there is more negativity around the business analyst role than ever. We hear comments like these all the time:
- “They just document the information that comes from other people with no real value-add.”
- “Our SMEs define the requirements.”
- “Anyone and everyone on the team can do business analysis (including the development leads, the business, or the product owner) so there’s no need for it to be a role.”
- “Business analysts just slow down the project and cause paralysis.”
However, whenever there is a retrospect or unhappy customer, what tends to surface are comments such as:
- “There wasn’t enough analysis.” / “We needed more analysis.”
- “This was a missed requirement; how did we miss it?”
- “The business analyst should have caught this.”
People only acknowledge business analysis when things go wrong. It doesn’t matter if 1000 requirements were discovered and disaster was avoided 1000 times throughout the project, it’s the one missed requirement that gets associated with the BA.
One thing I typically have a pulse on in the community are business analysis job postings. It is important to me to see what people are looking for and understand the trends. Good news! There IS high demand for someone who has a BA skill set – someone with depth in business knowledge and understanding of software design thinking with the ability to talk to people at all levels, translate and capture competing, ambiguous and contradicting information properly, and respectfully question unrealistic expectations.
Analysis is hard. It takes skill, talent, aptitude, and desire for lifelong learning. Don’t sell yourself short – take the opportunity to create the role you want, regardless of title. The discipline will never go away.
Our booth at the conference was focused on Agile Transformation and our roadmap was front and center. We asked visitors to tell us about their transformation and where they were at in their journey.
Even though most teams we talked to are struggling, not everyone is at the same point in their transformation. Interestingly, most people that we talked to were at the beginning of their agile journey and (surprise, surprise) a lot were struggling with where an analyst fits on their agile teams.
We recommend approaching analysis differently: more as a team, as well as an individual effort. Everyone should be asking the right questions and analyzing information before acting upon it to ensure the right thing is built. However, at least one person on the team should have the experience to perform in-depth analysis and have strong facilitation skills. You need generalists and specialists. We discuss this more in our From a Dysfunctional to Cross-Functional Agile Team blog post.
We also encourage organizations to reach out and work with the IIBA. There was a lot of excitement around the changes and new drive at the IIBA. Ken Fulmer, the new President, has some wonderful ideas and plans to get the message out on the importance of the business analysis discipline. Although their certifications recognize individuals as Business Analyst professionals, the IIBA is very much focused on driving the profession, not a title. Ken wrote more about this in his recent post: What Does the Future Mean for Us. Get involved. There are a lot of great things on the horizon that you can help influence and shape.
Lastly, if you’re not familiar with ICAgile, we recommend checking them out. This is another industry organization that is recognizing our profession even more with their new tracks and continued emphasis on the Business Value Analysis.
Looking back at my experiences and conversations from the conference, I was more encouraged than ever about Business Analysis. Some may be discouraged when they hear the business analyst role is going away, but they need to recognize that it’s just the title, not the discipline that may be replaced. I think the best analogy I can give is to go back to the Sears article. Sears didn’t just say, oh well, I guess no one wants to come to our stores, but instead decided to partner with Amazon and offer their Kenmore appliances through the internet giant. I love this, “if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude. Sears knew they had to evolve; they were willing to accept that and come up with a solution to change their profile. We too as Business Analysts should take on this attitude. It’s the discipline or skills that are critical to success, not the title. Be proud of your profession and discipline. Support your industry. Your skills are invaluable to the team and organization.
One last side note: I’ve included links to the materials we had in our booth in case you missed the BBC or didn’t have a chance to pick them up. They highlight and address many of the struggles we heard from clients. Let us know if you have pain points we can help address. Our expert conversations are always complimentary and maybe that’s all you need; just a little suggestion or direction. We’re here to help. We Get It. We’ll help you get it too.