By Elaine Lincoln, Ed.D., CBAP, PMI-PBA, BRMP and Steve Blais, PMP
What does the Business Analysis landscape look like for 2016?
Here’s our view on what you can expect to see:
Trend 1 – Strong Continued Demand for Business Analysts
Did you know that Business Analysis is one of the fastest growing careers today? It’s true! Canadian employers will need 171,000 business analysis related professionals by 2016 (Source: Information and Communications Technology Council, 2011). American employers will need 876,000 business analysis related professionals by 2020 (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections Program).
This can be explained by the fresh round of investment in IT by business in order to emerge from recession. Business analysts map the flow of information around the business and translate this into coherent, usable technology processes. As companies insist on seeing a real return on their investment, the business analyst – with their dual business and IT focus – will play a critical role.
Trend 2 – More Active Roles for Business Analysts in Agile Software Development Projects
The expansion of agile and pseudo-agile software development will continue in 2016, and while business analysts may not retain their title or their specific, traditionally-defined functionality when working as part of an agile software development team, make no mistake about it – business analysis is still required, even on an agile software development project. Who best to perform such work than the business analyst!
Helping to define the requirements to solve the business problem, assisting in analyzing requirements and product backlog items to produce user stories that can be implemented within a short time box, and working with developers to increase their understanding of the business problem and requirements are all examples of the kind of business analysis activities that are needed on agile software development projects.
Trend 3 – Convergence of Business Analyst and Project Management Roles
As we see an increasing demand for business analysts, we also see a combining of the business analyst role with other project team roles – specifically project managers – due largely to corporate belt-tightening, but also to a lack of understanding among management of the value that business analysts bring to their organizations. As the profile of business analysts continues to rise and management begins to appreciate the important connection between requirements management and successful projects, we hope to see less business analysis role convergence in the future.
Trend 4 – Business Analysts Will Move Toward More Back-end Activities Such As Transitioning New Systems and Processes into Production
A common complaint over the past decade has been the lack of coordination between applications development and business and operations production. The tendency of software developers to install new systems or new features and then move on to the next technical problem while end users struggle to embrace the changes introduced by the new system is still prevalent. Many organizations have established “warranty periods” after new features have been implemented in production to allow additional charges against the project to cover post-implementation issues. Typically, a business analyst has been assigned to deal with post-implementation transition issues.
Trend 5 – More Business Analysts will be involved with Production Issues, Post- implementation
In many organizations business analysts have moved from total focus on the upfront definition of requirements to a transition role working as the business representative to the operations transition team. This helps to ensure a smooth transition between the old processes and systems and the new ones. Generally, this means that the business analyst will have to be aware of production standards and processes (such as ITIL®) and be able to work with service delivery managers and operations personnel.
Trend 6 – Business Analysts Will Find Themselves More in a Role of Advocates for the Business, Not Only with the Solution Teams, but also Among Different Business Units
The trend over the past 10 years or so has been for business analysts to work as part of the Information Technology (IT) organization. Over the past couple of years and into the foreseeable future more business analysts are working directly for a business line or business unit, or directly for product management. In this position the business analyst may spend a considerable amount of time educating, mentoring, and advising the solution team about the business problem and the business product. This requires the business analyst to have full knowledge of the product line, the products’ customer base, the competition, and the overall marketplace as well as the business, sales, marketing, and production processes inside the organization. The role of business advocate with direct accountability to the business (instead of IT) means the business analyst will need a greater understanding of the external business environment and the competitive forces impacting their industry in 2016.
Trend 7 – More Business Analysis Standards
The growing demand for business analysts is fueling a need for standards that can support the important work that business analysts perform. Two professional organizations are leading the charge in this area – The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) and The Project Management Institute (PMI). In April 2015, the IIBA released A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide) Version 3, a significant body of work that had been in the making for several years. The new version expands the scope of business analysis, providing essential direction and support for practitioners in areas such as agile, business intelligence, information technology, business architecture, and business process management.
In late 2015, PMI announced plans to develop a foundational standard in business analysis during 2016 to provide a definitive body of knowledge for anyone performing business analysis on projects, programs and portfolios. The decision to launch this new business analysis foundational standard – which is expected to be ready for Subject Matter Expert review in 3Q 2016 – follows the successful launch in late 2014 of their Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide. Business Analyst practitioners will have no shortage of standards to refer to for guidance and support in 2016 and beyond!
Trend 8 – More Business Analysis Certifications
With the high demand for business analysts and the growing number of standards to support business analysis practice, it’s only natural that there are increasing options for business analysis certification. The IIBA announced plans to roll out a new, four-level competency-based certification program in September 2016. The IIBA is positioning their new “real-world designed” certification framework to be the “Gold Standard certification” to support the business analysts’ lifelong career progression. Each of the four levels will have their own experience, training and application prerequisites and competency assessments, as well as exam and assessments requirements. If you’re already a CCBA® or CBAP® recipient, you’ll be grandfathered into the re-designed framework. And if you’re not, perhaps now is a good time to expedite your new year’s resolution to become certified before Sept 2016…
PMI also has a business analysis certification known as the PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)® that was launched in 2014. Chances are good that they may also decide to develop a new business analysis certification following the official launch of their new business analysis foundational standard slated for release sometime during 2017, though no definitive announcement has been made at this time. Experience has shown that where there’s a professional standard, there’s generally a professional certification waiting to be unveiled…
Trend 9 – China in the Spotlight for Business Analysis
There is no disputing the enormous impact that China has had on the global marketplace in recent years. Demand for business analysts and business analysis certification is so strong there that PMI has already translated their Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide into simplified Chinese and will begin offering their PMI-PBA certification exam in mainland China in 2016. Until now, business analysts have had limited opportunities to pursue professional certification in China, so this is a significant development. Expect other standards bodies to follow suit and offer more products and services to cater to the burgeoning Chinese marketplace in 2016.
Trend 10 – Collaboration is the Name of the Game – Implications of Strategic Partnerships on Business Analysis Practice
As the world becomes an increasingly difficult place to navigate on one’s own, organizations – like people – are forging strategic partnerships to help them survive and thrive. In August 2015 the IIBA announced strategic partnerships with four leading global organizations in order to create greater connections and engagements across the business analysis community. The purpose of these collaborations is to support the evolution of the business analysis role and impact. This will go well beyond the BA community in order to ensure integration of an industry knowledge base, thought leadership, and expanded portfolio of products and services.
The impact of such alliances will be to increase recognition as well as value for business analysis and complementary professions and their roles. This, in turn, should lead to enhanced career opportunities for business analysts in Business Relationship Management (BRM) as well as a greater need for training to learn the skills needed to advance into more senior roles.
Elaine Lincoln, Ed.D., CBAP, PMI-PBA, BRMP, has been a Global Practice Director at IIL for more than 9 years. She has over 25 years of Business Analysis and Project Management experience in various industries (Fine Art Auction Houses, Financial Services, Media / Entertainment, and “Big 4” Consulting).
Steve Blais, PMP, is an IIL Senior Trainer, Consultant, and Coach with over 43 years’ experience in Business Analysis, Project Management, and software development. He is the author of Business Analysis: Best Practices for Success, published by Wiley and IIL.