Why Business Analysts and Digital Project Managers are Needed Now, More Than Ever

By J. LeRoy Ward | Executive Vice President of Enterprise Solutions, IIL 

Today, it seems it’s all about data: collecting it, analyzing it, making sense of it, and then using it in a variety of ways – for example, to gain more insight into consumer behavior, social behavior, or voting preferences, and to make better business decisions.

Data is the currency of business, and data-driven decision making, based on the many articles on the topic, is the preferred practice for managers and leaders rather than using “gut” feel alone. But using data wisely means understanding technology and how to employ it to the greatest advantage.

That’s why I was intrigued by the recent Business Week article, “Bridging the Management-Tech Gap.” It started with a story of an individual who was a journalist prior to entering business school and who now works in technology as a senior program manager at Amazon. Her role as a journalist did not require her to have much background or knowledge in working with data, which she recognized as a weakness as she examined her career aspirations. So, while earning her MBA she concentrated on strengthening her expertise in this area by taking extensive course work in the field and by seeking out internships where she would gain that experience.

According to the article, graduates such as this individual are “the new normal for business schools, which find themselves producing larger numbers of future technology workers, as well as executives who will be called on to bridge the gap between business and tech.”  That gap has to do with understanding technology and data, and how to marry the two for the benefit of an organization.

When I read the words “bridge the gap” I immediately thought of Business Analysts (BAs)—professionals who translate the requirements identified by business folks to the technical professionals who then develop systems (usually automated) to meet those requirements. A competent BA needs to be able to speak both languages (business and technology) which means they need to understand, and have experience in, both worlds.

This gap has existed for years. But that gap appears to be widening. Organizations now require professionals who not only understand technology and data analytics but are also adept in working with their business counterparts who have a need for this critical information.

The article mentions that six years ago, many business school enrollees wanted to develop leadership skills. Yet, Raghu Sundaram, Dean of New York University’s Stern School of Business, says that executives from Citigroup and Goldman Sachs told him that they had employees who either knew technology or the business, but not both. So, Stern established an advisory board and created a 12-month program – culminating in an MBA in Technology and Entrepreneurship to help prepare students for technology roles.

At the same time on the other side of the Atlantic, the dean of the IE Business School was also hearing the same message from executives at Amazon, Google, and Facebook, as well as from various consulting firms. Based on their research, IE identified two roles that companies such as these so desperately need to fill (1) product managers who oversee digital products, and (2) consultants who work with technology clients. Next year, IE will launch a 10-month tech MBA for an initial cohort of 50 students who may be able to fill such positions.

I’ve spent much of my professional career helping to develop the skills and competencies of Business Analysts and Project Managers around the world and in many different industry sectors. The roles expected to be filled by the MBA students mentioned in the Business Week article are what many current BAs and PMs (especially those in technology) are doing right now. These folks have the skills required to be successful in the digital world, but many Business Analysts and Project Managers could still improve their expertise in this area. After all, not everyone has the time, money, or inclination to go to business school, and the list of skills required keeps growing as trends like AI, robotics, and data analytics continue to mature.

What kind of skills am I referring to? Let’s take a look:

In 2018, the Project Management Institute (PMI) published a Pulse of the Profession® report titled The Project Manager of the Future: Developing digital-age project management skills to thrive in disruptive times. In it, PMI identifies the top six digital-age skills for project delivery to include:

  1. Data Science Skills
  2. Innovative Mindset
  3. Security and Privacy Knowledge
  4. Legal and Regulatory Compliance Knowledge
  5. Ability to Make Data-Driven Decisions
  6. Collaborative Leadership Skills

(As I read this report, it struck me that it’s not only PMs who need these skills—BAs do, as well. After all, PMs and BAs, as well as other disciplines, form the project teams charged with executing digital transformation programs.)

Success for BAs and PMs today, and in the future, requires that they have what PMI has termed a high Project Management Technology Quotient (PMTA), which is defined as a person’s ability to “adapt, manage and integrate technology based on the needs of the organization or the project at hand.” PMI emphasizes that “For anyone charged with making strategy reality in a world of constantly being remodeled by tech, PMTQ will be the must-have, make-or-break skill set.” Is this hyperbole or reality? Look around your organization…my guess is it’s probably the latter, not the former.

Technology is pervasive in our personal and professional lives. If you look hard enough, you can see that technology is often an important component of many projects regardless of which industry sector one works in. Understanding technology (and being able to leverage it for the betterment of the organization) requires us to be adept in it, and more importantly, how to leverage it to advance our projects and organizations.

Business Analysts, working with their Project Manager peers, have been in the business of “bridging the gap” for many years. But when that gap starts to widen, the only way to narrow it is to make sure we have the knowledge, experience, and expertise—in short, the digital-age skills—required to do so.

Both PMs and BAs need to ensure that they’re gaining, using, and refining the skills mentioned above. In so doing, they will not only be helping their organizations; they will also be ensuring their own continued professional growth and prosperity.

Contact IIL today to find out how we can support your skills’ development on an individual, team, or organizational level.

About the Author
J. LeRoy Ward (PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CSM, CSPO) is IIL’s Executive Vice President of Enterprise Solutions and a recognized thought leader, consultant and adviser in project, program and portfolio management. With more than 39 years of experience in the field, his insights, perspectives and advice have been sought by hundreds of companies and government agencies around the world.


Software is a Terrible Thing to Waste

By J. LeRoy Ward, PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CSM, GWCPM, SCPM   |   Executive Vice President – Enterprise Solutions, IIL

Waste. It’s such a, well, dirty word.

But that’s what’s going on in the software industry every day. In fact, software waste, or the amount of software purchased but not used, costs organizations in the U.S. alone roughly $30 billion a year.

According to the Borgen Project, this is enough money to solve world hunger. So, while Mark Andreesen famously remarked “software is eating the world,” in reality the world could eat more based on the amount of money that’s being wasted on software. Funny how things work in life.

Why? Because organizations are buying software that is either not used at all, or is used for a specific period of time, let’s say for a particular project, but then never used again. However, the organization continues to pay the “per seat” license or subscription fee to the vendor because it’s installed and available for use.

For example, when was the last time you used Visio on your laptop?

As an FYI, the titles with the most waste include (percent figures indicate amount of waste):

AttachmateExtra! Extreme (49%) and Reflection X (52%)

MicrosoftVisio Standard (52%), Project Professional (45%), and Office Professional + (7%)

AdobeAcrobat Professional (22%) and Photoshop (43%)

AutodeskAutoCAD LT (58%) and Inventor (61%)

One way to identify this unused software is to implement automated solutions as a complement to other software asset management (SAM) practices. Certainly any large IT organization with thousands of “seat licenses” spread over hundreds of software titles, such as the ones above, might consider making this type of investment.

But that’s addressing the problem after-the-fact, when the “horse is out of the barn,” so to speak. Another way to reduce software waste is to do a much better job of requirements gathering and management before purchasing such licenses or subscriptions, so you know just how many to purchase in the first place.

There are many different requirements gathering techniques and tools that can be used to collect information from large volumes of people as part of a software provisioning project. One just needs to break out of the mold of always collecting requirements in the same way that’s been done for years. One piece of advice is to make sure there is an experienced Business Analyst on your project team to help select the best way to do this. After all, that’s what they’re paid for and they can be very helpful in this regard.

If by doing a better job of requirements gathering, combined with other SAM techniques, we can cut software waste by 50%, we’d save our organizations close to $15 billion! While it would be great if management would put that back into our paychecks (or better yet, feed the world’s hungry) if all that happens is a greater investment in training or creating better products for our customers, then it’ll certainly be worth the effort.

After all, software is a terrible thing to waste!

[trx_infobox style=”regular” closeable=”no” icon=”icon-desktop”]Visit the IIL website to learn more about our Business Analysis courses, and get 10% off when you register with code: BLOG.[/trx_infobox]

LeRoy Ward
J. LeRoy Ward
is a highly respected consultant and adviser to Global Fortune 500 Corporations and government agencies in the areas of project, program and portfolio management. With more than 38 years of government and private sector experience, LeRoy specializes in working with senior executives to understand their role in project and program sponsorship, governance, portfolio management and the strategic execution of projects and programs. 


Business Analysis Trends for 2016

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.

[trx_infobox style=”regular” closeable=”no” icon=”icon-desktop”]Learn more about IIL’s Business Analysis training at www.iil.com/ba. [/trx_infobox]

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.