The Business Analyst’s Emerging Role

Development of software applications dates all the way back to the late 1970s. In comparison to other industries and occupations, the software industry is still a relative newcomer. Since businesses began utilising computers to assist with business tasks, the individuals who design and maintain those “systems” have become increasingly sophisticated and specialised. This specialisation is necessary because, as computer systems become more complex, no single person will be able to perform all functions.

The Business Analyst is one of the “specialties” that has emerged. A business analyst is someone who acts as a link between business people who have a problem and technology experts who know how to solve the problem. While some organisations have used this title in non-IT areas of the business, it is an accurate description of the role that serves as a link between business and IT. The term “Business” serves as a constant reminder that any application software developed by an organisation should help the organisation improve its business operations, whether through increased revenue, cost savings, or an improved service level to customers.

The Business Analyst Role’s History

In the 1980s, when the software development life cycle was widely accepted as a necessary step, individuals performing this work typically had a technical background and were employed by an information technology organisation. They were familiar with the software development process and frequently possessed programming skills. They used a combination of textual requirements, ANSI flowcharts, dataflow diagrams, database diagrams, and prototypes. The most frequent criticism levelled at software development was the length of time required to create a system that did not always meet business requirements. Business users had grown accustomed to sophisticated software and desired it to be improved and accelerated.

A class of development tools dubbed CASE (Computer Aided Software Engineering) was invented in response to the demand for speed. These tools were created to help you capture requirements and manage them throughout the lifecycle of a software development project. They necessitated strict adherence to a methodology, were time consuming to learn, and frequently alienated the business community from the development process due to the unfamiliar symbols used in the diagrams.

As IT teams struggled to master CASE tools, PCs (personal computers) began to proliferate across the organization’s desktops. Suddenly, anyone could be a programmer, designer, or user of computers. IT teams were still honing their management skills for a central mainframe computer when they were suddenly faced with managing hundreds of independent computers. Client-server technologies emerged as a more advanced alternative to traditional “green screen” software that relies on the keyboard.

The ramifications for the software development process were catastrophic. Methodologies and traditional development approaches had to be revised to accommodate the new distributed systems technology, and the increased sophistication of the computer user resulted in a surge in software requests.

Numerous business units grew tired of waiting for another cumbersome application to be rolled out by a large, slow-moving IT department. They began learning to automate tasks on their own or hired consultants, frequently referred to as Business Analysts, who reported directly to them. This compounded IT’s difficulties, as they were suddenly asked to support software they had not written or approved. Everywhere, small independent databases were created with inconsistent and frequently unprotected data. During this time period, the internal Business Analyst role was diminished, and as a result, many systems failed to address the correct business problem, resulting in increased maintenance costs and rework.

To address these changes, new methodologies and approaches were developed, including RAD (rapid application development), JAD (joint application development), and OO (object oriented) tools and methods.

As the new millennium began, the Internet emerged as the new technology, and information technology underwent another massive transformation. Once again, more sophisticated users, eager to take advantage of new technology, frequently looked for automation outside their own organisations. The business side of the organisation began driving technology in ways never seen before, and a significant portion of organisations began staffing the Business Analyst role within operational units rather than through IT. We now have Business Analysts who are Marketing Directors, Accountants, Attorneys, and Payroll Clerks.

Additionally, the quality movement that began in the 1970s with TQM resurfaced as companies sought ways to reduce the cost of missing requirements as they expanded globally. The ISO (International Standards Organization) establishes quality standards that must be followed when conducting business on an international scale. Carnegie Mellon established the CMM quality standard for software development (Capability Maturity Model). Additionally, Six Sigma provided a disciplined, data-driven approach to process improvement aimed at near-zero defects in all products, processes, and transactions. Each of these quality initiatives necessitated an increased level of facts and rigour during requirement gathering and analysis, highlighting the need for more skilled Business Analysts familiar with business, information technology, and quality best practises.

The Business Analyst Role’s Future

Today, Business Analysts are found in both the IT and business worlds. Today’s Business Analyst, in the best-case scenario, possesses a blend of IT and business skills. Each organisation has its own title for these individuals, and the organisational structure of Business Analyst groups varies as much as the companies themselves. However, regardless of their background or industry, the majority of Business Analysts perform a core set of tasks.

 

As project teams become more geographically dispersed, the Business Analyst role becomes increasingly critical.

Outsourcing and globalisation of large corporations have been major drivers of recent change. When the IT development role is no longer internal to our organisations, it becomes more critical than ever to accurately and completely define the requirements in greater detail. While a consistent structured approach was desirable in the past, it is necessary for success in the new environment. The majority of organisations will continue to keep the Business Analyst position as a “in-house” function. As a result, more IT professionals are becoming Business Analysts.

The Business Analyst role will continue to refocus on “Business System” rather than “Software.”

While the majority of Business Analysts today are focused on software development and maintenance, the Business Analyst’s skills can be applied on a larger scale. In addition to recommending software, an excellent Business Analyst can analyse a business area and make recommendations regarding procedural changes, personnel changes, and policy changes. The Business Analyst can contribute to the improvement of the entire business system, not just the software.

 

The role of the business analyst will continue to evolve in response to business needs.

Future productivity gains will be achieved through requirement reuse. Requirements As organisations mature in their understanding of this critical expertise, management will become another critical skill in the expanding role of the Business Analyst. Business analysts are frequently referred to as “Agents of Change.” With a thorough understanding of the organization’s critical initiatives, a Business Analyst can pave the way for people to adapt to significant changes that benefit the organisation and its business objectives. As long as American companies continue to drive the global economy, the role of a business analyst is an exciting and secure career choice.

Business Analyst Training

A successful Business Analyst requires a diverse set of skills, ranging from communication to data modelling. The educational and professional background of a Business Analyst may also vary; some come from an IT background, while others come from the business stakeholder area.

With such varied and broad backgrounds, it is difficult for a Business Analyst to possess all of the skills required to conduct successful business analysis. Companies are discovering that individuals with a strong background in business analysis are scarce in the marketplace and are opting to train their employees to become Business Analysts using consistent structured approaches. To begin, organisations seeking formal business analysis training should conduct due diligence on vendors who are considered “experts” in the field and have a strong emphasis on business analysis approaches and methodologies. Second, you’ll want to assess the training vendor’s materials’ quality. This can be accomplished by determining who authored a vendor’s materials and how frequently they are updated to reflect industry best practises. Third, it is critical to match instructors’ real-world experience to your organization’s needs and experience level. Business analysis is a new profession, and it is critical that the instructors you select are current practitioners.

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