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More Trends in Business Analysis in 2015

 

2015 has kicked off and most of us are already fully entangled in the daily grind. Unlike people, projects show no sign of a ‘getting back into the swing of things’ period. The pressure keeps building as organizations are pushed to keep up with industry in order to stay competitive and profitable. So what does 2015 have in store for us? My view is that the following 4 trends can be expected to be prevalent for Business Analysts during the year.

THERE WILL BE A SHIFT IN INNOVATION

2013/2014 saw a strong focus on external client facing innovation from companies around the world. We saw trends in the mobile and digital space with the rise in the mobility of the products and services offered. Digital began to bridge the divide between companies, the products they sell and ultimately the consumers of those products. This brings me to the first trend that I foresee, 2015 will see a consolidation period where internal innovation plays catch-up to the external. Consolidation after a period of rapid growth is common in most business areas and is no different for Business Analysis.

Projects focused on improving the back end systems as well as process improvements enabling us to deliver our products better to our customers will be front and center in 2015. This will have two impacts on Business Analysis, the types of projects we work on and the way we work on those projects.

The first impact speaks to the nature of the projects being more back end focused with a big push on integration between back end services that was not seen as critical during initial development. As projects move from a project space to a business as usual space these inefficiencies in maintaining and operating the new functionality or capability become apparent.

The second impact affects how we conduct the Business Analysis activities within an organization. This can, in an organizational level, mean that training would become more prevalent as businesses realize the need for improved skills. It could also mean organizations taking a step back and looking at the methodologies and controls in place for analysis to take place. Refining methodologies and building systems to increase efficiency will be something we see happening during 2015.

COMPLIANCE AND REGULATORY RELATED PROJECTS WILL INCREASE

The plethora of new legislation around the world will have a large impact on organizations. The costs involved in compliance pose a massive risk to revenue generation, it often means that products that were once extremely profitable now become less so. So what does this mean for Business Analysis? We will start to see Business Analysis professionals emerge as specialists in compliance and regulation analysis. Typically this will be due to the complex nature of regulatory based projects as well as the nuances in the analysis approach.

There is a massive gap in the translation layer currently where an Act or piece of legislation is worded in such a way that it is open ended and not specific to the business. In Business Analysis we seek specificity, so how do we get there when words such as ‘reasonable’ are commonplace in legislation? An added complication is the legal wording which often creates confusion within the business as to what it actually is that must change as a result of the new legislation. The skills required to facilitate the gathering of requirements from a source other than the individual or group that created the legislation are very different from standard Business Analysis skills.

A traditional BA approach is to look at the requirements needed to provide a certain capability and look at the value this can add to an organization. A regulatory project is automatically given a high level of priority above other projects and is often hard to justify as the value gained seems minimal. In reality the value gained is in the ability of the organization to avoid severe penalties or repercussions. This presents a specific issue to an organization and an opportunity for a Business Analyst to add value.

Regulations are not optional and as such a Business Analyst can be pivotal in the implementation of these regulations by providing approaches that reduce the impact on the business and customers of that business. The smaller the impact that the legislation has on business the better for the business.

Another core effect this will have on Business Analysis is the ongoing non-functional requirements for future projects. Compliance to a specific legislation once-off is not enough, all future functionality needs to take into account the pre-existing regulatory constraints. Where compliance is seen as a hindrance to business this can be seen as an area where Business Analysis can thrive and indirectly add business value.

THE CONCEPT OF THE BUSINESS ANALYST AS AN ENTREPRENEUR WILL EMERGE

Pulling from articles from thought leaders such as Richard Larson, CEO of Watermark learning, as well as others in the field, the emergence of the concept that the Business Analysts is an internal entrepreneur and strategist will start to emerge. Although I don’t expect this concept to be fully realized during 2015 I think that the way business views a Business Analyst will start to move towards that. But what does this really mean?

Essentially a Business Analyst is there to add real measurable business value as well as to be an agent of change within an organization. This is the same thing that an entrepreneur is trying to achieve. They seek to find a gap in the market where they are able to create a product or service that ultimately adds some type of value to their customer’s lives.

If you look at this view it is evident that a Business Analyst might need to have a better understanding of the business as a whole as well as the components that ensure that solutions result in added value. Building a good solution is no longer the full extent of adding this value; communication, marketing, organizational development as well as change management all become critical to the success of a solution.

Multidisciplinary team members that have a good understanding of the holistic nature of projects will be in high demand. Multidisciplinary can be a misleading concept and the age old saying ‘jack of all trades master of none’ comes to mind. But this is not the case. While the Business Analyst might not deliver on the marketing of a solution for example it will become a business requirement as it is a critical success factor. Having exposure and understanding of those elements will elevate the traditional Business Analyst from a document producer to someone who is able to bring about positive change and ultimately add business value.

If we as Business Analysts are viewed as the go-to people for value creation it paints a good picture of the future where the role becomes indispensable to any business. I am not saying we will get there in 2015 but the emergence of the concept will get people thinking and we might even see early adopters driving the concept forward.

THE AGILE VS WATERFALL DEBATE WILL DIE A LONG AWAITED DEATH

Long have we heard the debate over Agile and Waterfall, in fact this is becoming overly commonplace at events and online LinkedIn forums. My view is that this will die down specifically in the intermediate to senior Business Analysis space. Agile is no longer the catch phrase it was a few years back, agile practitioners are no longer revolutionaries trying to convince business that there is a better way. In many instances Agile is a way of life and a business as usual practice.

The buzz word has died down and companies know that agility is something they need to achieve in order to be competitive and bring products and product enhancements to market at the required speed. Hybrid approaches to achieving agility are becoming increasingly prevalent in previously waterfall driven environments. Core concepts that drive agility such as visibility, incremental release cycles, collaboration, user centricity and change driven behavior are being incorporated where highly governed and regulated industries exist.

As we progress through the year the key principles within agile will take front and center over the methodologies such as scrum, XP and Kanban. This will enable Business Analysts to achieve a level of agility beyond the restrictions of the governance that they work in. Questions as to the relevance of over documented requirements will be raised. Business will be asking what value can be derived from long over complicated documents. Essentially agility will result in small incremental changes being made to a waterfall environment until we look back and realize that great distance has been added between where we are and where we used to be.

As the pressures of business continue to push effectiveness in project delivery we will see a shift in the understanding that in order to deliver we need to focus on the deliverable and not on the elements of governance that form part of a traditional Waterfall SDLC. We won’t ever do away with documentation, but the 200 page specifications of the past will start to become smaller and more specific to what we need in order to deliver an end solution. A quote by Einstein “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” holds the key to the above concept. Although it will take some time to realize the boundary between what the right amounts of detail is and what is too much, we are far beyond the view that we need long documents to ensure delivery. Value has and will continue to be the driver in effective business change, we are just getting better at realizing where the true value lies even if that is one small step at a time.

In conclusion, whatever happens in 2015 it is very evident that it is a very exciting time for Business Analysis. There will be challenges and changes but that presents an opportunity to push the profession to a new level.

P.S. Source: http://www.modernanalyst.com/Resources/Articles/tabid/115/ID/3210/More-Trends-in-Business-Analysis-in-2015.aspx
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