If one was to define at which stage the Business Analysis profession is right now, I would say it is still in its infancy. Most people you would ask would have problems in actually defining what a BA is, and most likely the duties will look quite different, depending on the sector being described. The situation will look different; depending on the region of the world you are located and can be seen as being in continuous evolution.
This should not be surprising. I see a commonality between this situation I’ve described and the historical development found within the Project Management profession. In the beginning, the PM was seen as being a coordinator, and these tasks were seen as being an extension of one’s functional duties. The Project Managers among us know all too well that coordination is only a minor sliver of the tasks we need to execute, but it took time before organizations came to that realization themselves. Regardless, I have seen a clear positive development over the last 15+ years. Witness the number of PMP ‘S today if additional proof is needed.
How do we define the Business Analysis role? What are the competencies required? Are such individuals always called Business Analysts? This is where we start. If we are not able to define the tasks we perform as a Business Analyst, how can we explain them to others? How can we show the value these activities bring to the enterprise? Most importantly, without having clarity on such topics, how will we ever expect an uptake of the Business Analysis profession?
Let’s call this exercise we are performing a profession lifecycle and I personally believe we are very close to the acceptance tipping point but are not quite there. Do you believe that the tasks executed by a Data Scientist require Business Analysis activities? One needs to go no farther than to look at the differentiation between data causality and correlation to understand the importance of the analysis part of the exercise. I have noticed over the years that similar methodologies are used by different departments in disparate sectors, but they very often have contrasting names. The most common remark I hear after performing Business Analysis training is that the students didn’t realize how much of their current jobs are filled with BA tasks. They were already Business Analysts and didn’t even realize.
If we agree that there is a lack of clarity of what a Business Analyst is responsible for, but there is an unmistakable value to be found within such duties, it might be worthwhile for us to start by ring-fencing all those functions that may fall within a Business Analysis assignment.
Therein I found my impetus to develop a model that attempts to precisely fulfill this need and call it The Business Analysis Ecosystem. Let me provide you with a description of its components:
- What is the problem to be solved or the opportunity to be exploited? The source of such a request can come from either inside or outside your organization.
- How does the future state look line, what is the current state – and what is the gap? This is your initial scope statement.
- Who are your stakeholders and who are your personas? How do we define their needs?
- Can we list all possible solutions?
- Do we deploy proper methodologies to ensure that the best solution is being chosen?
On this basic level, the concept should be understood by all – and that needs to be our initial objective.
The concept of The Business Analysis Ecosystem though is to fulfill multiple needs. Let me list off a few:
- Like Project Management, the activities of a Business Analysis are not necessarily linear in nature. Based upon any newly-discovered information, the BA might be required to repeat, augment and review exercises that have already been completed. That being said, we have a need to create for ourselves some sort of linear path to follow. If you think about it, this is all quite normal. How often do we need to go back to square one after a new revelation or setback? We don’t know what we don’t know, but one thing is certain. We need to stay results-driven and not plan-driven, especially when the plan is proven not to be as robust as we thought.
- The duties of your assignment might not require you to utilize all the ecosystem components, but the beauty of this model is that you are able to ensure that all elements have been reviewed, regardless whether they are within your remit or not. Again, our goal needs to be focused on the results produced.
- I argue that a basic level of the ecosystem needs to be completed prior to a project charter. Otherwise, how do we know that the solution chosen offers the best value?
The usefulness of this model lies in the ability for us to display to the various touchpoints throughout the business of the added value of what we do as Business Analysis. On another level, we have implicitly created a Business Analysis maturity model. Our proficiency can be directly related to the level of complexity of our assignment per se.
The effectiveness of this model is the true measurement of its viability. Here, I let you be the judge and eagerly await your feedback.
Join us for a webinar focusing on the Business Analysis Ecosystem, hosted by projectmanagement.com 01St March at 16:00 GMT
p.s. the webinar was recorded, so you still have a chance…