Business Analysis: Top Trends

Each year Glenn Brule, a prominent Business Analyst expert, publishes his list of the 10 top trends in the field. His study is important because it gives BAs hints about where they should focus when it comes to developing their skills.

BAs need not only have a balanced portfolio of technical and business skills, but also a comprehensive perspective of their work and industry. They need to broaden their thinking and adopt a three-dimensional approach to provide effective requirements management and development (RMD) that will drive real business impact.

Although many of the trends Brule identified this year have been underway for some time, they continue to evolve. Here they are.

Demand for greater organizational efficiency will increase demand for business architecture, business rules and business process experts.

In five years we are likely to see technology mature to meet new business demands, but not until organizations have money to spend on technological infrastructure. So now organizations again rely on business analysis to examine business architecture, rules and processes that will enable internal improvements in efficiencies.

Federal, state and local government agencies will invest seriously in the role of business analysis.

After spending billions of dollars on contract and project management to fix their troubles, government agencies have finally recognized that poor articulation of requirements is at the root of many of their ills. Taxpayers demanding “more bang for their buck” will have all levels of government seeking better RMD to fulfill their missions. Calls for agencies to be more efficient in serving the public, more collaborative working in working together and more accountable for ensuring that procurements deliver what they’re supposed to will make business analysis indispensable to their success.

Agile methods will continue to gain traction.

After appearing as one of the top 10 BA trends of 2011, Agile adoption shows no signs of letting up. Agile projects have shown higher success rates than traditional IT development methods — 67 percent for Agile vs. 50 percent for traditional approaches, according to results from Scott Ambler’s 2011 IT Project Success Survey.

Greater emergence of a hybrid role of project manager and business analyst.

The drive to create greater efficiencies will spur a global emergence of a project role that mixes the project manager and the business analyst. A key driver of this trend is a lack of resources, since many organizations can’t afford to have a utopian team where project management and business analysis are conducted by separate individuals. In other words, why not have two roles filled for one salary?

BAs will need to measure results to prove results.0

BAs will be under enormous pressure to quantify their work, and that won’t change anytime soon. Unless they apply their skills in elicitation and requirements management— graphical modeling, cost estimates, risk analysis and other measurements — they won’t be able to quantify their impact on the business.

Centers of excellence will continue to spread.

The resurgence of business analysis centers of excellence predicted for 2011 is continuing as organizations look to a centralized and focused group of specialized individuals to manage complex enterprise-wide engagements.

BPOs will invest in the development of their business analysis practices.

Business Process Organizations (BPOs) in India are investing heavily in building business analysis capabilities in response to their clients’ deficiencies in the field. It’s a win-win for them and their customers, since the process of selling bundled software development, project management and business analysis services improves outcomes and mitigates project risks. Having experienced failures from software development based on customer-provided requirements, BPOs are taking a proactive, foundational approach. This is bound to lead to growth in onshoring, since formerly offshore BAs will work at customer locations around the world.

India will emerge as the shining star through its global customer reach.

Bonus trend: More business analysis certifications will come out of this country than any other in the world.

Rise of tablet tools for business analysts.

BAs will put the awesome visual power, functionality and portability of tablets to work, particularly in client interactions. Writing, drawing or creating models on a tablet will enhance visualization and decision-making. Due to their flexibility, tablet tools will allow BAs to get the right details, on the spot.

This will be a sweet spot for software vendors as demand increases for analysis tools, educational tools, modeling, mapping and other applications BAs didn’t even know they needed.

What does it all mean?

As they consider tasks, responsibilities, stakeholders and other factors in the requirements mix, business analysts are dealing with a Rubik’s Cube of variables. The increasing demands and expectations for RMD require BAs to shift to new ways of thinking. In order to recognize and accommodate the endless permutations for managing requirements effectively, they’ll will need to discard narrow viewpoints and approach their work from a 3-D perspective.