16 June 2011

The Future of Business Analysis #Rant

For a little while now I have been mulling over a blog post that says something about the remarkable reluctance of the business analyst community to join the lean-agile wave of change sweeping industry.  Yesterday and today I saw the tweeted Agile Australia conference (which didn't stand up against the #LSSC11 conference for tweeted conferences) and read a post at Laura's blog about BA's adopting agile practices which pushed me to get this post up.

Your responses are most welcome.

1. You seem to suck at your job.  Fix your attitude.
There is something very wrong when the solutions teams are becoming better informed about how business works, and better at developing and managing relationships than the BA community.  And it's happening at more and more places.  It's not wrong for developers and testers to do this.  It's wrong for Business Analysts to not be at the forefront of this aspect of doing business.

Business Analysts are supposed to understand business.  Culture, Structure, Process, Systems, Customers, Behaviours, Values.  In reality many people are 'order taking' and pushing paper from place to place doing busy work.

The BA community is changing, but it's at the edges, and the changes are coming slowly.  The middle of the pack - and that probably means you or your colleagues is just not doing their job well and are not adapting to the demands for quality, value and efficiency from all parts of the project community.

Pick up your game.  Starting now.

2. Not only do you suck at your job you're making work suck for other people.  Have some respect for other people.
Frankly the way you think about work is exemplified in the solutions you design for other people.  Your scientific management theories and your simplistic ways of thinking about workflow for example make you design systems that are hard to use and restrict a person's ability to do good work.  Hello Call Centres.  Hello back office processing centres.  Hello corporate websites.

When programmers groan about the quality and attitude that analysts display, that's just one vocal and educated aspect of your stakeholder community.  What about end users?  What is your idea of how work should be done going to do to the next few years of their working life?  What about customers? How are the systems you articulate going to shape their relationship with your company?

When you design other people's work via system interfaces and workflow remember to put the humans involved right in the middle of your thinking. There is plenty of evidence out there to help you work out that the best way to enable staff to help customers is to enable them.  There is evidence to show how tightly designed processes reduce everybody's satisfaction.  Go look it up.

And while you're at it, look up how to build in a continuous improvement program for yourself.  You don't just need an immediate step change; you need to build something into your work life that keeps you sufficiently educated to not be dangerous.

Remember: People in the centre of your design work.

Back to work now.  There's nothing more to see here.


  1. Anonymous4:18 am

    Yes business analysts work is changing, but skills are still needed. According to my opinion, even more in agile development.
    Complex development projects are starting to work with product owner teams. Mostly there is challenging goal and some pragamatic guys are needed to get the job done to satisfy the customers. This could mostly be done by former project managers or BAs. It is up to you to change your attitude from paper work to a more leightweight approach and do what every BA should be able to best "Communicate with the team and stakeholders".

  2. This post is less about agile and lean and more about mediocrity. Those of us who have a pattern of successful work behind us use a variety of tools.

    What annoys me is the mediocrity and complacency I see over and over again, and how that degrades the quality of work-life for all involved.

    Being better is easy. It just takes a series of small steps.

    But if lagging (majority) elements the BA community doesn't do better the role will fall away and be replaced by other things.

  3. Here, here, Craig. This is in large part what motivated me to start Bridging the Gap in the first place. And I feel very lucky to have found a more people doing great business analysis ... let's help them get the word out and teach others.

    It's funny though, I didn't think Nik's post was about adopting agile practices at all, but about being innovative in how we do business analysis, which we should be doing whether or not our software development teams are adopting agile. Agile just forces our hand by forcing change to stay relevant.

  4. Laura, I'll share what irked me about that post.

    The ambivalent commitment to standards that the article implies - or maybe more appropriately allows for.

    By saying an analyst can pick and choose their own model Nik enables analysts to distinguish themselves from team based processes that others adopt. Additionally, by enabling people to vary from standards analysts can choose to justify their poorly understood choices to vary form working standards.

    Don't get me wrong; All defined standards are made to be changed. But it's really important in most instances to start with an established standard for the sake of mutual understanding.