Once considered one of the most valued positions in IT, the business analyst role has been decimated by the recession as cost cutting and a myopic focus on lean ops have done away with much of the bridge building between IT and the business. Now that it appears the economy has finally turned a corner, there is greater need than ever for this once vaunted position.
by Marc Schiller
In the rush to standardize on specific packages and to improve business relationships, the traditional in-house business analyst role has morphed. First, outsourcing brought about a reduction in the number of BAs needed. After all, the outsourcer said they would cover that work as part of the contract.
Second, with solution development firmly focused on a specific application environment (such as SAP, Oracle or Siebel) much of the traditional duties performed by the BA shifted to the application analyst. Just without a whole lot of business analysis. Because with a solution already in hand, the application analysts focused their efforts on configuring and administering the chosen package solution and “making it work” for the business. This meant that the classic role of business analysis and solution definition yielded to the force of the customizable package.
Finally, the role of the IT liaison, which many BAs took on in early days, turned out to be more about managing budgets and expectations, and providing a single face to the customer than it was about engaging in problem analysis and solution design. The problem analysis and solution design work was left to the outsourced solution provider.
I first noticed this change in the BA role about 10 months ago, when two separate clients had great difficulty coming up with a single BA to participate in the project with which I was involved. It took almost two months to finally get budget approved to bring in a new person once the CIO gave up on finding anyone internally with the right skills.
At first I thought these were just isolated incidents, until I noticed this issue recurring nearly every place I went. I finally realized how pervasive this issue is while attending a recent industry conference.
Sitting at a table with 10 CIOs who are employed by companies with revenues of $1 billion or more, I asked the group whether they had noticed the virtual disappearance of the BA in their organizations. Without missing a beat, the CIO of a famous consumer packaged goods company said: “Are you kidding me? It’s an absolute disaster. I dread getting a call from a business unit to discuss an issue or problem they are having. If it’s not about SAP, I’ve got no one to send them who can have an intelligent conversation. All I can do is send them a consultant.” Ouch.
What happens when the Business Analyst goes away?
Marc Schiller, author of “The 11 Secrets of Highly Influential IT Leaders,” is a speaker, strategic facilitator, and an advisor on the implementation of influential analytics. He splits his time between the front lines of client work and evangelizing to IT leaders and professionals about what it takes to achieve influence, respect and career success. Download a free excerpt of his book at http://11secretsforitleaders.com.