The growth of the BA Profession

The Business Analyst role has changed significantly over the past few decades and has become more commonplace than it used to be. With the growth in the use of personal computers within businesses during the 80’s, the BA role has become more critical to businesses trying to leverage the power of computers, information and information technology.

There was a communication gap between business users and the technology teams, including developers and software engineers as the needs of the business users were usually not adequately realized. Let's call this a language barrier. The business users had business needs, usually driven by business issues or risks either external or internal. While the technology team had technological constraints that were difficult to communicate to the business. The result was usually a well designed and created piece of kit or functionality that didn’t quite meet the business’ needs. As technology became more complex and more options became available, it became critical to creating a formal role and process for getting business users and technology teams working together to create useful pieces of kit or functionality that were both well designed/created and that met the needs of the business.

The role was the role of the Business Analyst, I call it the Interpreter role. The role so key to success that without it, projects seem to be like a team of people playing a game blindfolded and without a referee; they may win, but it would almost certainly be much harder than playing without blindfolds and with a referee.

Over the past 2 decades, the Business Analyst role has developed to become central to any change initiative that has anything to do with technology. And by virtue of the explosion of change programs leveraging technology, the Business Analyst role has become more high profile than ever before.

I remember 20 years ago, when I worked in a telecoms organization in the UK, there were project managers managed the change, while the Systems Analyst focussed on ensuring that the technology delivered worked effectively. Unfortunately, the Project Manager’s role was not to align business needs with technology, it was simply to deliver the project on time, and within budget. The resulting effect was messy rework activities after the project had supposedly been closed.

With more organizations outsourcing their software development activities due to the rise in cloud computing, the role of the BA has become increasingly important as the business need a higher level of clarity and specificity of their requirements.

Over the last 10 years, as organizations embarked on more change initiatives, the Business Analyst role, whilst present, seemed to have been misunderstood, misused and underutilized. Many Business Analysts find themselves within IT departments writing specification documents for IT solutions, losing sight of the business needs and business elements of the program.

In the last couple of years, many organizations seemed to have realized the need to justify the change and the amount of money spent on the change. A renewed focus on benefits realization seems to be emerging and inadvertently, a new focus on the role of the BA being more business-led than IT-led. I believe the ambiguity will still continue into the future, however, it is time Business Analysts take control of their role within organizations.