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Derek Roos
Derek Roos

Blurring the Lines between Business and IT

A “What If” question for business analysts and IT professionals…

What if it suddenly became very easy for someone to do both your job and their own, at the same time? If history provides any forecast for the future of IT, we are likely to see some interesting changes in the way human capital is managed – especially for those of us involved in the emergence of cloud computing. Clouds push complexity to the background and allow users to focus on what really matters: functionality and costs.

tomorrows business analyst

Have you ever noticed how the education we receive often sets boundaries in our career aspirations? We are trained to do something, and do it well – but in doing so, we take for granted the fact that others are doing the same thing in a different field. Then, when we are faced with an inevitable change, we instinctively take a “That’s not what I’ve been trained to do, there are other people for that” mentality. Sure, there are the motivated few who push down boundaries and become renaissance men and women in their own right. But when everyone else is set in their ways, these people are often considered a risk… think: too many eggs in one basket.

Now, to regress from my pseudo-philosophical banter, this trend is becoming all the more apparent as business analysts become more involved in technical training. Most IT veterans would say that business analysts will never have the true know-how to implement their plans, requirements and recommendations. The modern business analyst usually considers themselves more of a problem solver than a programmer – hence the separation of labor in this function of any business. Having surveyed the blogosphere for opinions of business analysts and IT professionals, there seems to be a live (and even a bit emotional) discussion between those who say it is a natural, and therefore inevitable, progression and those who say it is a “pie in the sky” and that it will never happen.

Contrastingly, a growing population of believers has something to say about the segregation of business and IT. In a world of zeros and ones, the innumerable coding languages can only become more and more efficient. As coding languages are continuously created, survival of the fittest can account for the extinct languages of modern programming. An abstraction of these languages is an ongoing phenomenon with a light at the end of the tunnel. Some say that using abstract, visual and human-readable models instead of low-level code is a very important step towards commoditized coding.

I’ve come to think about this abstraction phenomenon as measure to increase efficiency. When our ancestors realized that making bricks was faster than packing sand, they were on to something similar. If someone else uses molds to make perfectly shaped bricks that can be built into any structure, the workers need different skills but can ultimately build more economically, the architect can plan more accurately, and the buyer can move in earlier. So, why deal with sand when we can get the bricks from vendors elsewhere. Why deal with code, when we can get software modules elsewhere? This, my friends, may be the future of today’s business analyst.  In the future, what if business analysts had the skill set and the molds to create bricks that satisfy their requirements without the need to deal with code – or sand?

Derek Roos

This entry was published on Jan 21, 2010 / Derek Roos . Posted in Requirements Analysis (BABOK KA) , Leadership & Management, Agile Methods, Career as a Business Systems Analyst, Roles and Responsibilities, Tools. Bookmark the Permalink or E-mail it to a friend.
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Mel posted on Tuesday, February 9, 2010 8:31 PM
Derek - as a 20 year Business Analyst professional who has reported through both Business and IT Organizations depending on the most recent re-org, I am in complete agreement with your vision of the future. We, as Business Analysts, have developed the skills to bridge the communication gap between business owners and programmers and unless we have let all of the knowledge we've gained get filed away in a black hole of past projects, we have definitely picked up some technical know-how along the way.

Instead of simply serving as a conduit to deliver requirements from business to IT, why shouldn't the Business Analyst have a more proactive role in solutioning that would allow us to put our skills to better use?
zarfman posted on Friday, February 12, 2010 12:37 AM


My back ground is in finance and accounting, thus, I may have a different view of the world of commerce than other disciplines.

My understanding is that a business analyst stands between a business unit and IT acting as facilitator or interpreter.

It been a few years since my MBA so I checked some of the top business school to get an idea of their curriculum. For example Stanford and Wharton.

The curriculum has changed dramatically, there are many more degree options and areas of specialization than before. For example in accounting and finance the biggest change is the number of courses involving business and accounting information systems and the emphasis on analytical rigor e.g. computer simulations, complex math based models and statistics.

This may imply that business units will be their own business analysts at some point in the future. I have no idea if this will come to pass. For the top business schools the where-with-all is certainly there.

I am interest in you comments and I'm not so great a predicting the future.


Zarfman - the old finance and accounting dude.
zarfman posted on Monday, July 26, 2010 3:37 PM
As a recent graduate of Babson College, I definitely agree that technology is becoming a prominent aspect of classic business knowledge. A class called Problem Solving and Software Design reminds me of this post - where we would take unusual business problems, and solve them with software... we used VB. Even freshmen year, they had us building websites as part of a Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship class.

Fortunately, I got a job right out of college - and I must say, I wouldn't be half as good at what I do if it weren't for those technology classes. I too am not great at predicting the future, but since I'm directly affected by this one, I see business and IT becoming closer and closer the more I get involved in either field.
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