Slow and Steady Will Win the Race For BAs in 2011


2011 Business Analysis TrendsIn what has become an annual event, ESI International once again has the opportunity to present its prediction for the key trends business analysts can expect to drive their careers and their organizations in the coming year. Taking a long lens approach to looking at 2011 is an apt metaphor that should serve as a reminder to BAs of the perspective they need to take to in terms of both their professional development and their role in the organization. There’s no better time to take stock and strategize on how to best prepare for the opportunities and the challenges you’ll experience ahead.

As organizations pick up the pace of rapid developments in technology and seek ways to create greater efficiencies this year, requirements management and development (RMD) will be a critical discipline to ensure their success. In 2011 there will be no lack of need for RMD, and how the BA delivers on his or her potential will have impact beyond any individual project. The following trends will provide a roadmap of what’s down the road, and what BAs need to know to better prepare themselves to make the journey a successful one.

1. Business architecture will be the primary focus for business analysts
In 2011, the business analyst will place primary focus on business architecture. The BA’s critical thinking ability and specialized skills set combination will be relied on to examine the complex, inner workings of the organization—not just isolated view points, but through an enterprise-wide lens. Organizational policies, procedures, business rules and processes will be the focus of the BA’s attention in 2011 as organizations strive to remain competitive, increase efficiencies and improve the quality of their goods and services in order to better appeal to today’s financially sensitive marketplace.

2. Business analysis will guide the surge in cloud computing
2010 was the proving ground for cloud computing as organizations asked, “Is it worth it?” While a small percentage of organizations said yes, in 2011 there will be a significant increase in the implementation of cloud-based computing solutions as the benefits of lower cost of ownership outweigh the uncertainties around access and security. Global market intelligence firm IDC predicts spending on IT cloud services will experience a 30 percent increase in 2011 over last year, a spending rate five times higher than that for the rest of the IT industry.

To help ensure a smooth transition to the cloud, organizations will look to business analysis to provide the needed insights from a business architecture perspective. BAs will play an important role in determining policies, such as how and who will have access to the network, as they help IT and business people in the organization undertake this huge endeavor.

3. Requirements management and development will be sought out to deliver smart business perspective
RMD will lead the reassessment and reevaluation of performance as organizations push hard to improve operational efficiencies. By helping to structure and guide a disciplined, yet flexible approach to meticulous business analysis, RMD will ensure organizations realize the full benefits of key initiatives. Particularly with the development of cloud computing, organizations are trying to get it right, but are moving so fast that they’ll need a BA perspective to ensure they do.

4. BPMN will solidify its reputations as the industry standard
Business process modeling notation (BPMN) will continue to earn recognition and stature as the industry standard by which organizations model their business architecture. This structured, disciplined approach has a syntax and language that will be appreciated for its clarity by both technical and business stakeholders, making it an essential for the BA’s toolkit.

5. Agile success will go to those who break with tradition
As the use of Agile methods—especially Scrum—continues to explode, the struggle will continue between the roles project managers and BAs play in these approaches. Agile is a proven development method, but unless organizations are prepared to dismiss traditional project management/BA values and delineations, they’ll miss the boat. The organizations that realize the greatest success will be those that acknowledge the skill sets of both BAs and project managers, but not in a hierarchal pecking order.

6. BAs will be integral change agents to avoid troubled projects
From their enterprise-wide vantage point, BAs will be relied upon to help executives better understand the impact that change will have on the organization and to help minimize any negative impact that results from change. Being heavily entrenched in all versions of business rules, policies and processes will enable the BA with an acute awareness of the magnitude of change as it’s drawn forward in the organization.

RMD will be needed to articulate the as-is and future states, and assess and evaluate resources and risks to the organization. BAs who don’t focus on the change management process and managers who ignore BA insights will continue to see more than their fair share of troubled projects, lack of acceptance and lack of integration, particularly in the cloud computing world.

7. Resurgence of Centers of Excellence
With breathing room from a slightly improved global economic outlook, many organizations are taking the time to focus on more effective internal organization. Organizations will recognize RMD’s impact and role as an indispensible discipline to flesh out improved processes and efficiencies that better meet the demands of increased organizational performance. For RMD this will mean a resurgence of centers of excellence and more resources devoted to the evolution of communities of practice.

8. Requirements management and development will play a key role in regaining market share
Over the last three years, many organizations saw a loss of market share as their customers spent less, and when they did spend, it was elsewhere. This year organizations have high expectations for exploring efficiencies that will help them reclaim market share. To accelerate their ability to recapture lost market share, organizations will look to RMD to chart the course for deconstructing and reconstituting the organization – through process modeling, data modeling, measurement and more.

9. Requirements management and development will continue to struggle to define itself
The BA profession will continue to gain well-deserved recognition as RMD fosters greater efficiencies and processes across the organization. However, the improvements and innovation it drives that enable new insights and voices will dwarf the BA’s place at the table, leaving the still-maturing RMD role to grapple with its own definition. This will be in great contrast to RMD’s expanding criticality in new frameworks such as Agile and cloud computing. In a sense, the BA profession is like an awkward teenager, struggling with outside influences and factors in the approach to maturity. Expect more growing pains until we see a mature, stable BA environment in organizations within the next five to 10 years.

10. Requirements management and development will require more balanced competencies
The reputation of RMD professionals for soft skills such as elicitation and communication has overshadowed their capacity for complex technical skills. Operating among CIOs and directors of PMOs who traditionally are heavily entrenched in an IT/project management mindset, BAs will need to step up their game with more technical skills. So while communication will still be important, documenting it in models will be as well. There will be an increased focus on graphical modeling, cost estimates, risk analysis and other measurements that quantifiably prove RMD’s value to the organization.

Steady As You Go
As these RMD trends unfold during the year, BAs will need to provide their unique focus, skill sets and perspective to help organizations maximize market opportunities and rapid technological developments. For BAs, slow and steady will win the race as they bring their output into a better balance between soft and core technical RMD skills to demonstrate their true value to the organization. This alignment will serve not only the organization’s objectives, but will also continue to elevate RMD as a critical business discipline and the BA as an indispensible business professional.

Author: Glenn R. Brûlé, CBAP, CSM, Executive Director of Global Client Solutions, ESI International, brings more than two decades of focused business analysis experience to every ESI client engagement. As one of ESI’s subject matter experts, Glenn works directly with clients to build and mature their business analysis capabilities by drawing from the broad range of learning resources ESI offers. A recognized expert in the creation and maturity of BA Centers of Excellence, Glenn has helped clients in the energy, financial services, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, insurance and automotive industries, as well as government agencies across the world. For more information visit

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Tony Markos posted on Tuesday, January 4, 2011 1:09 PM
Architecture is about design. A BA should be focused on essential (technology independent) business requirements and their interrelationships - not on a technological solution (i.e., a design).

Also, typical Business Process Modeling (BPM) techniques are not suitable for enterprise-wide analysis as they are sequence based. At the higher level, large scale systems have no definable sequence. A BA can not use a sequence based modeling technique to model a non-sequential system. A data flow based technique (data flow diagrams) is needed.

One can argue that BPMN is different in that it allows for capture of both flow of data and flow of control; however, putting both on the same diagram soon results in a diagram that is sooooo complex that it is impossible for a Business Analyst to determine where his/her errors and omissions are.

Barbara posted on Tuesday, January 4, 2011 2:13 PM
I agree with Glenn. BAs MUST have technical awareness of architecture and be very competent with modeling techniques. For a BA to make high quality recommendations he or she must understand both the business and the technical implications of every change. In addition BAs need to be experts at business case development, risk analysis, and process improvement. Being an excellent BA requires a very high level of competancy in many disciplines (over and above excellent communication skills). This is what makes it such a great profession. For those of us who love learning and honing our skills there will always be more challenges in front of us.
Phil F posted on Wednesday, January 5, 2011 9:34 AM
I also feel BAs must have a technical grounding especially considering that when you iterate into requirements. For example, say the day 1 "ideal" requirements are too costly, you definitely need to understand how the cheaper alternatives from the solution side impact on the business requirements. I think you need to go both ways (as it were), from business to solution and then back again.
NickB posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2011 4:22 PM
I've worked in various Blue Chip organisations, and the most effective ones have used BPMN as a solid standard for notation, when defining business processes. The business architecture in this context, is the operational structure of the company, rather than the technical IT infrastructure.

Personally, I haven't seen any organisation use BPMN as a means to model systems architecture. UML techniques such as DFDs and Sequence Diagrams are more suited to this kind of work, which I think Tony is alluding to.
magnus posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2011 8:30 PM
While I like BPMN in many way, the problem with it is that is doesn't work with business users. They get confused with all the little graphic tasks and activities, the fact BPMN doesn't always show activities in the sequence they happen, etc. Using BPMN for business modelling means spending half the time explaining the notation to the business before even looking at the process itself.

Nothing beats a simple flowchart to get business users to explain their processes. If the architects want the process in BPMN I translate the flowchart for them. But using BPMN with the business is a waste of time.

Everyone understands basic flowcharts and using them means spending more time on the business issues and less time explaining the tool we're using.
zarfman posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2011 8:35 PM

Hi Glenn:

Did you make predictions for 2009 and 2010? If so, how did they turn out and where can I find them?


NickB posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2011 8:50 PM
Magste, surprised that your PM is permitting you to spend time re-creating business processes in a special format for architects. Different companies, different approaches, I guess.
zarfman posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2011 8:59 PM
Greetings one and all:

I'm not sure I understand what BPMN is. Is it some kind of universal language like Esperanto? Perhaps mathematic could be defined as a universal language. How, does this work, do all the different professions learn this language in order to communicate with each other?

I really don't understand BA proficiency requirements. From what I know business entities can be composed of Manufacturing, Engineering, Management , Sales, Marketing, Finance, Accounting and others that I don't remember at the moment. How pray tell can one individual analyse and be competent in all these different areas?

I like flowcharts, having said that I suspect that at some point in complex systems like stock trading algorithms or FASB fair value determination the one would end up with a hierarchy of flow charts.


Tony Markos posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 8:13 AM
BPMN is a diagramatical modeling technique. It incorporates flow of sequence/control and flow of data into one diagram. (It also incorporates some secondary bells and whistels.) The fatal flaw with having flow of control and flow of data on the same diagram is that the diagrams soon get so complex that it becomes impossible for the analyst to tell where his/her errors are at.

Also, and even more important, systems (manual automated or combo) at higher levels of abstraction have no definable sequence. Therefore, BPMN can not be used for larger scale efforts.

Benni Pagdanganan posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 5:18 PM
I believe that BA's must have technical skills to work with the system side but this is secondary with the need to impart understanding of the business processes. However when all the BA work has been summed up, it can be considered that what they got is a business architecture comprising of business strategies and performance measures, business processes, data analysis, user preferences. While several tools are available the stakeholders require a documentation that they understand, graphically as well as text. (VIDA)
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