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Offsetting business analyst shortage

Business analysts have no career path, and that is a major hurdle for them and their employers.
Read time 3min 40sec

Many business analysts might feel that being certified in their role is the end-goal for advancement in their careers. But that would be short-sighted.

Certification via The International Institute for Business Analysis (IIBA), while necessary, important and fulfilling a valuable role, is only a first step along the road to formalising the industry and is a new introduction to SA through a select few training organisations.

The IIBA has instituted its Certified Business Analysis Professional certification. The IIBA was formed in October 2003 in the US and Canada and is an independent, non-profit professional association of business analysts.

Without any further formal recognition of education, experience and achievements in the market, business analysts will have no career path and their employees no gauge by which to judge their employment, achievements or remuneration.

Without a career path, business analysts change employers to revitalise their interest with new environments and different challenges, as well as to earn better salaries. But it's a hit-and-miss affair for the analysts, software developers and their employers.

Compounding the problem is the shortage of business analysts.

Top cause

Developing a career path for business analysts is eminently possible and requires an understanding of the operational status quo.

Robin Grace is principal consultant at IndigoCube

More organisations are dealing with the reality of software development project failure. According to the Standish Group's Chaos Report, the single most common cause of software project development failure over the past three years has been poor business analysis.

The result is that there are many more positions available than there are business analysts to fill them.

Frequent shifts between employers mean that businesses often have to find replacements and train them to an appropriate level or familiarise them with the new environment, which takes time - time most companies simply don't have since they are short of business analysts and have projects to roll out.

The answer is to develop a career path for business analysts, attracting the right people to the market, developing them appropriately and supplying businesses with a ready resource to meet their needs.

Developing a career path for business analysts is eminently possible and requires an understanding of the operational status quo:

* Business analysts currently operate within business silos. They are vertically aligned according to business units, divisions or departments, and work on projects specific to those units without any idea of what projects are running in other units.
* There are no standards in the industry with developers receiving their requirements from business analysts in a variety of formats and varying levels of completeness.

The best method for driving this change and others is a business analysis centre of excellence.

Structured path

Its responsibilities will include defining the governance, services, standards and skills development of business analysts. Skilled and accomplished business analysts who fall under the centre of excellence will serve as a group of facilitators and on-the-job trainers, coaches and mentors who:

* Facilitate corporate Swot, focus, group and strategy sessions;
* Develop and maintain enterprise process and data architectures;
* Facilitate and monitor business cases;
* Manage solution verification and validation, such as assisting with test case development and user acceptance tests;
* Prepare the organisation for change, such as deploying new business solutions or processes;
* Provide a resource pool to augment project teams to perform business analysis activities in areas that are under-resourced or high priority;
* Elicit, analyse, specify, document, validate and manage requirements;
* Conduct surveys and analyse results; and
* Gather all information for feasibility studies and market research.

These services will result in four different specialist business analysts, in order: requirements elicitation specialists, project, enterprise and finally strategic business analysts with specific skills associated with each type.

It is a definite and structured career path for business analysts to chart their progress and gives their employers a gauge by which to measure their suitability to specific projects, their remuneration and by which to measure their success or failure.

* Robin Grace is principal consultant at IndigoCube.

Robin Grace

Principal consultant, IndigoCube.

Robin Grace is principal consultant at IndigoCube. He entered the IT industry via the Van Zyl and Pritchard Cobol Course in 1979, rising through the normal IT ranks to the position of systems analyst. He has been involved with methods and methodologies ever since reading up on James Martin's Bubble Diagrams for Data Modelling. Grace has used, consulted on and taught on many methods since then, worked for Comcon as method manager and spent many years working for Mike Bergen & Associates as a consultant, involved with information engineering among its various clients. He believes the importance of business analysis is under-recognised in the industry. He has been exposed to methods as diverse as catalysis to information engineering, and more recently UML and BPM.

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