I’ve been involved in business analysis for almost twenty years—working as a consultant at a number of different IT firms in Toronto, and then as a member of IIBA’s executive leadership—and I think we’re now in a period of transformation for the business analysis and product management community.
Back when I started, the focus for business analysts was really on requirements definition and management. Your job was to talk to the stakeholders, find out what they needed (as long as the PM agreed it was in scope), document it, and get them to sign off. I talked to many business analysts who really believed that the “business” had to be responsible for coming up with a good idea. All that mattered was that the development team built something that matched the requirements document. If they did that, the BA had done a good job, even if the resulting application never got used.
For business analysis to grow and mature as a profession, we needed to move past those ideas and really focus on making a difference. In my time with IIBA, I worked with hundreds of practitioners and experts around the world to redefine the expectations business analysts and their employers had of themselves. Requirements development and management were important, yes, but they were basic skills we had to master before moving on to the ones that really mattered. If business analysts wanted to be respected as professionals and have opportunities to grow, the focus had to shift to delivering business value. We had to look at what our stakeholders needed, not what they wanted, and design innovative solutions that met their goals.
During the last several years, I’ve also seen business analysis from the other side—as a project sponsor and executive. I’ve led teams of product managers and seen projects both succeed and struggle because of the way business analysis is done. Managing a portfolio of processes and products is very different from working on projects that only deliver or affect a few of them at a time. Poor business analysis doesn’t just affect the change you’re working on—it causes companies to miss out on other opportunities that are lost because people are working on the wrong things.
I’ve come to realize that business analysis isn’t about requirements definition and management. It’s really about value definition and management. We have to understand what our stakeholders need, and design solutions that meet those needs in a way that creates real benefits for them at a reasonable cost. In the years I led the creation of the BABOK® Guide, we worked to deliver on that promise by integrating disciplines including business architecture, process management, and software requirements development into the global standard of practice for the profession of business analysis. In April, we released version 3 to the BA community, and it’s been wonderful to see the positive reception it’s received from business analysts around the world.
Now that that project is complete, I’m really excited to join the Seilevel team and help organizations turn that promise into reality. As the Vice President of Seilevel’s Canadian Business Unit, I’ll be working with companies in Canada (and elsewhere) to help them link their strategy to delivery of new products and services, improved processes, and the applications needed to support them. Change is always challenging and exciting, and I’m looking forward to helping Seilevel’s clients change their business successfully.