I have noticed recently a trend towards the role or position of “Business System Analyst”, or some other combination of the business analyst and the systems analyst, the business aspect of the problem and the technical aspect of the solution.
There are a number of reasons for this reversal of the split between business and technical roles over the past couple of decades. Over the years the trend has been toward specialists that analyze the business problem and other specialists that describe the details of the technical solution. The primary rationale has been the increasing complexity of the business processes requiring specialized knowledge and the eually increasing invasiveness of technology into those business processes also requiring specialized and significantly different technical knowledge and skills.
The complexity of business and the complexity of technology has not diminished, so why is there a trend towards consolidation of the business analyst and technical specialist / designer roles?
For one thing, organizations still haven’t bounced back from the Big Recession and there still is a consolidation of roles due to a reduction in staffing. More business analysts are also project managers and more project managers are also playing the role of business analyst, and so forth.
The advent of agile software development has also impacted the role of business analyst. “Pure” business analysts are looked at with some skepticism by the aglists who strongly support the concept of the developers dealing directly with the business community without any intermediaries.
And the increased use of off-shore developers means that the specifications provided to the off shore organization must be more technical than business analysts typically prepare so the business analysts tend to have to do systems analyst type functions to get the specifications ready for the off-shore developers while still maintaining a business relationship with the stakeholders.
You may find yourself in a dual role, explicitly – taking the title of Business System Analyst or some such – or implicitly, by doing the work of both roles without recognition. If so the guidance to success is the same as when you have to do both a project manager and business analyst role at the same time: separate the roles as much as possible.
Why? Because trying to do both at the same time is more likely to jeopardize the success of the product for many reasons:
· Trying to think about the system specifications while defining the problem and refining what the business stakeholders want will likely result in many things being missed or skipped over. For example, presenting a solution to the stakeholders before all the information has been obtained from all the stakeholders
· There is a higher potential for solution jumping followed by confirmation bias that will focus on a specific solution which may not be the best
· It is easier to make and not confirm assumptions about both the problem domain and the solution when both are done by the same person
· There is a tendency to avoid details since the business analyst already knows what they are and does not have to describe the details to the systems analyst or technical specialist who is a different person
· The combined role becomes too familiar with the problem and solution and starts overlooking issues and not addressing problems
· There are no checks and balances that would exist if there were two different people playing each of the roles
Ideally if you have to play both roles, you will have another business analyst that can provide some feedback emphasizing one or the other role. For example, if you are focusing on the business side, the other business analyst can offer some technical commentary and review. Otherwise, if you are a lone ranger, you may have to try to split the roles in some way so that you can focus entirely on business analyst functions in one role and technical functions in the other. This decreases the problems that multiple role playing brings about,