Every business analyst has heard this at least once, if not often: “I don’t want to get too technical for this discussion.” But the fact of the matter is “it is getting technical.”
With more organizations moving to the cloud and developing cloud-based solutions, terms of information technology that have been used in the software industry for years by the technical experts are becoming common knowledge now.
In this new era where technology is becoming more heavily regulated, re-engineering of legacy applications in the cloud is around the corner, big data and advanced warehousing tools have promise of new insights into business process, and nice-to-have AI features like fingerprint sensor and facial recognition are becoming must-haves for end users. Contrary to the popular belief that the role of ‘business analyst’ is fading, I believe it is becoming even more essential. It is a matter of survival of the fittest, where “fittest” means business analysts who are best suited for the new era in the software industry.
One on hand, business analysts help stakeholders come to a decision, and on the other hand they ground everyone else — architect, developers, data analysts, operations, infrastructure, security architects and other stakeholders in the organization — with collective understanding of the business needs. In order to help stakeholders decide, a “fittest” business analyst not only strives to understand the business process to separate stakeholders’ needs from desires, but also tend to ask difficult questions like ‘Are you sure this is a must-have?’ or ‘Could you prioritize the requirements so that not everything is a high priority?’
In addition to that, business analysts also explore what options are available to fulfill the needs of stakeholders. Unlike developers, whose black and white world makes it acceptable to say that a requirement can or cannot be met, for a business analyst, it is of vital importance to know the reasoning behind not being able to meet the requirement. Was the requirement not clear, was it misunderstood, is it cost-prohibitive to meet the requirement in its current form? Is it the technology platform, or lack of developer experience in certain technology that is hindering developers to not be able to meet the requirement? Can part of the requirement be met, and if yes, what are options A, B and C with their pros and cons? If the requirement can be met, what would be the cost estimates or points estimates?
In some organizations business analysts are also UAT testers: they verify that what was asked is indeed what was developed and identify bugs even before stakeholders get to see the business demo. In a nutshell, business analysts remove a lot of noise on both sides, by clarifying requirements and verifying that developed features meet the needs of the stakeholder and the users.
With so many disruptions in the software industry in such a short period of time, business analysts have their work cut out for them. Their first and foremost responsibility is to educate business stakeholders with cloud terminology in the language they understand, without getting frustrated with the ever-changing software industry. They will have to think and talk the language of hybrid cloud, private cloud, on-premises, high availability, scalability, fault tolerance, automation, and multifactor authentication. They will have to explain the rationale behind using a data warehouse instead of a database. Analysts will have to understand the difference between storage and compute, for example, and be able to explain that to the stakeholders. Business analysts will have to inevitably discuss and analyze options based on serverless or server-based computing, find out the cost benefit of each solution, research the availability of an API and its throttling limits to identify gaps even before it can be considered as a potential solution.
Up your technical game
In this new era, business analysts will not only continue to use their soft skills — communication, analytical thinking, problem-solving and building relationships — but they will also need to exhibit their technical know-how more than ever. To be prepared, business analysts should take an in-depth look at their arsenal for technical expertise, take a pause and think about what terms and services they will need to know in order to continue to help stakeholders in cloud-centric organizations, and participate in discussions with others in the organization. It would not be a bad idea for business analysts to get a couple of cloud certifications under their belt — not just the basic but also intermediate level so that they can contribute, add value to the technical discussion, propose solutions, ask good questions, and build valuable products for their organization, users and everyone else.
The function of business analysis is not going anywhere because the need for the work business analysts do still exists and will continue to exist. The noise in business requirements will need to be filtered regardless of waterfall or agile, on-premises or cloud; however, it is more important than ever for business analysts to invest in their technical skills.