Kathleen Barret, IIBA, on the Business Analyst role #ogtoronto

Kathleen Barret of the International Institute of Business Analysis discussed how the role of Business Analyst moved from assistant Project Manager and scribe to the focal point for understanding and articulating the business need for a solution or change.

She started by talking about why there is such a strong case now for business analysts. Organizations have been designing solutions for years without proper business analysis, resulting in a spotty success rate; in today’s economy, however, no one can afford the misses any more, prompting the drive towards having solid business analysis built in to any project. There’s also a much stronger focus now on business rather than technology in most organizations, with business strategy driving the big projects.

IIBA was created 5 years ago to help support business analysis practices and create standards for practice and certification. Its goals are to develop awareness and recognition of the BA role, and to develop the BA Body of Knowledge (BABOK) to support BAs.

Business analysis is about understanding the organization: why it exists, its goals and objectives, how it accomplishes those objectives, how it works, and how it needs to change to meet its objectives and future needs. As Barret points out, there’s a big overlap with what business architects do (she posits that they are now the same, or that an enterprise business analyst is the same as a business architect – I’m not sure that IIBA has a well-thought-out position on this yet); the difference may be purely a matter of scope, or of general analysis versus project-specific analysis.

The BA works as a liaison amongst stakeholders in order to elicit, analyze, communicate and validate requirements for changes to processes, policies and systems. This could be at the enterprise level – probably what most of us would refer to as a business architect – or at the project level. This can be a subject matter expert or domain practitioner (which I don’t consider a true BA in many cases) or a consultative BA who works with SMEs to elicit business requirements. In a large, complex organization, there may be several types of BAs: there is a need for both specialists (in terms of business vertical, methodologies and technologies) and generalists.

IIBA will continue to extend the BABOK, and will be releasing a competency model by the end of 2009 to help BAs identify gaps in their capabilities and to help organization to assess current needs and capabilities. In my experience, “business analyst” is one of the most over-used and misused term in business today, so anything that IIBA does to help clarify the role and expected capabilities has to help the situation.

2 thoughts on “Kathleen Barret, IIBA, on the Business Analyst role #ogtoronto”

  1. Hi Sandy,

    One point on which I would clarify.

    When we say that an enterprise business analyst/business architect is the same thing as a business analyst, we don’t mean that the work they do is identical. What we mean is that the underlying skills and knowledge are closely enough related that they are, in a meaningful sense, part of the same profession. In other words, it should be and as far as anyone can tell is a natural progression from business analyst to business architect, without the kind of transition where you suddenly have to learn a new set of skills or display a new set of competencies. This is different from the BA to PM transition common in a lot of organizations, because a PM does something fundamentally different from a BA (for example).

    In general, both business analysts and business architects seem to agree with this assertion which is a good indication that it is in fact true. That said, business architecture is still in its very early stages as a profession and the reason Kathleen and I were there was to begin discussions with the Open Group on how exactly we could work together to define that.

    This is pretty different from the business analyst role–at this point we’ve got that pretty much nailed down (with data to back it up) and IIBA’s definition seems to be gaining rapid acceptance in the industry. However, it’s not much different from where business analysis was when we started five years ago and so I’m confident that we can make significant progress in this area.

  2. So now you’re redefining the meaning of the phrase “the same thing as”? 🙂 It might have been clearer for her not to use that phrase, but to state what I now think that you meant, which is that they’re on the same continuum of skills. I’m looking forward to seeing how you can help to clarify the business architect role as distinct from that of business analyst; I see a lot of confusion over this with how my clients assign the two titles to people within their organizations.

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