I have never been good at predicting the future. In fact, I suspect all of us find predicting future trends difficult—and predicting medium and longer term futures is even more difficult. As Steve Davidson observed:
“Forecasting future events is often like searching for a black cat in an unlit room, that may not even be there.”
Yet, inaccuracy and uncertainty doesn’t stop predictions being useful for some applications. If nothing else, predicting (one) possible future creates the opportunity for a conversation, for agreement, disagreement and refinement. My intention with this article is to do just that—to set out one possible future and to create debate. So once you have read this, I’d love it if you added a comment below! What do you agree with? What do you disagree with? Be sure to let me know.
So here goes. My top 6 predictions for Business Analysis in 2020:
1. Increased Focus on Intersections and Connectivity: No one discipline “owns” strategy. No one discipline “owns” change or execution. Organisations work as a complex web of intersecting disciplines. Too often, today, there are useful (but ultimately academic) arguments about where BA finishes and other disciplines start. There are interesting discussions about How Business Architecture does (or doesn’t) overlap with Business Analysis, where analysis stops and design starts and so on. The irony is that our customers almost certainly don’t care where the boundaries are. They just want their problem solved, their solution(s) delivered and—crucially—their value to be co-created.
Of course, these conversations will continue. But over the next few years, as a community we will move the conversation on. I predict there will be an even greater focus, particularly amongst senior BAs, of reading the context and blurring the edges of the discipline. Boundaries become less important, and collaboration and co-operation (with a mutual appreciation of other disciplines) becomes crucial. Our analysis becomes a crucial strategic enabler for organisations to survive and thrive. We are one of the disciplines that appreciates the micro and macro levels, and can ‘create’ the complex web of professionals that is necessary to deliver. We become connectors, helping to create networks between disciplines and professionals that will get the job done. And in doing so, our discipline becomes more and more sought after.
2. Job Titles Will Evolve (But They Won’t be Standard): Currently, the term “Business Analyst” means many things to many people. Some BAs work purely on requirements. Others do everything from strategic analysis right through to delivery (and beyond). Organisations and BA practice leads will realise that you need both—but often the best Requirement Engineer is a different person with different aspirations to someone that works predominantly pre-project on Strategy Analysis. That may happen to be a different person again to someone that has experience throughout the whole analysis lifecycle. Rather than calling all three people a “Business Analyst”, we’ll see a resurgence in other titles: “Requirements Engineer” might be used to describe someone that just works on requirements, for example. Yet there still won’t be standardisation. And it won’t matter, the variety will create an awesome opportunity for people to carve out their own career path. All roles will exist within the broader definition of ‘business analysis’.
3. People Will Talk About Projects Less: I suspect most of us spend a great deal of our career working in projects. It is easy to think that a ‘project’ is a natural thing that has to exist to get change initiated. Yet, the underlying idea of a project is (ultimately) an imaginary construct. “Projects” (in the normal sense) only exist because we think they exist. Other cultures at other periods in time would find it very curious that we hang Gantt charts around our offices and organise our work in this way!
Of course, business analysis exists outside of projects too. As the business environment gets even more volatile and fast moving, organisations will continue to look for alternative mechanisms of co-creating value and achieving outcomes. Indeed, the #NoProjects community on Twitter is one that has already emerged. Proponents of Systems Thinking would argue that Systemic Inquiry is a viable alternative to projects when the environment is complex. We’ll see a continued discussion and subtle shift to other ways of conceptualising work, which will require us to ‘un-learn’ as much as we ‘learn’!
4. Job Hopping Will Be Fine: As a new generation of BAs gain experience and seniority, attitudes towards longevity of tenure will change. Employers will cease to look for “ten years’ experience in the Financial Services sector” and instead will look for the right type of BA with the right complement of experience. Job hopping won’t be looked down on. Those who have job-hopped will have different exposure than someone who has stayed put—they will have seen a wider range of situations, delivery approaches and industries than someone who has stayed put for 30 years. BA Leaders will appreciate that you need both types of individual in a team.
5. Creation (as Well as Consumption) Will Be a Pre-requisite For Senior BAs: As the profession matures, more and more senior BAs will set out to create content for the global BA community (as well as consuming it). We’ll see more and more articles, blogs, case-studies and books. We’ll help each other, and in providing this peer-to-peer support we’ll find that our community will gain a critical mass that we can only imagine now. Employers will come to expect that Senior BAs need time to ‘create’ and will encourage (and expect) them to do so. The global pool of knowledge and practice will grow, and the informal network of likeminded practitioners will grow.
6. Purists Will Be As Prevalent (and Irrelevant) As Ever: Pragmatists will continue to adapt methods and methodologies to fit contexts. Purists will continue to argue that we should always refer to a method/methodology/framework/text and never deviate from it. Whilst there is a time for purism (and I am certainly not arguing against standards), contextual pragmatism will continue to deliver. But this won’t stop Internet Forums being filled with purist/pragmatist debates—which (I’m sure) we’ll continue to engage in 🙂
I hope you have found these predictions thought provoking and interesting. And if you have, please do go ahead and add a comment below—I would love to hear your thoughts!
What are your views and perspectives, do you have anything to add? Please add a comment below, and let’s keep the conversation flowing!
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About the author:
Adrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis consulting and training solutions. Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analysis can bring.
To find out more about the training and consulting services offered at Blackmetric, please visit www.blackmetric.com