Many job titles and roles that are now mainstream in the tech sector were almost unheard of 10 years ago. Disciplines which are adjacent and complementary to business analysis now flourish in many organisations, including business architecture, user research, service design and product ownership. This expansion of specialised roles brings great opportunities for collaboration and shared learning, but it can also breed misunderstandings and friction.
Assumptions and expectations
The tenure of digital roles is getting shorter. As we move from team to team, organisation to organisation, we take with us preconceptions of roles and remits. Teams often neglect to discuss the remit of individual members, gaps and overlaps between roles, strengths and areas of interest. We operate instead on the precarious ground of assumptions and expectations.
We need to know more than someone’s job title to understand what they do, what they are capable of doing and what they want to do.
There are many ways organisations encourage and even enforce specialisation of business analysts. ‘CRM Business Analyst’ and ‘Agile Business Analyst’ are current examples of this. Business analysis is a holistic discipline and when the role is confined by systems, methods or knowledge, it narrows the focus and generates siloed thinking.
A good business analyst can develop the knowledge they need for a given situation quickly, by deploying the right approaches and engaging with the right subject matter experts. When BAs become the subject matter experts, for a system or business area, the organisation has taken on a significant (and generally unrecognised) risk.
Business analysis skills are in demand, and organisations have created a situation where they can lose both the business analysis skills and a key source of business knowledge. In fact, constraining a business analyst to know more and more about less and less increases the likelihood they will look for new challenges elsewhere.
The concept of the ‘T-shaped’ digital professional is very helpful. The horizontal bar represents the breadth of the role, areas of knowledge and high-level skills needed for a role. These will be common across a range of roles. The vertical bar describes the depth of skills and knowledge in a particular professional discipline.