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Shifting trends require shifting responsibilities

Developers and analysts must expand their skills if the business is to succeed in its efforts to improve agility.

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“In the new world, analysts need to collaborate with business counterparts and dynamically configure systems in test environments.”

A challenge many IT leaders face today is an edict from the business to improve IT agility. Traditionally, analysts have worked with their business counterparts to define requirements. Analysts, in turn, work with developers to deliver the solution, which may or may not actually meet business requirements once fully implemented. This model, with analysts as go-betweens, is antiquated. Analysts as well as developers will need to shift roles in order for the business to reach its ultimate goal of agility.

Today, people use terms such as agile processes or agile development. Agility is an important accomplishment for IT. However, business analysts can effect agility as well because many of their responsibilities are becoming less important or even obsolete. For instance:

  1. The business is getting smarter when it comes to IT. It doesn’t need analysts to translate requirements. For example, Informatica’s new CMO knew exactly what systems and analytics she needed from day one, because she had done this several times before at other companies.
  2. SaaS is easier to configure. Unlike traditional on-premises systems that often require more skilled development, cloud applications are easier and quicker to configure. They require less-sophisticated development resources. Analysts are often capable of setting up cloud applications without the support of IT developers or administrators.
  3. There is a loss of fidelity when an analyst is the intermediary between the business and developers. Analysts may be familiar with the business, but they are still a step removed in most cases. They add another link to the communication chain. This results in elongated delivery times and frustration, which are counter to the concept of agility.

We absolutely need analysts and developers. Even as the business becomes more tech-savvy, with a greater ability to clearly articulate requirements and even set up solutions, it still needs support from IT. However, to reduce the back-and-forth cycles between business and IT, analysts need to broaden their configuration skills, and developers need to become more skilled at directly understanding business requirements.

In the new world, analysts need to collaborate with business counterparts and dynamically configure systems in test environments. This enables rapid business feedback and no loss in translation with business requirements.

Developers should still be part of the requirement conversation, if only to help analysts ramp up their skills. However, future staffing models for cloud applications call for increasing analyst headcounts faster than developer headcounts.

You will need to actively manage change in order to succeed at making this shift. Developers and analysts predictably will complain, “I’m already busy, how can I do this, too?” Emphasize that it is merely a shift in roles and a request to build their skills, not an assignment of additional responsibilities. The result will be faster time to delivery, greater fidelity, and self-documented solutions. As a result, the business will be able to reach its goal of growing customer satisfaction while ultimately reducing the burden on IT.

Read more about rebuilding the role of business analyst from Mark McDonald, group vice president at Gartner.

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