For decades, the Business Analyst (BA) has played a pivotal role in any project. The role has certainly evolved through the years. The widespread adoption of agile methodologies is bringing some challenges and opportunities for the future of the role.
So, how did the BA role evolve, and what does the future look like?
Agile methodology and Business Analysis
The widespread adoption of agile methodology has changed the course of direction for the BA role in some ways. The waterfall model had been around for a while; roles within a project had formed into something so intrinsic that people knew exactly what the roles and responsibilities of a BA were. However, due to the very nature of agile, there is an emerging lack of clarity about duties within a position, particularly for the traditional project roles like BA and Project Managers.
The good news is that instead of the role perishing, adopting agile methodologies has led to more career opportunities and alternative career progression routes, as a BA is blending with other related roles. The key skills of analysis, problem-solving, communication, and negotiation have yet again allowed the BA profession to evolve and thrive. As part of this evolution, more and more hybrid roles are emerging for the BA.
The evolution of hybrid Business Analysts
A hybrid BA is a professional who has good knowledge and expertise in another field that complements business analysis. Thus, the hybrid BA is not a specialist, rather a super-generalist knowledgeable of business analysis in addition to a related field.
The five most popular hybrid BA roles are
- Business Analyst/Project Manager – These two roles have traditionally worked very closely in a project. Although the skill sets of a BA and a PM are quite distinct, this hybrid role can work well in a smaller project. In smaller organisations with smaller efforts, the Business Analyst can kick start scoping the effort upfront to understand the stakeholders and business needs. In this instance, it would make more sense for the BA to plan the tasks and monitor and deliver the project on time.
- Business Analyst/Scrum Master – A scrum master helps oversee the scrum and development team. They are knowledgeable in agile methodology and scrum and able to educate others. They also act as a buffer between the scrum team and the product owner. Although there is no explicit BA role in scrum methodology, great scrum masters are facilitative leaders with good analytical and communication skills, facilitation abilities, and understanding of the business domain. These key BA skills can safely be integrated into a hybrid BA/Scrum Master role, if the projects are low in complexity and are low risk, it could make sense to combine the roles.
- Business Analyst/Product Owner – The product owner is the voice of the business, and the role requires a deep domain and product knowledge to guide decisions about what to build and when to build it. In collaboration with the delivery team, the product owner explores and evaluates product needs to make those decisions. A lot of this can be regarded as what traditionally a business analyst will do. Therefore, it’s easy to see why a hybrid role might be useful. The one drawback of this combination is that whereas a product owner is more strategic and is concerned with the vision of the product, a BA is typically concerned with the details. A hybrid role will benefit from the ability to switch and enjoy understanding both the micro and the macro.
- Programmer Analyst – When a business needs someone who can run the gamut from the requirements through coding software, it will call on the programmer analyst. This can work well for a low complexity system development, low-code platform, or for system configurations – where a dedicated BA and developer role are not required, and both can be merged.
- UX Designer/Analyst – Whereas a BA is good at working with, and identifying the needs of the customers and documenting the changes, a UX designer is responsible for ensuring the mobile, web, or UI users are happy during their interaction with the system. Many BAs by default are tapped into doing mock-ups of UI’s. On the other hand, the UX designer employs Business Analyst techniques like management and traditional requirements gathering and creating wireframes. These roles can both complement each other or merge well together.
The traditional purist BA role will become extinct with a more hybrid BA role taking the space. It is in fact an exciting time in the career of a BA with numerous possibilities and a need to keep evolving to stay relevant.
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Written by Anu Sareen, r10’s Senior Manager and Business Analyst expert.