Over the past 15 years, major shifts in technology have made the work of the Business Analyst more efficient and have increased product-delivery success.
#1 Software Engineering
Building software differs significantly from building something like a car or a house—hence the rise of “software engineering.” In concert, process and methodology took on importance and gave rise to debates, refinement and adaptation, including books and articles such as “Mythical Man Month” and “No Silver Bullet“. Because BAs building software faced more choices in what they could do, the idea of “engineering” helped instill some process into less predictable environments and placed more emphasis on how we work as teams, how we plan and how we manage change.
As processes continued to evolve so did tools and technologies, particularly software. Word processing capabilities and legacy tools such as DOORS enabled teams to capture the planning and process involved in software engineering. The introduction of DOORS ushered in the current boom of requirements-management solutions available today. For the most part, the initial swath of RM tools helped BAs focus on supporting existing processes to improve, rather than innovate around, product delivery.
#3 Rational Unified Process
This was a major shift. With Rational—and the RUP methodology—the process and the tools were built in parallel and interdependent. Thus Rational is referred to as a “software process product”.
The ultimate goal of RUP was to mitigate and control change. The predominant thought was that poor design and unclear requirements resulted in costly change. Change was treated as a problem that needed to be mitigated through a clearly defined series of phases that included a combination of textual but also visual representation of what’s being built.
As we’ll see, it’s this attitude around change that really shifted the mindset.
When the Agile Manifesto was announced to the world in 2001, BAs considered Agile revolutionary after so many years of process, structure and rigid planning. As Agile-specific tools were introduced in great numbers, we returned to an era of process-driven technology, only this time the drivers were the engineering teams and the BAs found themselves struggling to fit in.
There’s no doubt Agile will stick around, but it is experiencing a backlash of sorts, specifically by those outside the core software-development teams. Many BAs must juggle ramifications rifts between product (and the business stakeholders) and engineering over misalignment around structuring requirements. This lack of communication and visibility is somewhat ironic, given its initial goal was to increase communication.
Agile continues to be top of mind and hotly debated. Many BAs adopt hybrid approaches to better align teams and seek ways to bridge the gaps across the organization.
#5 Social Mobile
Social marries technology with the way people naturally engage to bring people together to communicate, plan and make decisions. Facebook, which ushered social into the mainstream, states as its mission to:
“…give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”
A broad, bold statement, yes, but it summarizes how our world has changed with technology. It was unimaginable back in 2001 that we’d be so quick to share details of our lives in 256 characters or less with people we didn’t necessarily know. Yet, as we’ve realized the benefits we are readily adopting social constructs. The idea of an @ mention or a # suddenly isn’t something only the kids do. It is part of our lives, our culture and increasingly part of our work.
Mobile devices have freed us from needing to be in a physical location. They also free us to live and work more in the moment. Embarking on a trip requires little more a confirmation email. Meeting friends at a sports event requires much less detail than it used to: via text, voice call or an app, we work out the details once we all are on our way or have arrived.
In the case of mobile, technology is driving the process. Communication has been completely reinvented. This is a huge shift for BAs and can have enormous benefits to product delivery. The intersection of social and mobile with Agile could be the driver for Agile to take root across larger, distributed teams.
Technology and Process in the Balance
Throughout the shifts over the past few years, the business analyst has been introduced to new tools and processes designed to make product delivery more efficient and successful. Social is doing this by applying best practices from 10+ years of agile implementations and layering on the technology to accelerate how we work.
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