7 Trends in Business Analysis and Project Management to Watch for in 2012

By Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, CSM and Richard Larson PMP, CBAP

The close of one year tends to make one reflect on what has occurred in the past year and ponder the future. Here we ponder some trends in the Project Management and Business Analysis fields for 2012. Here are our top seven predictions for business analysts (BAs) and project managers (PMs) in 2012.

1. Divergence of the PM and BA Role. In 2009 we predicted that as the economy tightened, organizations would decrease their project budgets and combine the role of PM and BA. For 2012 we believe that organizations will see the need for both roles, particularly on strategic projects, and move away from a combined role. There are several factors for this trend:

  • Business analysis is maturing as a profession. As the IIBA has gained traction, more organizations have become aware of the BA role and its importance. From 2010 to 2011 the number of IIBA members increased about 50%.
  • Organizations have found that even with successful project management, many projects fail because of dissatisfaction with the end product. Having business analysts helps ensure that the product is a solution that works and is one the organization needs.
  • PMI has recognized the importance of the business analyst role. In 2010 they undertook a study to determine areas of overlap, handoffs, and how the two roles could collaborate.

2. Combined Agile methods. We predict that Agile methods will continue to change and merge as organizations take advantage of the benefits of Agile. In our 2009 Trends blog we stated that “Integrating Agile methods into project management and business analysis is a trend that will continue in 2009. Currently, the industry has a wide, varied, and inconsistent use of Agile techniques. This trend is likely to continue.”

 In the two years since we wrote that article, Agile methods have continued to evolve. Although organizations have widely adopted Scrum as the predominant Agile method, they still struggle with its implementation. We think that organizations will continue to adopt Agile methods, but that these methods will continue to evolve. Combined techniques, such as Scrum-ban (which combines Scrum with the Lean technique Kanban) or Scrumerfall (a combination of Scrum and Waterfall) will be adopted for different kinds of projects.

 3. PM and BA on Agile projects. We predict that the role of the BA and PM on Agile projects will solidify. When Agile started to be adopted, some organizations thought that the roles of PM and BA were obsolete. However, more and more organizations have recognized that the need for both roles, even if the titles are new. The Scrum Master role is best filled by someone with the expertise to coordinate the initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, & controlling, and closing each iteration and release. In other words, the work typically done by a PM. The designations of Certified Scrum Master (CSM) from the Scrum Alliance and Agile Certified Professional (ACP) from PMI have solidified this role.

 The role of the BA on an Agile project has not solidified. BAs are used in a variety of ways or not at all on Agile projects. There have been heated discussions on LinkedIn discussion groups and at conferences about this role. While many organizations use BAs in the product owner role, the fundamental issue of the product owner having to make business decisions makes this problematic. Going against most of the current thinking, we predict that organizations will realize in the next few years that business analysis is essential to Agile projects. Agile projects still have requirements, and there is a need to go from high-level user stories to the detail needed to develop the needed functionality. Organizations will realize that this in-depth analysis cannot be completed during an iteration, that it has to happen just prior to development. This is called grooming the product backlog and is the perfect role for the business analyst.

 4. The BA as management consultant. We predict that in 2012 BAs will actually function as described in the BABOK® Guide, version 2.0. That is, more BAs will “recommend solutions that help the organization achieve its goals.” They will do that in a variety of ways:

  • Business cases. More organizations will recognize that the BA is in the best position to develop business cases. Although often performed by PMs, this function happens prior to the initiation of a project and is input to project initiation (PMBOK® Guide – Fourth Edition). The PMBOK recognizes that the performing organization (business owner) is accountable for the business case, but it is the BA who is in the best position of developing it.
  • Ability to Influence without Authority. We are seeing more organizations tell us that they want their BAs to move away from taking customer orders and start using their expertise to recommend solutions. This need correlates to the enthusiasm we have seen around the need to influence without authority.
  • In her keynote at the BBC conference in Ft. Lauderdale last year, Kathleen Barrett, CEO of IIBA mentioned that one of the key competencies of the enterprise BA is management consulting.

5. BAs as change agents.We think that BAs will be more involved in change management. At the BBC conference in Ft. Lauderdale last year Kathleen Barret announced a new tag line for IIBA—that business analysis was about changing how organizations change. In other words, BAs will be more involved in change management. Changes might include changes in business processes, job descriptions, reporting structures, software, and more. Here are some of the ways we see this happening:

  • Enterprise analysis. Before projects are initiated, BAs determine the business need across the enterprise and recommend solutions, which need to include the ways in which organizations will need to change when these solutions are implemented.
  • Project work. While the identified at the enterprise level are by necessity high-level, the changes resulting from each project will be specific in nature. We predict that BAs will develop better tools for assessing whether or not the organization is ready for the change. We think that they will act as management consultants once the project has been defined to ease the pain associated with implementing the changes associated as with implementing the solution.
  • Post-project follow-up.We believe that BAs will be called on to monitor the post-implementation changes and continue to consult with the organization on the best way to make the solution work, even when there is some organizational resistance to it.

 6. The virtual environment.Now that it is here, the virtual environment will continue to flourish, even if the economy improves. There are a variety of reasons why organizations will continue to rely on the virtual environment for completing projects, for training, and for webinars to replace live conferences.

  • Travel budgets.Spurred by a sluggish world economy, many organizations have reduced travel budgets for team meetings, training, and international conferences, relying instead on the virtual environment. Although colocation of teams is ideal and preferred, it is not always possible. More teams communicate and collaborate virtually, more virtual training will occur, and more webinars will take the place of live conferences.
  • Globalization has made travel impractical. Although face-to-face time, particularly during project initiation, is helpful in building trust, respect, and relationships, it is not possible to be together for all project meetings and/or requirements elicitation interviews and workshops when the team is located across the county or world.
  • Collaboration toolshave made the virtual environment not only possible, but practical. Net meetings, as well as more robust training and webinar tools have supported virtual teams, so that real work can be accomplished. In addition, teams have learned how to build relationships and trust in the virtual environment. Building relationships and trust in a virtual environment is easier and quicker once people accept and feel comfortable with the virtual tools available.

 7.  “The economy, stupid,” a past political slogan said. During a slumping economy, organizations look of ways to maximize efficiencies. Focus turns to business processes and how to improve and manage them. During more prosperous times, interest in business process management tends to wane. We predict that business process management, with an emphasis on eliminating waste in organizations, will continue throughout 2012, even as the economy (hopefully) shows signs of improvement. We also predict that there will be no dominant tools for managing processes and recommend that project professionals doing business process work focus on core concepts and skills and be flexible when it comes to using BPM tools.

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