Business analyst – The profession for the 21st century

Technology is a great enabler, and information technology in particular has had a huge impact on our working lives. We are able to pull together rich information sources that should lead to better decisions. We eliminate challenges from geography through high quality communications; and we automate repetitive functions.

This technological revolution has also led to wholesale destruction of jobs. There aren’t any more toll booth collectors in the country now that tolling tags are used everywhere. In their place are a much smaller number of skilled staff maintaining the detectors and running the toll collection software.

So far the destruction of jobs has been smaller than the creation. There has been a net increase in employment, with roles in information technology exploding. But that might be all about to change.

The Economist recently ran a special on how technology will impact the job market in the 21st century. Their predictions are that technology will eliminate swathes of white collar mid-range jobs. These could include accountants, radiologists, airplane pilots and taxi drivers to name a few.

So what do we think will happen to business analysts?

My premise is that the technology that creates all these changes will be excellent in isolation, but hugely complex to integrate. The 3D printers, autonomous cars and financial analysis software will be high quality products (eventually), but the complex organizations of the 21stcentury will want to use them in highly integrated ways to deliver complex products and services. Plugging them together will illuminate their underlying complexity, often to disastrous effect.

Quality business analysis will be needed to deliver value from this technology. Businesses need to change and change is always difficult. Business analysts discover how a business currently delivers value, then envision how to increase value from technology. This leads to requirements and a plan for change.

If this is done well, the organisation embraces the technology. Unfortunately I see many cases where technology projects destroy value rather than create it (Gartner stated that 20 – 25% of ERP projects fail outright and a further 50-60% are perceived to have failed). The more complex the technology, the broader its scope, the higher the risk of value destruction.

The successful companies will invest in quality business analysis on top of the cost of the technology. Their differentiator will be in getting the organisation to pull together their people to run seamless processes using the technology. This reduces costs, increases revenue and leads to satisfied customers.

To me the future for business analysts looks bright. Do you agree?