In a recent blog post, I wrote about creating successful projects with fewer resources. Given the state of the economy at the end of 2008, that seemed an appropriate topic. Unfortunately for us all, the start of 2009 has been worse, and there are definitely fewer resources around. Here’s a list of just A FEW of the technology companies that have announced layoffs in 2009: NEC – 20,000 people, Sprint Nextel – 8,000 people, Intel – 6,000 people, Microsoft – 5,000 people, Ericsson – 5,000 people, Motorola – 4,000 people, Texas Instruments – 3,400 people, and EMC – 2,400 people.
The question now isn’t how to do more with less, it’s how to make sure you’re around to do anything at all. While there are any number of reasons why each of us wants to keep his or her job, business decisions are typically made at the organizational level, not the individual level. Therefore, we need to focus our efforts on protecting the role of business analysis, rather than protecting the job of John or Jane Doe. Which of course begs the question, does business analysis still matter in these rough economic times? My position is that it matters now more than ever.
Good business analysis helps you make sure you build the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons. By focusing on an organization’s business objectives, tracing those to a viable solution with the necessary set of features, and then tracing further to detailed requirements, Business Analysts ensure that the organization’s efforts are focused on the right things (features and requirements) for the right reasons (business objectives). In this economy, no company has the luxury to “build one to throw away” or even “fix it in release two.” We all have to get it right the first time, and that’s exactly what business analysis lets you do.
Additionally, business analysis has its name because of its focus on THE BUSINESS. For many years, there has been an ongoing discussion in publications like CIO Magazine about the importance of aligning IT with the business. Strong business analysis helps provide that essential link. By aligning IT efforts with the goals and objectives of the business, Business Analysts show that IT as a whole, and BAs in particular, are essential partners in the organization’s success, not costs which easily can be reduced.
This is an excellent time to create or renew those partnerships. Everyone’s swamped, they’re probably overworked, and they’re certainly stressed out about their jobs. In this environment, it’s easy to lose sight of the overall goals and instead fall into fire-fighting mode. The noise, worry and stress all around means that we need strong business analysis work, done by great Business Analysts, to make sure that requirements don’t get overlooked. A Business Analyst’s ability to focus the team, elicit and document the requirements, and manage them through the storm can relieve a great deal of stress for a great many people on the project team.
Finally, BAs give companies options. When costs must be cut, many organizations look for new, less-expensive ways of doing what they’ve done (at a higher cost) in the past. One way I’ve seen organizations adopting to the times is by trying out Agile development methodologies. Rather than fearing new SDLC methodologies, Business Analysts should embrace them. In a time of change, BAs provide the necessary support and bridging required for any SDLC approach. If teams want to try Agile or iterative methods in order to speed time to market or reduce costs, BAs can support that transition by focusing the group on delivering the right thing for the right reasons even faster than before.
To close, I’d like to point out that I’ve said repeatedly that GOOD business analysis matters. The job title or the role within the company is only essential if we make it essential through consistent, quality work. If you focus that work on concrete business objectives, your work is tied directly to the company’s success. When your day-to-day actions prove how invaluable business analysis is, those actions will make the argument for you.