Time and again new recruits will ask about the role of business analysts. Considering that such a question is seldom heard from software engineers, are BAs more curious about their job, or are they standing on more tentative grounds ? If that’s the case agility would help them to flip-flop between business quicksands to systems hard rocks.
Holding the fort vs scouting outskirts
Systems architects and software engineers may have to meet esoteric business requirements, but their responsibility is first and foremost to guarantee the functional and economic sustainability of systems. On that account they are given licence to build solid walls and secure gateways, and to enforce their own languages and rules upon well vetted parties.
Business analysts don’t get such a free hand: while being straitened by software engineers constructs and constraints, their primary undertaking is to explore business wilds, reconnoitre competitors, trace new tracks, and learn the dialects of any nicknamed natives ready to trade.
No wonder the qualms of new business analysts.
Great businesses make their own rules
The best rules in business are the ones still unbeknownst, as success is most often brought by disruptive initiatives taking advantage of previously undiscovered opportunities. It ensues that at its core, BAs’ job description is to relentlessly look across the frontier for still uncharted businesses, and bring them back to the digitized world of shipshape business domains and processes.
For that purpose BAs will have to juggle with the fuzzy idiosyncrasies of new business openings until they can be aligned with the functionalities of “legacy” systems.
While usually presented as a software engineering hallmark, agility may be equally useful for business analysts as they have to balance two crossing perspectives:
- Analysis: sorting detailed activities into business processes.
- Synthesis: factoring out business functions and mapping them to systems capabilities.
That could be a challenging achievement if carried out sequentially: crossing back and forth between changing scope and steady capabilities could generate unsettling alternatives and unbounded complexity.
The agile development model is meant to tackle the difficulties through iterations and collaboration without being too specific about the kind of agility required from business analysts and software engineers.
Yet the apparent symmetry between the parties may be misleading: whereas software engineers don’t have (and shouldn’t even try) to second guess business analysts, business analysts shouldn’t forget that at the end of the day business expectations, however exotic or esoteric, will have to feed very conformist logical beasts.