A survey of business analysts (BAs) commissioned by Compuware Corporation has revealed new information about the important role  BAs play in aligning information technology (IT) organisations with the business.

The survey, “The New Business Analyst: A Strategic Role in the Enterprise”, was co-sponsored by Compuware and the Requirements Networking Group (RQNG), and it was conducted by Evans Data Corporation.

"Based on this survey, a clear line in the corporate sand has been drawn as to the importance of the business analyst; the BA plays an increasingly integral and strategic role in organizational success," says John Andrews, President of Evans Data Corp. "The BA is seen as a thought leader who bridges the gap between lines of business and IT and is often a key player brought in early to complete projects that fuel business objectives."

Steve Erlank, MD of the Faculty Training Institute, which offers a Diploma in Business Analysis endorsed by the International Institute of Business Analysis, concurs that there is an increasing demand for BAs but notes that in South Africa, the role of the professional BA is not yet widely recognised in many corporates.  From what the FTI has seen, Erlank says most BAs in South Africa are deployed in limited roles, or are merely specification writers.

“It is only in the last three to five years that we have begun to see the emergence of the professional BA, who is proactive and operates in more of a consulting role within the business,” Erlank says. “Professional BAs focus on identifying and managing requirements, ensuring that those requirements deliver true business value, and following requirements right through to implementation.”

The Compuware and RQNG survey examined the strategic, day-to-day contributions of BAs. It identified BAs as seasoned professionals who juggle multiple tasks and link IT projects to business success. The survey also demonstrated that the BA enjoys substantial job security, which is particularly important during a period of high outsourcing.

Erlank says as the BA role grows in importance, the paradoxical risk is that the gap between IT and business may become wider.

“As the role of the BA gains momentum, so IT may step back from taking any responsibility for requirement management and simply develop according to the requirements documentation it receives. If the requirement documentation and communication processes are weak, this will result in poorer solutions being delivered.”

Ben Van Niekerk, Application Development Specialist, Compuware Corporation SA says it’s clear that BAs therefore have an increasingly important role in helping the IT organisation bridge the gap between the business and IT.

“At Compuware, we are committed to helping BAs capture better requirements and collaborate with their stakeholders more effectively, and to developing the skills of the new generation of BA’s,” he says.

Compuware Optimal Trace is Compuware’s solution for business requirements management. It enables business analysts to capture “structured requirements” use cases, which is a unique and easy-to-use approach that enables BAs to capture business requirements from the perspective of the user, complete with visual storyboards and traceable relationships to business needs.

Commenting on local market, Erlank says SA has a slightly younger BA profile, with the salary spectrum being much wider than overseas, which reflects greater local uncertainty about the exact nature of the BA role.

The Compuware-RQNG survey also found that:

* A disturbing 68,9% of BAs do not see a clear career path for the future.

* Most organizations lack a formal training program for business analysts. Almost 60 percent of BAs responded that they learn primarily on the job, from personal development or from their peers.

* While BAs must juggle many different tasks–defining business objectives; planning and managing requirements activities and tasks; eliciting, analyzing and managing requirements; and communicating with various stakeholders – only 27,9% said their organizations have adopted tools to make them more effective.

“These statistics are very applicable to South Africa. The FTI now trains 350 BAs across 100 companies each year. While some of our corporate clients have a very strong and mature Business Analysis capability, there are still far too many BAs that report on lack of toolsets, lack of clarity or understanding about their roles, and having to perform many different activities under great pressure.  

“Having said this, South Africa’s BA’s are as good as any in the world. We just need to work harder on finding ways to harness this talent more successfully in the workplace,” says Erlank.