In July 2020, BCS held a counterintuitive celebration. The release of the fourth edition of the international best seller Business Analysis (Paul and Cadle) was marked by asking the question ‘Is business analysis still relevant?’. The expert panel took questions from a global audience, in what turned out to be one of the most popular webinars in BCS history!

Why ask this question?

Digitally-enabled business change is a fast moving industry, which regularly adapts to incorporate new roles, approaches and technologies. Inevitably, some things must be dropped or replaced along the way.

There are millions of business analysts working all over the world, supporting every sector. And yet, many organisations do not understand, appreciate, or appropriately apply business analysis. By examining the current landscape and finding out what customers need and expect from business analysis, we can ensure the discipline remains relevant and that practitioners are ready to adapt and improve.

Inside looking out

A range of professional disciples have emerged, which focus on aspects of business analysis and are also built on a foundation of communication, facilitation and analytical thinking. These include service design, user research, product ownership and business architecture. Many business analysis practitioners are expanding their skills and careers in these directions, while others are left feeling that the space to practice business analysis has been squeezed.

By framing the overlap between professional skill sets as an opportunity rather than a threat, we can see the power of close collaboration with those who have similar skills, but a different perspective. We can choose to proactively engage on the common ground and see other disciplines as complementing rather than competing.

Outside looking in

Business analysis can be seen as a luxury. Innovation and agility are portrayed as being in conflict with analysis and rigour. Customers may perceive business analysis activities to be slowing down delivery, rather than enabling effective delivery. Analysis outputs can seem complex and do not bring the level of clarity or facilitate the consensus building that is needed.

Within the plethora of roles and activities, it may be difficult to pinpoint the contribution of business analysis. When an outstanding practitioner comes to the notice of senior stakeholders, it is often the insightful individual that is celebrated and credited with success, rather than the application of analytical thinking and business analysis techniques.

Skills

The past year has demonstrated that, while we may not be able to predict the future, we are able to predict the skills that will be critical in responding to any future that arises. Analytical thinking tops every ranking. The skills required for problem-solving make up four out of five of the World Economic Forum’s Top Skills for 2025. Applying analytical thinking to get to the heart of business problems, identify business improvements and clarify business requirements is more relevant now than it has ever been.

Infographic showing the top 10 skills of 2025

Tools

The business analysis toolkit is very broad. Practitioners can increase the value offered to organisations by having a wide variety of tools at our finger-tips and, critically, knowing which tool is most appropriate for each situation. By increasing competency in a wide range of techniques and being open to adopting relevant techniques from related disciplines, the application of business analysis will continue to provide clarity, inform decision making and enable communication.

Remaining relevant

The need for objectivity, investigation and innovation in both business and technology is clear. Business analysis has a great deal to offer in this arena, but must continue to evolve to avoid irrelevancy and extinction. To remain relevant, practitioners must:

  • commit to continuous professional development and be curious about new technologies, techniques and roles as they emerge;
  • seek honest feedback from customers and reflect on it;
  • apply the full tool-kit, finding the right tool to produce simple and informative outputs;
  • deliver business analysis as a ‘just enough’ and ‘just in time’ service.

To obtain the benefits of business analysis, organisations should:

  • credit the practice, as well as the practitioner;
  • develop inter-disciplinary teams underpinned by professional respect;
  • invest in learning and development opportunities and enable people to upskill in related disciplines.

Seeing how the BA role and practice develops and evolves over the next decade will be both intriguing and exciting.

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About the author

Christina Lovelock is a change leader and author. She is active in the Business Analysis professional community and champions entry level roles. In 2019 she co-authored the BCS book Delivering Business Analysis: The BA Service Handbook.

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