The Evolution of the Business Analyst Role

Rarely do people take a moment to learn the origins of their professions – let alone pinpoint the exact events that were the inspiration for its creation. Luckily, we can do this with the Business Analyst role! Still a somewhat modern role, we can trace the BA role back to its very beginnings and can even identify the problem that inspired the role and allowed organizations to see the value that BAs bring when enacting change. 

Let’s take a few minutes to recognize the genesis of the Business Analyst role and the circumstances that inspired it. 

From the Dawn of Time

This may seem like a stretch – and I am certainly not implying that business analysis began in the stone age – but characteristics of the BA role and the drive for improvement through innovative thinking have been around since the beginning of time. Whether it was finding better ways to keep ourselves safe, ensuring that there was always food or shelter around, or making it easier to obtain those necessities of life, our ancestors have always been striving for better, more efficient ways of maximizing results. 

The Real Beginning

Not SO very long ago, in the 1940s (I know – these days, that seems like just as long ago as the stone age), the first mass produced computers became available. The computers – mainly being used by the government, businesses, and other organizations – weren’t very user-friendly and were nowhere close to being as efficient as the machines we have today. But the entities that were introducing them to the mainstream public saw their value and their potential. 

Demand for IT professionals grew as the usage and demand for computers did. PC manufacturers began enhancing data storage and, just as importantly, they introduced the user interface and more user-friendly programs. These programs continued to propel the popularity and adoption of computers. 

With the explosion of technology in the 1980s and ’90s, user demands also increased. But one glaring problem persisted: communication was fragmented and inefficient between the programmers who were working on the technical program builds and system rewrites, and the end users who did not understand the technical aspect of the work.

Introducing the Business Analyst

This broken communication paved the way for the first Business Analysts. In the beginning, however, BAs were more commonly known as Systems Analysts and their focus was mostly on optimizing software and computer processes and systems. But their ability to understand the language spoken by both the business side of organizations and the technology group provided value and clarity that was very much needed. 

As developers and IT teams refined computer systems, Business Analysts were leveraged to lead technical projects and bridge the knowledge gap between the technology team and other teams within organizations. In these early days, the BA was often a sort of translater, comfortably speaking both business-speak and technical jargon.

The Inception of Agile

In 2001, a group of technologists wrote the Agile Manifesto, which outlined four main principles that define agile project management:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

The Agile Mindset was implemented because a group of people in the software industry grew tired of poor project results and project failure rates due to rigid frameworks and inefficient processes. They set out to implement change in an overall better, more efficient, and successful way.

Ever since its introduction, Agile has played a huge role in business analysis. It’s a widely embraced mindset throughout the BA community and is a mindset that every BA should familiarize themselves with. Not to worry though – I offer a great comprehensive course on Agile Fundamentals!

Growth of the Business Analyst Role

As entities saw the value that BAs brought, they began to apply their skills and expertise in other areas of the business, and BAs began to lead the way in other organizational improvement initiatives as well. And this continues on today. We’re seeing Business Analysts take on more of a Product Ownership role and working more closely with product owners than ever before, we’re seeing an increase in BAs driving collaboration between stakeholders and in being the facilitator of that collaboration, and we’re continuing to see BAs move further out of the traditional ways of operating and alter their practices as they shift further into Agile contexts. One more recent movement we’re seeing in the role is BAs becoming deeply involved in business process improvement initiatives using LEAN initiatives. 

Specializations Abound

We’ve been witnessing the rapid growth of business analysis specializations over the past few years and this trend continues to increase. Within the BA community, we continue to see disciplines in fields like Data Analysis, Market Research Analysis, and Information Security Analysis (among many others!) continue to grow

It’s been enlightening to examine how far the Business Analyst role has come, and I’m so excited to have a firsthand seat while witnessing its evolution. There is so much room to grow and expand, and so much value to add as we continue to help guide organizations toward solutions that effectively satisfy their stakeholder and customer needs. 

– Written by Jeremy Aschenbrenner, The BA Guide

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