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In January we wrote an article like we do every year about the upcoming trends in business analysis and project management. In this article we want to discuss what these trends mean for practitioners of business analysis. Below are the seven trends we discussed in last month’s article and a short description of each.

Helping organizations change – quickly. We believe that organizations are crying for new ways of doing things and that simply saying that they want to offer new products or services means ramifications greater than running a press release or having the CEO or agency head announce the decision. Many operational areas will often be impacted. People will have to learn new business processes, use new software, often buy new hardware, and sometimes report to new managers. They will have to learn how to sell, reorder, merchandise, and/or support the product or service. Often most challenging, though, is its acceptance, which requires changing the organizational culture.

Project managers will need to understand that the project’s focus has to be more than on implementing the new solution. Business analysis practitioners will need to help the organizations prepare for the change. They will need to work with affected operational areas to help them understand what the change means for them, the difference between their current world and how it will be different going forward. BAs and PMs have talked for decades about how slow it is to change organizational culture. We have used the analogy of trying to move a big cruise ship around in the ocean. Yet organizations need to find a way to change the culture more quickly.

Those who survive and thrive will have to be culture changers or contribute not just to helping organizations change, but helping them change more quickly. To help us understand this important concept, we have taken our 2015 trends and categorized them areas needed to enable change quickly. Those four categories are:

Distributed power. The first has to do with Power, the ability to impose our will—to get people to do what we want them to do. There are many ways people use power. We might threaten a punishment, offer a reward, or overwhelm them with what we know. We can use our authority, that positional power that comes from our place in the organization. (Well, some people can, typically not BAs or PMs). We can use all those forms of power, but none of them is affective as using our leadership skills, the power that we have within us to communicate our vision, to offer direction, and to have others follow us.

Distributed power means that organizations will have to accept that relying on positional power, in other words authority, will slow them down. The idea of power and decision-making in the hands of executives, directors, managers, or supervisors, or any one individual will cause delays. Going forward we expect that different people will take leadership roles at different times. Any individual might step up in a given situation, but not all situations. We’re saying that not only does leadership need to be distributed and more local, but power does as well. This might include, for example, the ability to reward people. Getting things done quickly will rely on decentralized project governance and self-organizing teams.
To use an Agile example, the scrum master might sometimes act as a leader. But if they do, it’s not based on their role, but on their ability to communicate with the team and the organization to remove impediments and resolve problems.

Practical solutions. Being innovative does not mean throwing out everything an organization does and starting over. Innovative solutions need to work. Organizations need to be able to implement them into their organizational cultures. Generally speaking, organizations are moving away from centralized project practices, one size fits all approaches in favor of choosing approaches best suited to each project. Top-down hierarchical communication is disappearing. Why? Because it takes too long to get anything done that way. Meetings need to be run more flexibly. Going fast are the old days of tight agendas where the meeting “leader” (usually us) controlled everything. Today’s meetings tend to be more informal, with neutral facilitators rather than meeting leaders, with participants scribing as needed, and where decisions are made more quickly.

Business analysis work is needed regardless of the project type. A rose by any other name is still a rose and business analysis is business analysis even if we call it systems analysis, business systems analysis, conceptual design, etc. We’re still doing business analysis when we manage requirements, do business systems analysis, design, logical or conceptual design, when we go about getting the detail needed, and whether or not it is done by BA, PM, designer/developer, part of the development team or someone else. And this work will not go away, regardless of the trend in development methodologies

Influencing without authority. Those who can’t influence will not add value and if they don’t add value, they will not succeed. Being innovative will require being able to influence those who don’t work for us. We will need to be collaborative and work through others to help organizations succeed.

  1.  The key to being successful in business analysis and project management is to understand that business analysis is not going away, but how we do it is changing. To be successful we will have to offer quick, practical solutions. If our current job is to elicit and document requirements, it will decrease in value. If we’re project coordinators or schedulers, our jobs will also decrease in value. We need to get out of the business analysis and project management assembly lines. We need to spot opportunities and use our influencing skills to encourage organizational change needed to take advantage of those opportunities

So here’s the bottom line –we will have tons of freedom to be creative to do the right thing for the organization. It’s going to be easier for those of us who want to make a difference in our organizations and in the larger professional community to be able to do so. And this is very, very good news indeed!!