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2018 Trends in Business Analysis and Project Management

Since 2009 we have enjoyed reflecting on what’s happened the previous year on projects and making predictions for the upcoming year. Here are some of the recent trends we have discussed:

  • Agile successes, challenges, and use beyond software
  • Organizations recognize the importance of roles that help maximize value
  • Scaling Agile
  • Certification trends in business analysis and project management
  • Implications of a changing workforce on projects
  • BAs and PMs in the gig economy

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Here are the seven industry trends that we have chosen for 2018:

    1. The Digital BA. Many organizations are anxious to participate in the “digital transformation.” They want to be able to mine data, use predictive analytics, and have apps for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Some are beginning to get a handle on the complexity of this transformation, and are turning to digital business analysts (BAs) to help them succeed. Digital BAs work with the organization to understand what it’s up against. They recommend the best process and software solutions to meet the business needs, help implement this solution, facilitate issue resolution, and work with business stakeholders to help them understand how various aspects of the digital transformation will affect them. The best way a BA can help the organization is by having a deep understanding of the digital world, so days of the business-only BA are over. The BAs who will provide the most value are those who understand the technology needed for the digital world and can communicate in business language how it will affect the jobs of all levels of business stakeholders.
    2. PMs on Agile Projects. As organizations continue to embrace agile, project managers are evolving their role to integrate into project environments with agile teams. Obviously, ScrumMaster or coach is one role PMs are moving into, but in many instances, the organization’s need for project management exceeds what the traditional agile team provides. Project management activities pertaining to contracting, communication with the larger organization, particularly senior management, and reporting beyond flip charts posted on team walls are all needs that that PMs logically fill and that may go unmet. The hybrid ScrumMaster/PM role is one many are taking on to address the agile team needs as well as the wider organizational need for a more holistic perspective and broader communication of the project.
    3. Business Architecture Gains Interest. Although business architecture started in 1980’s, it wasn’t until the mid-2000’s it became a formal profession with its own support organizations such as OMG’s Business Architecture Special Interest Group, Business Architecture Guild, and other architecture forums and guilds that have sprung up. Business leaders are starting to see the value of business architects who can help organizations build and maintain the business architecture knowledge base, help strategically align projects, and maximize organizational capabilities. According to Gartner Research 60% of the companies surveyed are planning to have business architects in the next few years. Plan to see this as a growing profession.
    4. Lean and Scalable Business Cases. We have seen increased interest lately in business cases, particularly leaner ones. Even with wider use of Agile approaches, and possibly because of that, the need to justify projects is greater than ever. The way that business cases are created is changing though. There will always be the need for detailed and extensive proposals, replete with cost-benefit analysis. But, not every proposal warrants that treatment, and leaner and more agile business cases are trending. In PMI’s newest edition of the PMBOK® Guide, business cases are defined as proposing projects or components. That is a clear reflection of this trend. Some examples include getting just enough funding to develop a prototype before launching a new app, developing a lean business case based on the product roadmap, or developing a business case on phase 1 of a large, traditional project.
    5. DevOps. Organizations are looking for ways to support continuous (or at least more frequent) delivery of software without throwing the production environment into chaos. One answer is DevOps, which seeks to balance frequent implementation of product increments with operational stability. To that end, organizations are expanding Agile teams to include other areas of IT, such as Operations, Security, Infrastructure, and Architecture. In addition, many recognize the importance of using a set of automated tools, known as a toolchain, to automate traditionally time-consuming and risky aspects of software development. BAs can help organizations develop a toolchain strategy, choose and implement appropriate tools, and facilitate meetings within IT silos for speedy decision-making and issue resolution.
    6. Sponsors Are Finally Getting It: Sponsors are stepping up to own projects at a rate that we haven’t seen in, well, ever. We are seeing them reaching out to have real, meaningful discussions about how to fill their role effectively and how to partner with the project manager and other key stakeholders. Considering the sponsor’s role in defining the value proposition for the project, this eagerness to own the project bodes well for the projects and the organizations in which they are happening, so this is a trend we are all too happy to see.
    7. Strategic Thinking as a Key Capability. Until recently strategic thinking was thought to be a skill exclusively used at the Director and “C” club level. Now more and more organizations are realizing that to ensure various key roles provide value to the organization, they either need to hire people who can think strategically or develop them. We are seeing this competency included in bodies of knowledge, such as IIBA’s BABOK® Guide and the latest edition PMI’s PMBOK® Guide, as well as a competency needed to pass certification exams like the PMI-ACP and Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP). Many Agile and Scrum team members are also realizing that strategic thinking is a key to success. We predict that as business solutions become more complex, this need to think strategically will expand even more.

    About the Authors

    Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, CSM, PMI-PBA is Co-Principal and CEO of Watermark Learning and has over 30 years of experience in project management and business analysis. Elizabeth’s speaking history includes repeat presentations for national and international conferences on five continents.

    Elizabeth has co-authored five books on business analysis and certification preparation. She has also co-authored chapters published in four separate books. Elizabeth was a lead author on several standards including the PMBOK® Guide, BABOK® Guide, and PMI’s Business Analysis for Practitioners – A Practice Guide.

    Andrea Brockmeier, PMP, CSM, PMI-ACP, is the Director of Project Management at Watermark Learning. She has 20+ years of experience in project management and related practice and training. She writes and teaches courses in project management, business analysis, and influencing skills. She has long been involved with the PMI® chapter in Minnesota where she is a member of the certification team. She has a master’s degree in cultural anthropology and is particularly interested in the cultural aspects of team development, as well as the impact of social media and new technologies on organizations and projects.

    Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, President and Founder of Watermark Learning, is a successful entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience in business analysis, project management, training, and consulting. He has presented workshops and seminars on business analysis and project management topics to over 10,000 participants on five different continents.

    Rich loves to combine industry best practices with a practical approach and has contributed to those practices through numerous speaking sessions around the world. He has also worked on the BA Body of Knowledge versions 1.6-3.0, the PMI BA Practice Guide, and the PM Body of Knowledge, 4th edition. He and his wife Elizabeth Larson have co-authored five books on business analysis and certification preparation.

    Dr. Susan Heidorn, BRMP, PMP, CBAP, is the Director of Business Solutions at Watermark Leaning. She is also an experienced consultant, facilitator, speaker, and trainer, with over twenty-five years of business experience. She provides project management, business analysis, strategic thinking & planning, leadership development, facilitation, process improvement, change management, and team development to her clients based on best practices in the industry. Susan has been a speaker at a number of IIBA and PMI conferences as well as local and regional organizations, boards and private client development sessions. She is a lifelong learner whose passion it is to guide people into achieving excellence in their personal and professional lives.

Elizabeth Larson

Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, CSM, PMI-PBA is a consultant and advisor for Watermark Learning/Project Management Academy, and has over 35 years of experience in project management and business analysis. Elizabeth’s speaking history includes keynotes and presentations for national and international conferences on five continents. Elizabeth has co-authored five books and chapters published in four additional books, as well as articles that appear regularly in BA Times and Project Times. Elizabeth was a lead author/expert reviewer on all editions of the BABOK® Guide, as well as several of the PMI standards. Elizabeth enjoys traveling, hiking, reading, theater, and spending time with her 6 grandsons and 1 granddaughter.

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