Monday, 15 December 2008 18:00

Trends in Business Analysis and Project Management to watch for in 2009

Written by Elizabeth Larson and Richard Larson

The close of the year tends to make one reflect on the past and ponder the future. Here we ponder some trends in the business analysis and project management fields for 2009. We invite you to read some of these trends and ponder for yourself our views about what project professionals can do about them.

  1. Convergence of PM and BA Roles. As the economy tightens, organizations will decrease their project budgets. But, they still need projects done, so look for organizations to try and combine the role of the BA and PM on projects. A recent survey on BA Times finds that an equal number of "project professionals" (our term to encompass both project managers and business analysts) feel that the PM and BA role will be combined on many projects in 2009. Project managers will be asked to do more requirements elicitation and analysis. Business analysts will be required to manage more projects. Oh, and by the way - you will need to do that in addition to your normal roles!

    What Project Professionals can do about it: If you are a project manager, sharpen your requirements elicitation and analysis skills. If you are a BA, learn how to plan and execute projects better, and to manage risks. The other advice we can give is "Concentrate on the work, not the worker." No matter what your job title, make sure you know the tasks and outputs expected of you to help achieve project and business success.
  2. Greater Emphasis on Requirements in Project Management. The upcoming 4th edition of the PMBOK® (Project Management Body of Knowledge) is due to be released in 2009. The Project Scope Management Knowledge Area contains a new section 5.1 called "Collect Requirements" that was largely written by us (Elizabeth and Rich).  It contains a number of requirements elicitation techniques that project managers should be able to use to elicit requirements for projects. They are a subset of the techniques described in the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK®), so BAs also need to be familiar with these. The section places an emphasis on the Requirements Management Plan and use of the Traceability Matrix for managing requirements and product scope.

    What Project Professionals can do about it: When the new PMBOK® Guide becomes available, make sure you obtain it and read the section on Collect Requirements. It's not because we wrote much of it (well, we are proud of it!). Both PMs and BAs should be aware of what this widely-used and referenced guide says about requirements. The PMBOK® has heavily influenced the practice of project management the past several years, and the new edition promises to do the same. 
  3. Change in Requirements Approaches. We see a continued trend in business analysis techniques continuing into 2009. Here are some to consider:
    1. Slightly less reliance on use cases and movement towards user stories and scenario-based requirements. Use cases will still be used, especially with complex requirements with intricate interfaces or tricky infrastructure considerations.
    2. Less emphasis on requirements specifications, more emphasis on modeling, prototypes and diagrams. For many reasons, there is a trend away from only formal written requirements specifications. That doesn't mean written requirements have no place, but it does mean the industry is using additional methods of documenting requirements. 
    3. More requirements management. To control scope and fulfill business needs, there will be continued increase in business analysis and requirements planning in 2009. We see more and more organizations using traceability to control and manage product scope. Both the upcoming PMBOK® and current BABOK® feature this technique and emphasize the use of a traceability matrix.
    What Project Professionals can do about it: Keep using use cases, but bear in mind there are other good requirements analysis techniques. Supplement your requirements specifications with models to document and help you better analyze requirements. Learn about other methods, such as user stories and use the technique most appropriate for the type of requirement you are analyzing. For example, do data modeling for refining your data requirements.

  4. Increased use of Agile Approach and Techniques. Integrating Agile methods into project management and business analysis is a trend that will continue in 2009. Currently, the industry has a wide, varied, and inconsistent use of Agile techniques. This trend is likely to continue as organizations adopt Agile techniques and the industry adopts commonly accepted practices. Agile itself is evolving to the needs of the industry. For example, the need for more planning has been recognized. For instance, the concept of "Scrum of Scrums" to coordinate Agile teams has surfaced. Another trend we've noticed is Agile teams incorporating traditional techniques like requirements workshops and more documentation.

    What Project Professionals can do about it: Like any new approach, make sure you learn the generally accepted practices, not just the way a consultant or a single "expert" advises. There are many self-proclaimed experts out there, and some shortcuts on planning and requirements are being taken and justified by being called "agile." 
  5. BABOK® continuing to have an impact. The practice of business analysis is being positively influenced by the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK®). The BABOK® Knowledge Areas of Enterprise Analysis are beginning to gel in organizations, as is the need to do requirements planning. We're seeing more formality and standardization in the methods, say, of doing business cases, or using traceability to manage requirements. 

    Also, the various elicitation techniques in the BABOK® area are being more widely adopted. Interviews and requirements workshops are common forms of elicitation, but we feel the BABOK is influencing BAs to use additional techniques such as prototyping and interface analysis and to include them in their requirements planning.

    What Project Professionals can do about it: Download the BABOK® from the IIBA and start reviewing it. Use it as an input to recommending business analysis standards in your organization. Being some of the firsts CBAPs (Certified Business Analysis Professionals), we believe in and urge others to pursue certification in business analysis. It helps promote the profession of business analysis in general and helps you to solidify and integrate the tools and techniques in the BABOK®, and to "personalize" them to your organization. 
  6. Business Intelligence Continues to Grow. This area of information systems has been growing steadily and 2009 promises to have no letup. As BI tools and techniques improve and solid benefits are realized, organizations will invest more and more in this tactic. Since BI relies heavily on tools such as Business Objects or Cognos, the underlying business requirements can be easily overlooked in favor of what the tools can produce.

    What Project Professionals can do about it: Learn how to identify how BI can help your business perform better. BI applications should be actionable and project professionals should focus on true business requirements instead of particular tools. Learning to ask the right questions is key, and anticipating how clients will use their data, although challenging, is well worth the effort. 
  7. "The Economy, Stupid," as a past political slogan said. A slumping economy tends to affect travel and training budgets, and this one is no exception. That translates into fewer trips to national conferences or travel to out-of-state training classes.

    What Project Professionals can do about it: Attend local conferences that you can drive to.  Many local chapters of PMI and now IIBA are launching Professional Development Days or PDDs. Watch for announcements to these and plan to attend. If you have a conference such as Project Summit/Business Analyst World in your town, take advantage of the opportunity and you will find excellent speakers and workshops there. Have you noticed the big increase in webinars as a way of exchanging information and interacting virtually without travelling? Watch for more of the same in 2009. We plan to offer regular webinars throughout 2009.

    Interestingly, national conferences like the PMI Global Congress North America attracted many foreign workers this year, from expanding economies such as Brazil and Russia. These growing countries will have larger travel budgets than some of their US counterparts. We also see continued rising international interest in PMI and IIBA.

Elizabeth Larson, CBAP, PMP and Richard Larson, CBAP, PMP are Principals, Watermark Learning, Inc. Watermark Learning helps improve project success with outstanding project management and business analysis training and mentoring. We foster results through our unique blend of industry best practices, a practical approach, and an engaging delivery. We convey retainable real-world skills, to motivate and enhance staff performance, adding up to enduring results. With our academic partner, Auburn University, Watermark Learning provides Masters Certificate Programs to help organizations be more productive, and assist individuals in their professional growth. Watermark is a PMI Global Registered Education Provider, and an IIBA Endorsed Education Provider. Our CBAP Certification Preparation class has helped several people already pass the CBAP exam. For more information, contact us at 800-646-9362, or visit us at
http://www.watermarklearning.com/.
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