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What the 2015 Trends Mean For Business Analysis and Project Management

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.

Table 1 Seven Trends

Original 7 Trends Short Description
Distributed leadership Leadership will become more distributed and will be increasingly as much about tapping into the leadership of those around us as it is about a single visionary, decision-maker, and communicator.
Design Organizations who start providing “logical” or “conceptual” design outputs as part of building apps and business processes will shrink the gap between business needs and functioning products and create better products faster.
Schizophrenic approach to certification Both the trend to become certified and the trend to reject certifications will play out in 2015. With the increased popularity in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), counterbalanced with the rise in the number of PMs interested in business analysis means that many practitioners will want certifications, while others will question their value.
Innovation and entrepreneurship To go beyond mere process improvement, organizations will need to become more entrepreneurial. Innovation centers and hubs are on the increase, and companies are investing in their own incubators away from their main operations to help spur the creative process.
Changing culture through Agile team training

Agile training will be geared toward entire teams rather than individuals. Agile is going to drive organizations to seek more effective ways to generate a change in project practice.
NOTE: we’ve expanded this trend to address the need to change organizational culture quickly. This is the focus of today’s article.

Balance in project governance Organizations will continue to struggle to find balance between the extremes of project chaos and centralized project governance. Ultimately some projects will require more governance and some less.
Making Agile work for organizations We predict that organizations will find a way to make Agile work for them by becoming more purposeful in how they choose to adopt it.

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.

The table below lists the seven trends and shows their relationship to the four categories. Each trend falls into multiple categories and each category contains multiple trends.

7 Trends Distributed Power Focus on the Practical More Business Analysis Work, Less BA Role Influencing Without Authority
Distributed leadership X X X X
Design   X X  
Schizophrenic approach to certification       X
Innovation and entrepreneurship X X X X
Culture changers needed X X X X
Balance in project governance X     X
Anything agile X X X X

Summary. 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!!

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

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 three books: The Practitioner’s Guide to Requirements Management, CBAP Certification Study Guide, and The Influencing Formula. She has also co-authored chapters published in four separate books.

Elizabeth was a lead author on the PMBOK® Guide – Fourth and Fifth Editions, PMI’s Business Analysis for Practitioners – A Practice Guide, and the BABOK® Guide 2.0, as well as an expert reviewer on BABBOK® Guide 3.0.

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 is a frequent speaker at Business Analysis and Project Management national conferences and IIBA® and PMI® chapters around the world. He has contributed to the BA Body of Knowledge version 2.0 and 3.0, the PMI BA Practice Guide, and the PM Body of Knowledge, 4th edition. He and his wife Elizabeth Larson have co-authored three books, The Influencing Formula, CBAP Certification Study Guide, and Practitioners’ Guide to Requirements Management.

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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