Looking-Back-on-2014A common thing for people to do at the beginning of each year is to make a series of predictions about the upcoming year. The business analysis community is no different, and last January, I fell into the same habit with a post about business analysis predictions on this blog. I’ve also discovered that making predictions is often like making New Year’s Resolutions, we love to make them, but we very rarely, or never, follow up on them. I’ve stopped making New Year’s Resolutions because I know the chances of keeping them are slim to none, but I’m not going to do the same with predictions. So in the interest of being “All In” here’s my assessment of how my 2014 predictions actually turned out.

I’d also encourage everyone else who made predictions at the beginning of the year to take a look back and see how they did. If you find something interesting, please share in the comments below.

So how did I do?

Prediction 1: Continued interaction of analysis and agile communities
My assessment of this prediction (and the next two for that matter) is heavily influenced by what I personally observe, and, that said, I realize that there are several organizations that I don’t have direct exposure to.

The two communities are interacting a little bit, driven by a small, but growing number of people who are active in both communities. Even with that, I’ve observed that members who only exist in one of the communities, on average, still harbor a lot of misconceptions about the other community.

And looking back, I probably focused on the wrong thing. While having the two communities more integrated would be a good thing to spread the proper understanding of both agile and analysis, a trend that is certainly growing is the number of business analysis practitioners working in an agile environment. This can primarily be linked to the growing number of large enterprises that are starting to adopt agile.

One small indicator that the two communities are paying more attention to each other is the number of agile related sessions at analysis focused conferences and vice versa. The number of sessions offered and the number of people attending each seem to be on the rise, so if nothing else, this indicates to me an increased interest of members in one community to learn more about the other.

So how did I do on this prediction… meh.

Prediction 2: Business Analysts Can No Longer Overspecialize
Ok, reading this one over again, it wasn’t really a prediction. It was more of a suggestion. That said, I’d say the trend is toward business analysis practitioners starting to do things commonly associated with other roles when it makes sense. I’d add that this trend is closely correlated to the number of teams adopting agile where such behavior is strongly encouraged.

Though I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I continue to run into organizations that place people in very specific roles, even breaking business analysis activities into multiple roles and being very adamant that certain roles do not step on each others toes.

A big thing supporting continued overspecialization is HR policies, primarily the annual performance review cycle and measurement of employees. Until organizations can either do away with annual performance reviews or find a way to alignment actual measurement with team focused behaviors, overspecialization will continue.

So how did I do on this prediction… another meh, with maybe a not too good since it really isn’t a prediction.

Prediction 3: Approaches to Staffing Projects Will Change
I mentioned two changes I foresaw in staffing projects – a move to standing teams, and an organization scheme that utilized freelancers to a greater extent, similar to how movies are produced.

I’ve certainly seen some small movement to the idea of standing teams. This is not nearly as fast as I would personally like, but if organizations are changing their mode of staffing teams they tend to move toward standing teams as opposed to away from it.

An interesting note about this movement, I’ve seen more than one example where an organization is convinced that they should adopt Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) even though they do not have programs of the size that SAFe was created to handle. In these cases, SAFe is a Trojan Horse of sorts for introducing standing teams. Organizations doing this are probably introducing more overhead than they need, but the benefits from introducing standing teams can often overcome this extra overhead. If only organizations could feel comfortable creating standing teams without needing the new hot thing methodology to use as an excuse.

I have not personally run across any examples of the “movie production” staffing approach in large enterprises. I usually see it in non-profit or small organization situations. I’m also not sure if this approach will ever make its way into large organizations. However, I suspect many organizations will continue to utilize contractors to supplement their own staffs, if they haven’t already outsourced some or all of their work.

Another meh. Geez, now I know why people don’t go back and see how they did on their predictions.

Prediction 4: A New Certification Will Appear (as if we needed another)
This is the prediction that I’m going to hang my hat on. I’ve already noted how I did on this prediction with the introduction of the PMI – Professional in Business Analysis (PMI- PBA). I received several comments from that post that share a wide range of perspectives and raise some interesting questions. Since I originally wrote that post, a lot more has come to light about the PMI-PBA. I thought I’d throw out a couple of observations.

There seems to be a lot more noise about the PMI-PBA in the business analysis community than in the project management community. I make that observation based on conversations on BA related Linked-In groups and at local chapters verses the relative lack of notice about the new certification by a majority of attendees at the PMI Global Congress this past October. Full Disclosure: I didn’t personally attend the PMI Global Congress, but talked to a few people who did and they indicated that many of their conversations went something like this:

“Hey what do you think about the new Business Analysis certification that PMI came out with?”
“Oh PMI has a BA certification? I don’t know much about it, but business analysis is important. We really struggle with requirements. I’ll have to check it out. See you later.”

I believe that PMI has now started to publicize the PMI-PBA to their general membership.
The concern that the CBAP and PMI-PBA will contain widely different ideas will probably not be realized. Why do I say that without having looked at the PMI’s Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide? Because many of the same people that were instrumental in creating or updating the BABOK are the same ones involved with creating the keys ideas behind the PMI-PBA. This is good from a consistency standpoint, but it does sort of beg the question about why they felt the need to create a new certification, and effectively a new body of knowledge, when one already existed.

I’m going to declare that I nailed this prediction, though it was the one I was least interested in being right.

Prediction Assessment
So what’s my overall assessment? Apart from getting one of the four predictions correct (and admittedly I knew I wasn’t going too far out on a limb on that one) I didn’t do too hot. Part of that has to do with the fact that people in general are frankly not that good at predicting the future, and partly because three of my predictions were more statements about what I’d like to see happen. These things are happening in pockets, and are becoming more prevalent, but they probably are not things that are going to be major changes over the course of the year.

So I’ll learn from this experience and keep it in mind when I make my predictions for 2015 in January.

– Kent

About Kent McDonald

Kent J. McDonald is a B2T Training Senior Instructor and stives in uncovering better ways of delivering value by doing it and helping others do it. His more than 15 years of experience include work in business analysis, strategic planning, project management, and product development in a variety of industries including financial services, health insurance, performance marketing, human services, nonprofit, and automotive. He is a certified Scaled Agile Framework Program Consultant (SPC) and active in the business analysis and agile software development communities helping people share stories about what does and does not work. He shares those stories at beyondrequirements.com in addition to presenting at and helping organize several local and international conferences.

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