Emerging Trends within the Business Analyst Role in South Africa for 2016

March 2016

The role of the Business Analyst (BA) is continuously evolving. The Business Analysis community is comprised of individuals from varied backgrounds – ranging from developers to business specialists wanting to advance their careers by moving into a more business-oriented role, designing solutions for business problems that shape and inform the technology aspects of a company.

As this profession matures, we are seeing a number of common role requirement trends emerging. The BA role has shifted from simply documenting business requirements, towards a focus on being a catalyst between stakeholders. Organisations are becoming increasingly aware of the vital role the BA plays in assisting to realise improved business value.

As competency lead for a group of Business and Systems Analysts at a leading South African IT company, I wanted to gain a better understanding of how the BA profession in South Africa was changing, and whether our current BA roles were in line with the market trends.  An analysis was carried out on a number of current Business Analyst opportunities, sourced from various online job portals, with a specific focus on the South African market.

Highlighted below are 10 of the top role requirement trends for 2016 based on these findings:

Trend 1 – Beyond Documenting Requirements:

Increasingly, organisations are looking at BA’s to contribute more value and skills than just merely documenting their requirements. They are looking for individuals who have some industry knowledge, and the ability to challenge proposed solutions. This implies that individuals should be able to assess the current business climate, identify any gaps that exist, and have the necessary skills to design solutions for those gaps.

Trend 2 – Further Qualifications:

The most sought-after formal qualification is a Bachelor’s degree. Interestingly, there seems to be more emphasis on work experience, technical knowledge, tools-sets and methodologies, such as process modeling, TOGAF, UML, ERP etc. than having a BA related diploma.

Trend 3: Greater Awareness and Understanding of Opportunities :

There is an increasing demand for individuals who keep abreast of the latest business and IT trends and changes. Companies are looking for people who recognise and understand opportunities within new markets, and who can utilise their knowledge to take full advantage of these gaps – organisational awareness is also key i.e. maintaining an understanding of the business initiatives and objectives within an organisation.

Trend 4 – Shift towards Standardised Processes:

Having knowledge and experience in standards and enterprise processes, such as corporate governance; strategy; change management; and software development lifecycle (SLDC), is of great importance. Organisations are looking for individuals who have the necessary know-how and skills to be able to follow processes and put standards in place, whilst designing solutions. Interestingly, however, even though there is a global shift towards BA’s taking a more active role in agile software development, very few job opportunities in South Africa require the BA to have extensive knowledge of agile or scrum methods.

Trend 5 – Know your Customer:

There is an increased emphasis in 2016 for BA’s to have the ability to manage all customer expectations in order to deliver the required solution at the necessary quality levels. BA’s need to know who their customers are and understand their needs. This awareness will benefit the BA in their capacity as ‘facilitator and knowledge transferer’ within the organisation.

Trend 6 – Communication and Relationship Building is Key:

The ability to effectively articulate a message, and build relationships with various stakeholders, is also a necessary skills requirement.  Organisations are looking for BA’s who can do more than just document and design a solution – they need to be able to convey their message to the target audience in the most clear, accurate and concise way possible in order to ensure successful solution delivery.

Trend 7 – More Effective Solution Assessment and Validation:

The most requested proficiency, with reference to solution assessment and validation, is the ability of the BA to test the final solution. This can range from assisting with unit testing, doing user acceptance testing, or performing integration testing. There is also a further need for compiling test scripts or use cases – organisations are looking for individuals who can define business rules and write behaviour driven test cases. They want people who can facilitate the testing process as well as coordinate all activities that are needed during the testing process, such as resolution of issues and bugs.

Trend 8 – Process Modelling Exposure:

BA’s often have to double as process analysts – articulating business processes in graphical models. We found that quite a few organisations required individuals to be proficient in process modelling as well as workflow. Experience in mapping business processes is key, as well as knowledge of BPMN or UML to achieve this task.

Trend 9 – Adaptable Technology Exposure:

Greater exposure to further technologies is another area organisations are interested in. In particular, they are looking for individuals who have been exposed to web or mobile technologies. Similarly, organisations are also looking for some programming knowledge – this could be rooted in the need for BA’s who can conduct meaningful conversations about solutions and their possible impact with stakeholders.

Trend 10 – Increased Collaboration and Focus on Business Benefits:

Coordination of project activities is another key focus organisations are looking at to boost business benefits – tasks include: coordinating testing activities, preventing scope creep, coordinating projects from initiation to implementation etc. As a large component is coordinating activities between stakeholders, organisations want individuals who have a working knowledge of performing such activities within a team.

Given today’s business environment pressures, it becomes critical that organisations look to employ Business Analysts who have a positive impact on the business by facilitating bridging the gap between strategy and execution. Yes, some organisations will still yearn for the existing “check the box” Business Analyst role, but these trends seem to indicate an increasing strategic shift towards individuals who are able to rely on their own knowledge and experience to find innovative solutions that add value and achieve better business results.

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Alacrity Technologies

Alacrity Technologies is a privately held software company that provides services and crafts software solutions to fit a specific business and technology domain. For more than a decade, Alacrity has provided the South African financial services and retail industries with exceptional software solutions, strategic services and IT resources.