Further, business analysts help reduce risk, says Jeffrey Wallis, a partner with Wayne, Pa.-based SunGard Consulting Services. They are the key to communicating the true business objective to IT, he adds.
"The business analyst has been around for a while, but just not formally recognized," the IIBA's Barret says. The role is gaining more attention now, she asserts, because of the increasing role IT plays in achieving business goals and the rising cost of failed IT projects. "The business analyst provides quality control and makes sure that you are focusing on the right things," Barret says.
In the past, ineffective communication between the business and IT often doomed projects. "The classic issue was the waterfall method," in which the business simply provides IT with project requirements, says John Knightly, VP of industry and alliance marketing for San Jose, Calif.-based enterprise infrastructure software provider BEA. Six months later, IT comes back with the system but realizes that it didn't quite deliver what the users were looking for, he adds. "Typically, what we see more of today -- especially with SOA -- is a more-integrated development cycle," Knightly relates.
Though banks are very mature from a thought-process standpoint, they have not matured as well from a delivery-process standpoint, observes Scott Claus, managing director of McClean, Va.-based consultant group BearingPoint, who says the delivery across three trends -- business process management (BPM), service-oriented architecture (SOA) and offshoring -- has been particularly poor. BPM, for example, is a great concept that generally has experienced poor execution because there is little to no consensus on how to best incorporate IT, Claus contends. BPM, he explains, is about automating business processes -- the real importance of business analysts is to understand the technical limitations and constraints. For BPM to succeed, it's important that business analysts and users integrate with technical architects and understand how these processes affect IT architecture in banks, Claus adds.
As for SOA, bank executives are learning that it is driven more from the business side, according to Claus. The IT team needs to partner with the business analyst to understand reusable processes across the enterprise and then design SOA, he asserts. "It's a business services reuse value versus a pure technology value," Claus says.
Business analysts also can improve the chances of success of offshoring initiatives. "As long as offshore has been around, we've continued to see the business people not be involved throughout the life cycle," Claus says. Banks should include the business analyst throughout the entire project, even if that requires some of the best business analysts to relocate to India or elsewhere, he adds. Business analysts clearly serve a role around making sure that work packages go offshore correctly, and that there are functional prototypes being delivered to the offshore center, Claus continues. "I don't see it done enough [at banks]," he says. "If [banks] are going to invest in offshore and they expect to see results, they need to make sure to get the BA involved in the complete life cycle of offshoring."
Banks must have a clear understanding of what they want before they offshore, the IIBA's Barret adds. "That's what a BA does -- provides precision around needs identification," she says.