I’ve just spent two days at the 2008 Enterprise Architecture Conference in London. It was a very high quality event, with a range of speakers covering topics from pragmatic analysis techniques to how to manage knowledge through the life of NASA’s Mars programme, more than any single working lifetime.
Overall there was much less focus on technology (read SOA and modelling tools) this year, and a vigorous and renewed focus on business alignment and business architecture, which, if we can deliver, potentially places architecture where it should be, as the business’s agent.
But there’s a problem. Good business analysis is fundamental to this, yet several delegates bemoaned the current lack of good business analysts. User organisations often struggle to articulate and abstract their needs, and this feeds into all downstream processes. Modelled requirements are an increasing rarity, poorly substituted by imprecise verbal statements in Word or PowerPoint.
The problem is, of course, not unique to analysts, and may have common cause with the equal lack of architects. Senior architects and analysts both tend to have several big birthdays under the belt, and many learned their trade as developers, gaining both practical method skills and the experience of turning ideas into working code. (The majority of exceptions have other “making it work” experience, such as building networks or running data centres.)
But in the current world of ERP packages and large-scale outsourcing, many organisations no longer build anything themselves. The live classroom has been thrown away.
I have worked with a number of good, keen young analysts, but most work for large supplier companies who still have both well-funded training programmes and the breadth of work to build experience and a broad skill set. These guys and girls can do a good job, but at the risk of higher costs and potential conflicts of interest.
We already know that this may reduce organisations’ ability to ensure the right solution to their needs, or assure its quality. Recent observations suggest that organisations who forgoe getting their hands dirty in IT will also suffer an increasing difficulty in creating a clear, concise and structured statement of those needs themselves.