Project Management

Are you an IT professional, a business analyst, or both?

It's not enough to have an expertise in just IT anymore. IT consultants are being challenged to assume analytical roles. How will you adapt?

 

The nature of IT is changing. Most likely, it's always been evolving, but there was a time when IT consultants supported business strategies without being part of the decision-making process -- business analysts took care of that.

A business analyst focuses on business strategy. They study the day-to-day processes and adapt policies so that everyone can do their jobs. Their mission is to find the most efficient and effective means of meeting business goals. IT professionals provide the technical solutions to fulfill those goals. While the two areas work together, they specialize in goals and functionality.

The key difference between the two areas seems to be how they implement their expertise: Business analysts typically study and promote processes, while IT professionals have a more hands-on role. Now, the two areas are integrating, and IT professionals must adapt.

The trends... they are a changing...

IT professionals and business analysts are assuming both roles in order to respond more quickly and efficiently. For instance, an IT professional who is responsible for business goals as well as technical solutions will be more sensitive to deadlines and budgets. It makes good sense that with a better understanding of the business and a responsibility to that business, any role will function better. The more an IT professional understands the business they're supporting, the better able they are to guide projects to a successful outcome.

IT consultants are definitely being challenged as these two roles morph because you're not part of your clients' executive hierarchies. However, the day is coming when recommending and implementing technical solutions won't be enough to keep you competitive. How will you adapt?

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About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

26 comments
Tig2
Tig2

And really don't see the change. After ten years as a project manager my sense has always been that my first responsibility was to business and my first (a) responsibility was to my technical teams. Frequently, I have been a part of those technical teams. I am an IT professional but that doesn't limit me in any way to only meeting technical requirements. As many of my colleagues will agree, the days when all the IT pro had to do was speak "technese" to business were gone with the eighties. As a PM, job one was to translate business concerns- "businese" to my technical teams comprehensibly. I know very few in IT today who can say that they are limited by their first area of expertise. I know many who speak business as well as they speak technology. For the past fifteen plus years, that has been a non defined job requirement.

a_asgedom
a_asgedom

Being merely IT professional like programing, networking, etc may not meke someone the right consultant especially in area of bring in the right solution to business organizations. At present, Orginizations or corporations are looking for the right solutions basing the business prosesses of their own. this is simply becase the IT products are easly available in the market and if this is the case there no need of analizing business processes of campanies, etc. As a professional of Information System, I am consulting different organization on identifying and defining their requirements at large.

TX_Techie
TX_Techie

I have been wondering for a while now. What degrees best supplement and IT pro? I know of some people adding a Criminal Justice degree and concentrating on the Security Field, I also know of an IT Director that is also a CPA. Lastly, my former boss got his MBA after he earned his degree in Computer Science. Who has the better opportunity?

dpolish
dpolish

From the begining of my career 35 years ago I was IT profesional with understanding of the organization needs. It was my motto, since I major in economics what ever you do with IT as to bring values to the organization, otherwise do invest the money in it. And that is a very old story not a new phenomana.

Block
Block

I think this is Relationship Management in an ITSM based model. IT as a business that understands it's customers, relationships, deliverables, and can market it's services. It's more of a IT PM, meets BA, where you know what technology professional to leverage for the detail.

reisen55
reisen55

However .... in larger entities, corporate IT where I came from, business alignment is forgotten entirely as IT is just assumed to be an expense item that can be reduced if you outsource everything and everybody possible to Bangalore. Forget integration, forget experience, just hire cheaper workers with no health care bennies. In my consulting trade, I work with my clients as best as I can to help them do their business and often recommend ways to speed up their procedures and willingly do extra work when asked, such as just working up a simple word document with contact lens pricing for a medical house. This data is resident in their system, but I spent the time to formalize it and print. Small but helpful thing. One thing I would like to do is to actually BE a member of their staff to see how THEY do their jobs, and whenever I get such an opportunity, which is rare, I learn more about their business and how it runs. Always good to know. Yes, we should be more interested in Business Alignment but are sometimes shut out by Bangalore.

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

As someone who has actually done most of the roles in IT (PM,BA,SA,Developer,Operations, Tech etc...) I'm perhaps a little more sensitive to the variation in skill/talent sets required by each of the roles. DanInYorkPA said that this combination of roles is due to a change in IT as hardware/software becomes easier to maintain. He bases this on an example from hardware maintenance. I find this hard to credit in the case of BAs and developers ... especially since the skill sets (and talent sets) are different. A good programmer very seldom makes for a good BA (unless one of their talents is to switch hats -- a talent that tends to reduce their ability as programmers). And vice-versa. My read on the issue is based on what I'm seeing in the marketplace. Bluntly, people just don't understand what each of the roles do within "IT". They have no clue what the difference between a development person and a hardware person is, let alone a BA, a Developer and a PM. To the outside world we're all just "the guys that work on the computer". Our industry hasn't helped matters any by (in terminology terms) combining IS and IT. Especially given that the term chosen was IT (i.e. hardware). The result is that instead of seeing and hiring based on the true specialization (i.e. role/skill/talent based), the segmentation is occurring across the board based on what "the ignorant" can see (e.g. package/package-version/industry/network tool etc.). It's like choosing a doctor based on their sex (which is obvious) rather than their speciality (which requires knowledge). The patient is female so I need a female doctor vs I need a neurologist or a GP or a psychiatrist or a heart surgeon. The result is that they ask for a female doctor with detailed knowledge of mitral valve surgery, 5 years of aphasia therapy experience and 5 years of clinical psychology when they actually need a nurse with a sterile tweezers. Or worse they hire the nurse with the tweezers when they actually need a venal reconstructive neurosurgeon. IMHO, this is the problem we are seeing in the industry ... I don't understand what you do, or what I need so I'm going to ask for a PM/BA/Developer with 10 years G/L implementation experience on Quickbooks 2009 & C++ with 5 years of SQL server, when what I really need is a purchase requisition for my own copy of QB and someone to come over and shove the disk in the coffee cup holder. What do you think? Am I being overly critical?

jkameleon
jkameleon

Always have been. "Pure programming" never paid one's bills, and never will.

LarryD4
LarryD4

I am a Programmer/Design Consultant/Technology Support Analyst/Network troublshooter/Network Administrator/Web Designer/Application Evaluator and Business Content Consultant. I have had clients call me to setup a web page and they don't even have a clue what they want their site to do or say about their company. So in turn they ask me to sub in as Marketing consultant to discuss things like company logo, colors, etc.. Its crazy, but they pay my invoices..

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

I think that the increased responsibilities of the I.T. professional comes from the fact that I.T. staffs are smaller than in the past. In my previous job, I supported an office of 160 users. Ten years ago, that would have required a staff of four or five to do that. Plus, ten years ago, you might have had a staff member that was dedicated to printers or one that handled PC builds. But new improvements in technology like imaging and remote management have condensed I.T. departments and put a diverse set of responsibilities on remaining staff. I personally enjoy branching out and looking at the business processes. I think it has made me a better employee.

edtaaffe
edtaaffe

There have always been a few who could bridge the gap. mostly people like myself who started life in business and did a career change. I am seeing business and especially government react againast the IT project mnager to the extent that they are hiring only people with no IT background. This brings with it an equally big headachee for the client, but I can see where they are comng form. Attitudes have to change in the whole IT field and IT has to be driven by people who are comfortable and informed in both IT and business scenarios. www.thebridger.co.uk/blog

tlgalenson
tlgalenson

?Am I being overly critical?? In a word, no. Since the consumer of I.T. services often doesn?t know what the problem is, only that they have a problem, it is up to the Business Analyst / I.T. Consultant to first clarify (define/diagnose) the problem. Then they can either solve the problem or refer the consumer to someone who can solve the problem. Can an I.T. Consultant know everything? Of course not. Can they specialize in say managing the design and acquisition of data-driven websites and desktop support? Yes, but it would be easier if the specializations were directly complimentary like say managing web servers and website development. Learning to be a I.T. Business Analyst seems to be easier if you are not an absolutely enthralled with it computer programmer. This is why it is a natural progression for programmers who are not keeping up with the latest languages and for business professionals who want to solve business process problems. Tom Miller, Business Analyst and CAPM. Url: http://www.it-career-coach.net email: friends@it-career-coach.net

ssharkins
ssharkins

I think that's a fair assessment. Technology snowballs and we're expected to be competent in "whatever's needed" and that's impossible -- one of the reasons I said that I find keeping up a challenge. The other day I saw an ad for a Technical Writer with their own HUMVEE... well, I responded with a rather smart ass response --"good luck with that and when it doesn't happen, call me..." I'm sure I won't get any calls on that one. :) Expectations are often outrageous.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I'm a software development consultant, and my clients are software development companies, so I can stay in "pure programming" and still be part of the "business analysis". In fact, that's always been true for me.

terencemurray
terencemurray

In the caribbean freelance consultants like myself have been working this way for years, first off there is not enough business to go around therefore we've had to adapt very early to being able to do everything from network administration to web design and a number of arenas out side of the computer industry. Graphics, Electronics, R&D just to name a few.

ssharkins
ssharkins

I find that people in technology are wearing more and more hats. Personally, I find keeping up with the changing technology a challenge.

shailesh1329
shailesh1329

You have correctly pointed out the fact that IT and Business have to be aligned to get the maximum. In today's scenario IT functions can not be looked separately from the Business, Although it was very much done 5-6 years before.As an IT consultant also, you are supposed to know the Business Process so that you could come up with the User friendly recommendations and may be in the process you could suggest the ways to improve the business processes. Definitely there is a change in the Business environment and the person who is multi skilled will be preferred for the purpose.

IT.Consultant
IT.Consultant

IT professional who is striving to be both because I see it as a matter of survival in the not-so-distant future. Commoditization of IT skills has already begun. So, a good way to differentiate as an IT professional is to get domain knowledge or industry expertise. Or, marrying your IT skills with a related, but less technical discipline such as project management will help.

t0ken
t0ken

More and more responsibilities are being handled by less and less staff, and it's all due to advances in technology. Makes you wonder if eventually the network administrator role will become obsolete in favor of networks that basically run themselves after setup.

tlgalenson
tlgalenson

??Attitudes have to change in the whole IT field and IT has to be driven by people who are comfortable and informed in both IT and business scenarios?? It is very common for a I.T. Business Analyst to have an I.T. department point of view because that is who is paying them. I believe this is a bad idea because a business delivers service or product that does not revolve around the I.T. department (unless it is a software development company). An I.T. BA needs to ?work? for the customer/non-I.T. department in order to do the most good for a company. A B.A. needs to help each and every I.T. project become aligned with the company mission and objectives. An Agile B.A. needs to do all of the above without getting buried in documentation. Tom Miller, Business Analyst and CAPM. Url: http://www.it-career-coach.net email: friends@it-career-coach.net

ssharkins
ssharkins

The good news is that a lot of new specializations are available now -- I personally think of myself as a Desktop Solutions Analyst, and that's what I push, but I still have to do other things because clients don't want 2 or 3 specialists, they want 1 person. I see consultants formings small groups to survive. They're still autonomous entities but they're working with others to supply talents they don't have to their clients. It's an interesting dynamic.

Jaqui
Jaqui

I submitted an article to the Globe and Mail newspaper that touched on that particular subject. I should hear back in November [ 5 week processing time for them ] if they are going to use it.

Jaqui
Jaqui

pblish it electronically. if they do what they normally do, it will only be on paper that it would be published.

ssharkins
ssharkins

If you think about it, post a link here when it's published.

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