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Blurring the Lines between Business and IT

on January 21, 2010

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A “What If” question for business analysts and IT professionals…

What if it suddenly became very easy for someone to do both your job and their own, at the same time? If history provides any forecast for the future of IT, we are likely to see some interesting changes in the way human capital is managed – especially for those of us involved in the emergence of cloud computing. Clouds push complexity to the background and allow users to focus on what really matters: functionality and costs.

Have you ever noticed how the education we receive often sets boundaries in our career aspirations? We are trained to do something, and do it well – but in doing so, we take for granted the fact that others are doing the same thing in a different field. Then, when we are faced with an inevitable change, we instinctively take a “That’s not what I’ve been trained to do, there are other people for that” mentality. Sure, there are the motivated few who push down boundaries and become renaissance men and women in their own right. But when everyone else is set in their ways, these people are often considered a risk… think: too many eggs in one basket.

Now, to regress from my pseudo-philosophical banter, this trend is becoming all the more apparent as business analysts become more involved in technical training. Most IT veterans would say that business analysts will never have the true know-how to implement their plans, requirements and recommendations. The modern business analyst usually considers themselves more of a problem solver than a programmer – hence the separation of labor in this function of any business. Having surveyed the blogosphere for opinions of business analysts and IT professionals, there seems to be a live (and even a bit emotional) discussion between those who say it is a natural, and therefore inevitable, progression and those who say it is a “pie in the sky” and that it will never happen.

Contrastingly, a growing population of believers has something to say about the segregation of business and IT. In a world of zeros and ones, the innumerable coding languages can only become more and more efficient. As coding languages are continuously created, survival of the fittest can account for the extinct languages of modern programming. An abstraction of these languages is an ongoing phenomenon with a light at the end of the tunnel. Some say that using abstract, visual and human-readable models instead of low-level code is a very important step towards commoditized coding.

I’ve come to think about this abstraction phenomenon as measure to increase efficiency. When our ancestors realized that making bricks was faster than packing sand, they were on to something similar. If someone else uses molds to make perfectly shaped bricks that can be built into any structure, the workers need different skills but can ultimately build more economically, the architect can plan more accurately, and the buyer can move in earlier. So, why deal with sand when we can get the bricks from vendors elsewhere. Why deal with code, when we can get software modules elsewhere? This, my friends, may be the future of today’s business analyst.  In the future, what if business analysts had the skill set and the molds to create bricks that satisfy their requirements without the need to deal with code – or sand?

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