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Why Business Analyst Creativity Aids in Model-Driven Development

on October 3, 2014

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In a previous post, I discussed how business analysts are in a prime position to move up the business ladder, providing innovative ideas and bringing those ideas to fruition through a model-driven development platform. This possibility for career advancement comes as businesses scramble to adjust processes and technologies to better meet customer expectations.

And who better to lead these innovations? The business analyst is uniquely qualified. A post from the Modern Analyst best describes this. While your output today may be documentation, it’s your in-depth insight into business challenges, goals and objectives that enable project success.

But while it’s clear that the business analyst has the right insight to conceptualize and deliver new applications, it’s less clear how these individuals get involved and actually build them. Ultimately, it starts by understanding where you’re going and recognizing the skills that will help take you there. In this post, I’ll review both.

As a quick spoiler alert: creativity makes all the difference. While business innovation is the end goal, creativity helps uncover the right options to solve each unique business challenge. But I’ll get there shortly. First, let’s review the ideal state – a citizen developer.

A Definition: What Makes A Citizen Developer?

According to Gartner’s IT Glossary, a citizen developer is a user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT.

Gartner continues by describing how the business has changed to make this possible. Now, end users (most notably the citizen developer) can develop a host of enterprise applications through model-driven development platforms and cloud computing services.

So instead of having to learn programming languages, end users can now leverage platforms that abstract away from code, making development possible for a greater number of people.But not all employees can become citizen developers. While model-driven development platforms use visual workflows, the user must still understand the principles behind application design and development to succeed.

Business analysts may not participate in application infrastructure or coding, but they are part of the project team and understand the many dynamics at play. For this reason, the business analyst is a prime candidate for the citizen developer title.

But understanding the dynamics of an IT project is not enough – there are a variety of characteristics that are also important to conceptualizing and developing applications. And these characteristics are core requirements for any business analyst. Rather than restate the obvious by defining these skills, I’ve opted to show an example of each, specifically how each characteristic allows a citizen developer to succeed.

Characteristic 1: Analytical

While the BA is aggregating requirements for an upcoming project, she finds that the project objectives are unclear. Instead of continuing, she digs further into the issue, clarifies the true business need and refines the requirements based on S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-oriented) objectives.

By refocusing on the true business problem, she enables greater flexibility regarding how to solve the problem. An analytical mindset is essential for development. Without clear insight into the problem at hand, it is impossible to deliver a solution that the users will accept.

Characteristic 2: Abstract

As the BA considers the project requirements, he instinctively begins conceptualizing and mapping how each requirement will fit together to solve the business need.

While each person has a unique perspective to how they abstract and visualize relationships within the database, it is this ability that ultimately allows a person to envision the ideal solution.

Characteristic 3: Collaborative

As the BA designs and builds an application, she meets regularly with the project team to show working prototypes. As feedback rolls in, she aggregates and responds accordingly, showcasing edited application versions as they are ready for review.

While requirements may be structured per S.M.A.R.T objectives at the start of the project, that doesn’t mean they hold true throughout. Innovation projects change quickly based on evolving customer demand. As such, collaboration is essential and continuous iteration ensures that the best possible product goes to market.

Finding Your Creativity

There are a number of ways to quantify creativity. However, in this scenario, creativity is described by finding the right solutions based on analysis, abstract thinking, and collaboration. Business analysts portray these skills daily. While few would consider documentation and requirement validation as creative, those individuals are not considering the true potential of the business analyst.

The BA is well suited to support innovation efforts, and is capable of driving the design and delivery of these solutions. However, it is up to the individual to make the move from requirements collector to innovation driver. While it may appear daunting, many others have already made the move.

But each individual is different. The best way to move forward is to just jump in. See how model-driven development works and then try it out with your own projects. You’ll quickly see how the platform suits the business analyst mindset.

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