This is a topic that was recently raised and discussed in the IIBA’s Linkedin Group. As I read my way through the case for and against whether a BA should have technical expertise I started to doubt my own answer.
At university I studied Information Systems Engineering, so while I did’t study any programming languages I did study a range of modelling techniques and use a number of technical tools. I put the discussion out of my head until a few days later when, unlike me, I undertook some plumbing at home!
My objective was to plumb my washer dryer into my downstairs bathroom to make a utility room. While I lacked the plumbing skills I knew what I needed to be done and I was able to communicate this vision to others. I wanted to:
- Get cold water into my washer dryer
- Get waste water out of the washer dryer and into the drain
- Get power to the washer dryer
I was reminded of many of the systems I have helped clients define requirements for. They too had similar requirements:
- There was some data that had to get into the system
- Once the data was in some processing had to take place
- After the processing had taken place reports/exports had to come out of the system
- And the system needed an infrastructure that would keep it working
The flow of data into a system is not that much different to that of water flowing into a washer dryer. I’m not a plumber but I knew that this will involve pipework from an existing water supply. I found myself drawing systems architecture diagrams of how the systems would communicate, my water pipe would need a new tap (an API) and piping of the right format would be needed to help the water flow, just like that of a webservice.
I could really take this much further – and you’ll be glad to know that I won’t today, but it made me realise that a BA doesn’t need to be a developer. What is important is to be able to have aptitude to understand the big picture of what is trying to be achieved and to visualise a workflow. It’s then important to be able to communicate this to someone else, so that they can do the implementation – in my case a plumber!
Update: Last week my wife and I had our first little boy and this taught me something else about systems implementation – The ROI of a good system is often time and efficiency… or in our case – sleep!