#006 – The future of the Business Analyst role including hybrid approach of Agile, Waterfall, and DevOps with Bob Prentiss


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Who will be doing the analysis in the future?? We will also discuss insights Bob has about the hybrid approach of including Agile, Waterfall, and DevOps within an organization.

Bob Prentiss, CBAP
Bob Prentiss is a keynote speaker, author, mentor, coach and Business Analysis thought leader. Bob is passionate about helping you think, learn & work differently so you can become the best version of yourself. Bob is the CEO and founder of Bob the BA Training providing badass business analysis training, consulting and mentoring services. Bob the BA helps organizations transform their requirements practices utilizing modern techniques, an agile mindset and street-smart approaches to get the work done faster. Bob is CBAP® certified with 30 years of experience in corporate America; with a background in managing BA centers of excellence, assessing and managing BA maturity, quality, and competency. Bob has presented numerous keynote, workshops, seminars, conferences, and training sessions across North America. Bob is a founding member and past President of the IIBA® MSP Chapter.

Show Notes:

  1. Host: Ron Smith
  2. Contact: bob@bobtheba.com
  3. Web: https://www.bobtheba.com/
  4. LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/bob-prentiss-cbap-1315b52/

Audio Attribution:

  1. license
  2. title: JENNY’S THEME
  3. creator: Jason Shaw
  4. audio source
  5. changes were not made
  6. Music: www.hooksounds.com

Use the comment section below to comment on the interview.

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Ron Smith

Ron is a Project Manager with Chalder Consulting Inc. www.chalder.ca

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/rondsmith

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Transcription of Interview

Ron: Welcome to the managing projects podcast. This is your host Ron Smith. Today I am speaking with Bob Prentiss who is a keynote speaker. He’s an author and mentor and coach and his specialty is business analysis. Bob is the CEO and founder of Bob the B.A. training providing bad-ass business analysis training and consulting and Mentoring Services. He’s based out of St. Paul Minnesota and I recently met Bob at a Project World conference and got to take in a few of his sessions which were a lot of fun. So welcome to the show Bob.

Bob: Awesome Ron. Thanks for having me.

Ron: Your style is quite unique. I know that you have a background in singing. You’re breaking into song at different times. You incorporate a lot of music and video into your slides which was very entertaining. I didn’t see one person falling asleep at all.

Bob: I am unique in that I’m a little over-the-top. I don’t do boring that’s actually one of my mottos. People come to me for what we call edutainment. So education in-depth but being entertained at the same time. So music does play a part in the way I train… a little comedy and improvisation things of that nature. A lot of what people are coming to me for right now is understanding how BAs fit into an agile environment. It’s a very popular topic and it’s going to get more popular as we move into DevOps and understanding where the analysis fits in. And whether or not they’ll even use those titles of B.A going forward in the future. So a lot of transformation is happening in organizations and that’s really what people are coming to me for.

Ron: Describe the old and the new to me for those BA roles.

Bob: Sure. Old: overly planned, disconnected silos versus a connectedness that happens and more on the spot in the moment of turnaround of ideas. So everyone wants to be Amazon. Let’s face it. Amazon has proven out DevOps in their logistics and things of that nature. Everyone wants to find a way of how can we turn around an idea how can we deliver to our customers. In three or four days versus three or four months. And so there’s a lot of talk going out in the industry about how you can do that. I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about the new and what’s acceptable. And so I bring some reality to the table I tell some truth about what’s possible and what’s not possible. Especially given that a lot of what Amazon does is about their logistics and people think it all happens magically through their systems. It does not. So there’s a lot that’s happening at Amazon that will work for them but would not work for other clients. The same reason why a lot of clients think that agile will solve everything that they do and the first thing they do is throw all of the agile principles out the door and then they’re confused why it’s not working for them.

Ron: Agile is one of those topics that has been around for a long enough time that we’re seeing all these different flavors of Agile as we go through the years. DevOps is a little newer where we see this combining of development and operations brought together as you’re building a product.

Bob: I often talk about these methodologies as a CEO a CIO a CFO someone at the top heard about them and they think it’s a silver bullet. They think that because one company was successful doing it and how they promoted it they can be successful as well. It’s a mith and the idea that’s behind these methodologies kind of needs to be thrown out the door. What I really wish companies would stop doing is just say we’re going to go agile we’re going to go DevOps and that’s the only way we’re going to be successful. What they really need to do is sit down and say look what are we trying to accomplish. And then just do what’s best for the organization methodology needs to be driven, process your SDL, all of it, needs to be driven by your goals and then picking and choosing the pieces that work for you. But like any other company people want a silver bullet. They want to be able to do it faster and smarter, more with less, and all of those other wonderful buzz words and phrases we’ve learned over the years. And I actually promote hybrid purchase when I go into companies. You will do a little agile. You will do a little waterfall. You will do a little DevOps. You want to do a little bit of everything but it needs to be the right portion of it for different parts of your organization especially in I.T. where you have so many different lines of business and capabilities to fulfill. And they’re not all the same. And that’s the thing that most people don’t understand. They think a capability is a capability – no. And the way you deliver them is different. So it’s a hard lesson to learn. But the sooner companies grasp onto the idea that they have to be hybridized the more comfortable they get. So I meet a lot of people at these conferences and we talk about agile. We started going through things and once we’re done talking people realize they’re not very agile at all. And that’s fine. That’s a good realization. What they do need to say is I’m as agile as I can be today. I will be as agile as I can be tomorrow and more agile and even a little DevOps in a little bit. And if they just start embracing this idea of, not a one stop shop, but always doing what’s right. The hybridization will naturally take place and they will transform more easily.

Ron: I agree with you so what I’m finding is that there is a hybrid often.

Bob: It’s a tough lesson to learn, but once you do learn that lesson your people are much happier in the work that they do. They also feel more empowered to make better decisions. There are absolutely times you should plan more. And there are times where you need to chuck the plan because it’s not adding any value to the process you’re working it. But that’s one of the exceptions about agile and how it’s approach. A lot of people think well we don’t need to plan, we’re just going to dive in. Sprint 0 is your planning folks you should be spending a lot of time in Sprint zero on these multimillion dollar multi year approaches. In fact your sprint 0 and your planning can take months. If you don’t do that, how are you going to do your data modeling, and your infrastructure. How are you going to do all these really complex things. What will happen if you don’t do that planning is you will end up with all of the rework that you complained about in the waterfall. So I don’t want you to take three years to do it but if you spend a couple of months planning you actually will have better iterations. You’ll have better sprints – you’ll have better releases. So it’s a tough proposition to put in front of people. You’re telling them do one thing except be smart enough to do something else.

Ron: What’s your advice your current state of the Union on the B.A industry right now.

Bob: So that’s a loaded question on multiple fronts. Before I give the advice I guess I’ll give a little bit of detail on the state. The state of business analysis is that it’s changing dramatically. There’s a lot of trends going on with, and it depends on where you are at in the world because everyone’s trend is happening at a different time… But I have clients that are moving away from the title of business analyst and they’re only talking about business analysis and business analysis is for everyone in the organization. With those clients I’m actually helping to train their entire organization in business analysis. It’s fundamental. Even Forrester and Gartner said the future leaders of America were going to be people that had strong foundational business analysis skills. So understanding that these trends are happening to the title and that business analysis is going to become more for the people and a lot of that has to do with Agile where everyone has to be a team member… Everyone has to provide input.

Ron: What does that role look like.

Bob: So what I’m saying is that there may not be someone with the title of business analyst but there will be people doing business analysis. And someone may pick up a part of the project and they might be responsible for that part of business analysis. But another person may pick up a different piece and they’re responsible for that part of the business analysis. It’s going to be less siloed. There certainly will be organizations that will stick with that title and they will still assign because even in an agile environment. I have lots of clients that are adding BA’s to Agile teams. But there is going to be what I would call a more flatter view of business analysis where multiple people will need to do it. If we go back to the beginning for people that have been around as long as I have or longer, everyone was a jack of all trades once upon a time. You did a little BA, did a little QA, a little PM, and agile is really set up for that as team members where people are more universal. As you move more to dev ops that’s even more so true where people are coming up with titles like engineers and things like that. It’s a way of saying they a jack of all trades. There’ll be a flatter response to business analysts and more about business analysis. So what I’m saying is don’t run away from the career you just may not be called a business analyst in the future you may have a completely different title. The more you can learn about business analysis, the stronger you will be in the organization. My advice generally to people that are newer and thinking about it… and they’re thinking about it because they like to problem solve. They like to figure out the hidden meanings of things and help people out. But embrace everything you can. Learn everything you can and in fact you should learn everything that is old. Because everything that’s old becomes new again at some point. There are techniques that I use from a waterfall background in agile because they simply work better. So not everything that agile was intended to do works better than some of the old stuff. The more you know the better decisions you can make the more you have in your toolkit the stronger analyst you are. And so embrace the idea of learning absolutely everything. Make sure you get all your foundational training in place. Get all of that stuff under your belt so that everything else you can learn just gets stronger. This is how we make better decisions. We fail fast and fail safe.

Ron: You could be a business analyst, or a systems analyst, or a functional analyst. Then I’ve seen a lot of clients have introduced this role called business architecture and they’re interfacing at times with your enterprise architecture.

Bob: All architecture is fundamentally about business analysis. It’s what BAs grow up to become – architects. But the common thread there is the companies that have a better understanding of business analysis are the ones that are more successful. Because all of those roles that you mentioned and you could mention a ton more from product owner to Azons to even going into the ITIL side of things. All of them are stronger and better and better decision makers and leaders with a foundation in business analysis. That’s really the theme that’s where it’s going long term. That’s why I don’t think B.A as a title is going to be as important it’s going to be more of a life skill that people expect. Right now when you have a resume. People no longer want to see things on there like you can do Excel and Word and PowerPoint. It’s a given you should not put that on your resume. If you put that on your resume, people are going to question wheather you can do those skills. Long term it’s going to be very similar. It’s going to be expected that you know how to analyze things because you’re going to need it in the future. Especially with technology changing so rapidly. I mean I’ve got clients right now that are writing requirements for an AI. It’s a whole different world. It’s not the same business analysis that we used to do. I get really excited every time I learn a new technique because the more I know the better decisions I can make.

Ron: I’ve enjoyed talking to you today. Bob how can people reach you online if they’d like to reach out ask you your question or check out your services.

Bob: Pretty simple Just go to Bob the BA dot com bobtheba.com just like Bob the Builder. That’s the whole alliteration about it. And there’s a contact us on there if you need to hear more or want to hear more. You can set up a meeting to chat, as well as all of the offers and things sign up for our newsletter, our video on demand trainings coming out shortly. Got a bunch of new books coming out this year. It’s going to be a fantastic year. It’s been a pleasure talking to you and for everyone out there. Just be extraordinary.

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