One thing all companies agree on: the business world has now entered a seemingly permanent state of volatility. Markets and customers alike are moving more and more rapidly, fuelled mainly by their access to virtually unlimited amounts of information via the Internet and corporate networks.

“In this world of rapid change, it’s clear that the winners will be those companies with the agility to respond to these market shifts fast,” says Chris Visser, head: Enterprise Analysis Consulting at DVT. “And within companies, the role most suited to spearheading that response is the business analyst. Traditionally, business analysts have ensured that business requirements are effectively realised in a technology solution, so it’s no surprise that they should become increasingly pivotal: technology will remain a key mechanism through which companies achieve agility.”

The growing importance of the business analyst’s role was highlighted at the Business Analysis Summit Southern Africa 2012, which recently concluded in Johannesburg. This was the first time this conference has been held in South Africa, and its theme was The professional business analyst as an enabler of effective business change. “DVT was proud to be a Gold sponsor of this inaugural event because we believe so strongly that the role of the business analyst is rapidly becoming more strategic,” Visser comments.

Visser explains that whereas now business analysts tend often to be seen as adjuncts of the technology function, this perception is changing, driven by the growing dependence of business processes on IT networks and software. The business analyst will be the one to play the vital role of bringing technology and business closer together. Visser believes this alignment will be supported by the emergence of next-generation development platforms that will allow business to perform some of the high-level development tasks themselves.

Visser goes on to argue that the current range of roles played by business analysts shows which way the profession is likely to develop. Current roles span the full spectrum, from purely business-focused at the one end and purely technology-focused at the other.

“As companies realise their overwhelming need to become yet more flexible, they will play people to their strengths in order to achieve strategic business goals—business analysts will move from being generalists to specialists as the importance of their role becomes better recognised,” Visser says. “It’s this new generation of business analysts who will act as agents of change, using technology to help companies shift to new paradigms. Business analysts will give them the ability to innovate constantly that will distinguish the pace-setters from the also-rans.”