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The People Cloud Computing Forgot

Business Process Analysts

I’m a big fan of Dana Gardner (Dana Gardner's BriefingsDirect on Ulitzer), and he recently took a stab at discussing how organizational roles and their importance are likely to change with the growing adoption of cloud computing.  Specifically, Dana focuses on the role of the Enterprise Architect, and he correctly assesses their increased prominence in tomorrow’s organizations.

While that represents an important incremental change, I see a much more transformative change on the horizon for organizations embracing cloud computing technologies.  Before I tell you what this more radical change is likely to be, let me tell you a true story; a couple years ago we were working with a customer to replace a number of legacy systems by migrating them on to a single platform as a service (PaaS) architecture.  I heard a customer say something to me that I realized was previously not something one was likely to hear; they said “I’ve never been in a situation where the developers are consistently standing around waiting on the business analysts”.

That’s when it hit me that the new critical path involved proper business analysis, NOT the writing of code.  The “development” of the application was trivial, fast and done almost as an afterthought to the proper definition of how the business really wanted to operate.  Since that time several years ago, I’ve been witnessing this phenomenon over and over again.  Using a 5GL PaaS an entire company can be automated from scratch in just a matter of weeks, but ONLY if there is an effective identification of the desired process, a description of the specific needs of that process and finally an aggressive review and testing of the completed functionality with the actual users.

In short, I’ve been seeing firsthand how there has been a significant shift of burden onto a point person in the business analysis department.  This person needs to be able to gather requirements quickly, communicate higher and better ideas to business leaders helping them to think beyond the confines of “how it has always been done”, and they need to be able to work with users to evaluate, test and deploy functionality.  They need to be part visionary, part technocrat and part communicator.  They need to be a great leader.  And they need to be smart.  If they can do all of this, they possibly hold more power to increase the organization's bottom line than any other position in the company.  I repeat; this person may be able to do more for an organization's bottom line, then anyone else in the company.  That’s worth something, right?

Let me tell you what skill these people don’t actually need to have.  They don’t need to be able to write a formal spec document, and they don’t need to memorize any standards.  Yes, you heard me right.  What I’ve seen time and again is that there is simply little point in writing up a formal specification document, when the actual construction of the application functionality is so trivial.  It’s faster and less ambiguous to give the builder what he or she needs to build, and then to use the resulting functionality as the living breathing spec document that is taken back to the users.  Believe me; we’ve tried it both ways many times.  In the end, the specification document is complex, misleading at times, and rarely brings the business person’s best ideas into the process the way it is intended to.  Don’t get me wrong…new types of standards may evolve that more closely align with emerging cloud technologies, however to date, I’ve only see that level of effort slow things down.

So, embracing cloud technologies means that everything is going to move a lot faster then what we are used to.  You will spin up hardware faster, you will build solutions faster and you will deploy them faster.  But one step remains missing…requirements definition and communication!  Cloud technologies do very little for making that aspect faster.  It’s still visionary, it’s human and it requires a lot of thinking and a lot of communication.

The people who can deliver all of that with excellence, in my opinion, are going to be the next wave of key value drivers in an organization.

More Stories By Treff LaPlante

Treff LaPlante has been involved with technology for nearly 20 years. At WorkXpress, he passionately drives the vision of making customized enterprise software easy, fast, and affordable.

Prior to joining WorkXpress, Treff was director of operations for eBay's HomesDirect. While there, he created strategic relationships with Fortune 500 companies and national broker networks and began his foray into the development of flexible workflow software technologies. He served on the management team that sold HomesDirect to eBay.

During his time at Vivendi-Universal Interactive, Treff was director of strategy. In addition to M&A activities, Treff broadly applied quantitative management principles to sales, marketing, and product line functions. Treff served as the point person for the management team that sold Cendant Software to Vivendi-Universal. Earlier positions included product management and national sales trainer for Energy Design Systems, an engineering software company. Treff began his professional career as a metals trader for Randall Trading Corp, a commodities firm that specialized in bartering and transporting various metals and coal from the then-dissolving Soviet Union.

Treff received his MBA from Pepperdine University and a BS in chemical engineering from The Pennsylvania State University. http://www.workxpress.com

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