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Prioritizing the BA: How Integrating Business Analysis Puts Canada Forward

By H. Sam Bourgi, Research Associate, Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC)

In today’s global digital economy, industries must constantly innovate to reach their desired state. While traditional occupations remain an important focus of the economy, organizations today require sharp minds capable of applying industry best practices, managing complex relationships, creating value-added services and bridging organizational silos. 

Over the past five years Canada’s digital economy has experienced a sharp increase in demand for the business analyst, who operates as a liaison at the intersection of business and technology, thus ensuring that businesses reach their desired state. While employers continue to communicate their strong need for business analysis, reflected in the occupation’s 10% growth since 2009, government and education have been much more prudent in their response to this emerging occupation. 

In government no occupational definition yet exists for the business analyst. Instead, BAs are grouped under the umbrella of Information Systems Analysts and Consultants—a category hardly able to keep up with the multi-disciplinary skill set and diverse tasks required of the business analyst. 

The education sector tells the same story. According to research conducted by the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), new graduates in ICT, business, engineering and other programs do not pursue a career in business analysis because they don’t know it exists. All this despite back-to-back ICTC industry forecasts showing that the BA profession is among the fastest growing digital occupations in Canada, representing one of the only nation-wide trends in a country otherwise defined by regional labour markets.

Organizations such as International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) have picked up where government and education left off by defining the BA role and raising awareness of the growing function BAs serve in organizations throughout the economy. However, without more active engagement on the part of education providers, students, recent grads and job-seekers will be unprepared to enter the field. 

Active participation from universities is critical to ensuring that the job market is able to meet the ongoing demand for BAs. Integrated, cross-disciplinary programs which introduce students to business analysis and offer co-op and internship opportunities are critical to ensuring that industry is able to recruit BAs at the entry level. At the same time, BA accreditation programs and up-skilling initiatives provided by colleges and universities can help entry-level BAs transition to mid- and senior-level roles, all essential components for developing a dynamic BA workforce.

Governments, on the other hand, should consider developing an occupational standard for the BA profession that more accurately reflects the roles and responsibilities of the BA. In addition, the BA must also be considered a priority occupation and must accompany other professions deemed to be in high demand, such as professionals in business services and management. 

Government and education must collectively partner with industry to support business analysis as a discipline by raising awareness of the growing demand for BAs in high profile industries, such as ICT, government, finance, professional services and natural resources. 

Only a collectivist approach can succeed in strengthening the career profile of the business analyst. And the numbers don’t lie: according to ICTC’s September 2012 Labour Force Survey, the unemployment rate of Canadian BAs and related professionals is around 2%, compared to a national unemployment rate of 7.4%. 

The function the BA is expanding across industries. This trend will intensify as organizations across Canada and the rest of the industrialized world adopt new technologies to drive business. As a cross-sectoral occupation, governments must raise awareness of the utility of the BA across a multitude of business operations, whereas education providers must be willing to impart the multi-disciplinary skill set needed by BAs to help companies transition to their desired state. Positioning the BA as a cross-sectoral resource represents a strategic and economic advantage for Canada in this post-recession era.