The joint knowledge-sharing session ‘BABOK meets BiSL’ with members from both the IIBA Dutch Chapter and the ASL BiSL Foundation on 19 January 2016 was a great success. We compared our two bodies of knowledge, BABOK® and BiSL®, referring to our joint white paper for a detailed comparison. Then we engaged in a House of Parliament style debate about how business analysts interact with various roles in the ‘business information management’ domain. These roles are typically key users, information administrators, information managers and system owners, all embedded in the business as part of the permanent organisation (as opposed to temporary projects in which BA’s participate). For the sake of convenience, I’ll refer to all of these roles as “BIM’s”.
We debated 5 provocatively formulated propositions. The debate was both substantive and conducted with robust humour, resulting in quotes such as: “BA’s don’t listen”, “BIM’s suffer from tunnel vision”, “BA’s are arrogant”, “BIM’s are never satisfied” and “Even the sweetest projects always turn sour in the end”. Amidst the celebratory cheers and derisory boos, I managed to capture the following substantive points to consider:
Contrary to popular belief, BIM’s do initiate larger changes from time to time. They don’t just concern themselves with supporting day-to-day operational use and dealing with minor changes. Sometimes larger changes are needed to ensure the continuity of the business.
On the topic of documentation, the first observation was “which documentation?”. In other words, who is responsible for what? The BA’s are responsible for project documentation, and the BIM’s for documenting the system from both a management perspective and a user perspective. It is imperative the BA’s involve BIM’s as early as possible, so that they can fulfil their role. The BIM side of the debate complained that BA’s don’t produce adequate transition documentation. BA’s made the point that BIM’s aren’t aware of the latest models and techniques and would benefit from taking a look at the extensive guidance in BABOK.
Although the domain of business information management covers operational user support up to and including information strategy (even involving the CIO), it is often limited to or (rightly or wrongly) associated with operational user support. Speaking of the operational side of information systems, the comparison was made with the traditional Mercator world map projection in which Africa is a fraction of its actual size. ‘Operations’ is often perceived as a relatively small part of IT, whereas the initial development of an information system represents on average just 20% of the total cost of ownership.
The final takeaway was about collaboration. When BIM’s have worked for several years in a business environment, they develop blindness for out-of-the-box opportunities. As relative ‘outsiders’, BA’s are more creative. It is self-evident that both disciplines provide substantial and complementary contributions, and this joint knowledge-sharing session was a step in the right direction.
Mark Smalley, ASL BiSL Foundation, 2 February 2016