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BA 2.0

“Web 2.0” allows increasingly collaborative work among teams of varying roles, locales and technical abilities and facilitates the move toward the business user as "user-innovator" a la Eric von Hippel. User expectations are shaped by their experiences on the web and they demand and can manage increased control and participation in both the development and use of technologies.  With the BA profession already in flux (consider the recent development of the IIBA certification...and the debate over the difference between a BA and PM) the implications of Web 2.0 for the business of Business Analysis are daunting:

Mobs rule! More (people) is better.  That is, instead of benefiting from a small controlled group of users, Web 2.0 products and projects evolve and improve in relation to the number of people who use, refine and provide feedback on them. In the collaborative 2.0 arena, a small disciplined group doesn’t provide the biggest payoff…BAs must refine their crowd-control skills to facilitate and encourage the participation of unruly groups, and must be agile (capital and lowercase A) in the ways they present and refine prototypes.

You say “Bull in a china shop” like that’s a bad thing; users are less, not more predictable. The “paths” of users in collaborative, customizable, scalable applications don’t boil down neatly to a set of happy and alternate paths. The typical use case becomes a sidetracking waste of time in the face of apparently infinite (legitimate!) trajectories of a Web 2.0 user “through” a system. BAs must become adept at recognizing, zeroing in on and evaluating patterns of user behavior and must develop and manage new ways to capture and model these patterns.  A pattern rather than transaction perspective mandates the ability to think and to communicate at a more abstract level than Control/Action/Response; under this paradigm, that BA staple, the use case, evolves to look more like a mind map of loosely-coupled services, and no longer fits neatly into tables or even action/response narratives.

Yours, mine, ours? Data is king (but what’s the kingdom?) The ability to manage data can be the defining factor in the success or failure of a 2.0 venture. BAs must increasingly be able to identify, model and locate in-play data, and to differentiate between actual versus customary restrictions on data. Most crucially, BAs must help to maximize ROI by identifying and advocating for the control and harvesting of core data, while promoting the licensed acquisition/use of non-key data.   

Reduce, reuse, recycle. Web 2.0 relies on the flexibility of loosely-coupled systems which can be reconfigured and reused to empower users. BAs must propagate and reinforce this mindset by promoting and demonstrating new ways to assemble existing services and by facilitating the churn. In addition, BAs must promote practices that are device agnostic; promote the awareness and consideration of multiple platforms and interfaces, and capture business rules in a manner that allows them to be applied over

Web 2.0 is in the eye of the beholder. There’s no concise definition of Web 2.0; it’s as much a philosophy or set of principles as anything else. What is clear is that in the light of the agility, speed, user involvement and collaboration that the Web 2.0 gestalt imposes, BAs will increasingly need strategies to ensure that minimum regulatory and policy requirements are met even when the affiliated documentation is of no value to the project as a whole; over time this burden (creating artifacts that are actually separate from the “real” development activities) will likely be offloaded to other roles, and the Business Analysis role itself will split into collaborative-track versus “traditional” analysts. 

(Originally posted at

This entry was published on Sep 07, 2008 / lwoods. Posted in Business Analysis. Bookmark the Permalink or E-mail it to a friend.
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