Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Where Have all the Good BA's Gone?

Something I see rarely discussed in technical circles is the role of a Business Analyst.  Now what's a Business Analyst?  That's the tricky part. If you aren't in a large corporation that has multiple departments as "customers" or that handle a portfolio of vendors than you may not have come across one.  A BA is the liaison between the  technical team and the customer\vendor.  They are part IT and part project manager.

It's not an envious role. They perform functions like software upgrades, troubleshooting application errors, and handling customer questions about performance.  They tend to be tied to a specific set of applications. They have to be communicative, technical, patient, and self-starting. Unfortunately, many of them are none of these and when they're not it creates havoc for a DBA.

When a BA goes rogue it basically means you end up being involved in poorly managed upgrade projects, you have to perform all the initial troubleshooting footwork for an application you know little about, customers contact you directly for minor problems that have nothing to do with the databases....I think you get the point. But then you might ask, "shouldn't you be doing these yourself anyway?".  The truth of the matter is its a resource issue. As a DBA in a large company you may be supporting 300+ different applications and thousands of customers.  You have to have a few good BA's to help filter the noise.

I've come to believe the primary problem is hiring managers don't stress enough the technical requirements of a BA.  When a newly hired BA doesn't even know how to configure an ODBC connection than we're in for a world of hurt. The other problem is they don't get paid enough. You aren't going to get highly technical people moving into a BA role if you make them take a 40% pay cut.

Still, when you see and work with a good BA you know it. They tend to give you clear, documented action items. They do all the preliminary research so that you know once they come to you its a database issue and not security, network, or storage problem.  They have your back when vendors try to question the motives of the DBA team and when they inevitably try to gain access to database systems without your knowledge.  A good BA is invaluable to a company and a DBA team. I just wish there was more of them.

Comments? I'd like to hear your experiences!

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