Why does no-one understand what a business analyst is or does? The position is valued so lowly that it is often given to others as a secondary duty. Positions which may be tasked in such a way include developers, project managers, data analyst, administrative assistants, among others. The apparent prevailing thought for most organizations is a feeling that the activities are so secondary just about anyone can do the job.
They say that the failure to plan is planning to fail. This is very true and over the last 15 or so years of my career, I have seen a good number of projects slow to a crawl, run substantially over budget or die completely because the planning was poor. This planning stage is where the BA really shows their value, more than in any other.
The primary responsibilities of a Business Analyst are identification of project stakeholders, elicitation and management of requirements, both business and technical, the development of relevant documentation and the creation and oversight of test and release plans. For those of us who have been responsible for these things, it is certainly a full time work load. When these are not done completely or comprehensively, it puts the project at a large risk of failure. Everyone I have spoken to about this agrees with that statement, but most organizations are unwilling to hire a resource devoted solely to these activities.
I have recently been on the job market and found that, with the exceptions of the Financial industry, who look for the BA to also be a financial manager, Healthcare industry, who look for the BA to have in-depth industry knowledge (i.e. they have to have worked within the industry prior to becoming a BA) and the DOD, who requires a more technical background (INCOSE Systems Engineering), the positions for a Business Analyst are not focused on the primary responsibilities of business analysis. Instead, these BA positions look for skills such as a deep understanding of SQL or R in order to pull data and perform analysis or knowing a programming language such as Python or Java to do testing and Quality Analysis. Yes, the requirements elicitation and stakeholder management is also in the position description but if that is where your experience lies then you will not be looked at. For me, it feels more like asking a surgeon to have experience doing audiology.
So this is the question, have you found this to be true as well? How do we, as Business Analysts, bring attention to this gap? What can we do to close it? I look forward to the discussion.