Many financial services companies are updating automation systems and continuing to improve business processes. However, in the Celent report, "The 18 Month Rule: Avoiding The Endless Project," it was noted that "between 30% and 80% of all large projects fail, with most estimates coming in on the higher side of this range." The definition of failure is a project that is not fully implemented on time and/or does not meet business requirements.

For organizations that are modernizing their platforms, an expected benefit is to reduce the dependency on IT and move maintenance and some development into business analyst areas. In order to support such transitions, many software vendors are producing products designed to be configured, not programmed. This is intended to increase flexibility and speed in system development and maintenance. Neither group will realize its goals without solid business analysis skills.

Business analysis, the identification, communication and management of business requirements, joins two disciplines — business and IT. Thus, it carries all the risks of any complex intersection — miscommunication, unclear signaling, unrealistic expectations and the probability of crashes. Highly developed business analysis skills ensure there are no accidents, or, if there are, that an effective emergency response can be organized. These competencies are critical regardless of which implementation methodology — agile, iterative, waterfall, etc. — is being used. Given the importance of quality business analysis to the successful outcome of automation and process projects, building competencies in this area is critical.

In order to determine the state of the business analysis function in the financial services industry, Celent teamed with the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) to survey banks and insurance firms and take a snapshot of current performance in key business analysis skill areas. The survey was designed to hold a mirror up to the industry and reflect its perception of its performance.

Incomplete or inadequate quality of requirements is often cited as a cause of project failure. To the degree a company can improve its performance in business analysis skill areas, it can gain a competitive advantage. Celent encourages financial services firms to use the results of this survey to examine their current approach to business analysis, place their bets on which areas are most important and invest in skill improvement.

MIKE FITZGERALD is a senior analyst in Celent's insurance practice, a research and consulting firm focused on the application of information technology in the global financial services industry. For the full study, please contact

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