I was recently looking at some of the new requirements modeling/management tools, and some of the other technologies that seem to be making manipulating technology more and more accessible to the traditional business stakeholder, and I caught my self wondering: How long will the industry support a distinct business analyst role?

New tools are making it easier and easier to capture and communicate ideas. Increasingly, a moderately tech-savvy business stakeholder can reasonably be expected to drag-and-drop his/her way to an initial design given the ease of use of tools currently available. For management of enterprise business rules and intelligence, rules engines and data warehouses with simple syntax and GUI-based tools have put the actual implementation of new application rules and creation of new reports in the hands of the business consumers themselves.

In these cases, no business analyst is required as an intermediary to carry needs to developers for implementation or to serve as the “translator” of business speak to tech speak and vice versa.

It seems we’re becoming less and less dependent upon wordsmiths to convey ideas. In theory, for less “revolutionary” tech projects, a business sponsor could sit down with a someone who was adept in rapid/rough prototyping and equipped with the right tools and bang out a basic flow, requirements and UI without as much of the preceding planning, analysis and deliberation.

My goal is not to dispute the value of business analysis. As a BA myself, I am absolutely convinced of the value of having a strong business analysis competency in an organization, and I think business analysis will continue to be sought after and rewarded. My question is this: how viable is the distinct “business analyst” role over the long term?

Will we see it absorbed into or combined with other roles (i.e. project management, solutions or information architecture, UI design or into the line of business) as modeling and design tools become more accessible and usable and business stakeholders become increasingly tech savvy? Will the role evolve or dissolve? What skills are going to be valued in the business analyst of 5-10 years from now, and how will they be different from today?

I have some thoughts of my own, but I’m not making any bold predictions at this point. What I’d be really interested in is hearing what other analysts have to say on the matter, so please do comment and share!