22nd January 2013

Written by John Coleman

Business Analysts: they are essential to the success of the NHS, so what should be done to ensure there is enough talented professionals to deliver?

John Coleman has a wealth of change management experience from his 25 years in IT.  Implementing projects in the financial services sector and for the past 4 years, the NHS, has highlighted the issue of the Business Analyst for the success of projects.

In this article John raises his concerns about how the NHS is addressing the key role of the Business Analyst.

The NHS is undergoing a tech revolution

The linchpin of the numerous exciting and ambitious projects it is undertaking is the Business Analyst.

Business Analysts are the vital bridge between the needs of the clinician and the technical expertise of the IT team.  They translate the aims and needs of the clinician (and other users) into the language that tech teams can use to formulate practical and workable solutions.

Yet, despite the importance of the Business Analyst to any IT project, it can as a profession sometimes be undervalued and overlooked.

Moreover, there is a lack of talented Business Analysts to ensure the projects that are driving and making possible the huge structural changes in the NHS can be delivered to the standard required.

There has been a temptation to use clinicians to fulfil the role and solve the shortage. 

However, this has issues.  Clinicians often do not understand technical specifications.  They are subject matter experts after all.

There is also the issue of pay.

There is the issue of taking vital medical practitioners away from their talents that are best utilised and diverting them from their career path, possibly only for a short and nevertheless potentially disruptive time. 

And many clinicians are simply not that interested in IT projects, it was not what they were trained to do.

It is not the solution, on any real level, to use clinicians to paper over the issue of the lack of Business Analysts in the NHS.

The issue is no less convincing for IT professionals to bridge the gap by becoming experts, or at least having a substantial understanding of the NHS, its processes and needs.

There is often no drive for IT professionals to develop the required knowledge and what is more, it is no easy subject to master.

IT people should not make decisions about clinical processes anyway.

Tech projects will fail in increasing number, or at least not deliver to their potential, if this issue is not resolved.

The NHS realise this: developing the role of the Business Analyst as a profession is something worth investing in for the future.

It is no easy thing to resolve.  The current approach needs to be improved.

A professional body would be a good start.

Pooling resources between trusts to develop new talent should be looked at as well as private sector partnerships.

I do not pretend to have all the answers.  I can only say that the issue needs to be addressed now and with real intent.

John Coleman, Managing Director of Cognoscenti Associates can be reached on

John.colemn@cognoscentiassociates.co.uk


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