In a lot of people's minds, the primary role of the business analyst is to translate the requirements of the business application into something a developer can understand and explain to the business what the developer is trying to say.
Naturally, this translation process can lead to a lot of confusion, which is one of the reasons a lot people think being a business analyst is a thankless job. In fact, frustration with business analysts is running so high that companies such as Sybase that make application development tools have been telling developers that they now have modeling tools that essentially eliminate the need for the business analyst. In this scenario, a developer can sit down with business executives directly to model the application and automate a lot of the underlying code development.
But just as developers are getting the idea that they might be able to bypass the business analyst, business analysts are looking for ways to bypass the developer. New tools from companies such as Jitterbit allow a business analyst to integrate data and associated business process using a simple point-and-click interface. Jitterbit automatically integrates the underlying code, allowing a business analyst to effectively create an entire new business process without the aid of a developer.
Of course, a developer is needed to wrap code around the fundamental business processes in the first place, but once that is established, the business analyst is pretty much free to combine existing processes in any combination.
The tension between business analysts and developers goes back to the beginning of the computing age. It will be interesting to see as developers become more business savvy, how many of them will want to engage directly with the ultimate user of their applications. At the same time, it will also be interesting to see how far a business analyst can go without the aid of a developer.
Naturally, these two constituencies will have to come together at some point in the overall process, but increasingly it looks like maybe not as much as they used to.