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The Agile Business Analyst

May 2018- By Ryland Leyton, Author, Speaker, Educator, Business Analyst & Agile Coach

PMBOK

I’ve done a lot of talking about the business analyst (BA) in agile, but this is the first time I’ve blogged about it! It seems fitting that for my first post with Apex this should be the topic. You can read about me here, but let’s jump into the subject directly.

Agile doesn’t formally discuss the BA. In fact, it doesn’t discuss anyone. Review the Values and Principles of the Agile Manifesto. You don’t see Business Analyst or Project Manager mentioned at all, actually. The terms you see are business person, developers, sponsor, users.

Now, if you look at specific approaches, such as Scrum or SAFe, you get roles and job titles that are more familiar...and they still don’t mention BA’s and PM’s. Let’s take Scrum as an example.

Scrum basically expects the Product Owner (PO) to do all the BA work. Let’s look at the responsibilities of the PO, the BA, and as reference, the Product Manager, and how they line up.

chart

Now, there’s a good bit of overlap for the PO because basically they’re doing two jobs: all of the product analysis - figuring out the right path to steer the product, considering the evolutionary and revolutionary features it will have, all the user research - and then doing everything that the BA might do to parse those wishes into well-formed user stories that a development team can execute.

In my opinion, this person can and does exist - but they’re very rare! You probably can’t hire more than a couple of people who have this level of skill. And, if you can, they may be seeking positions that are much more senior than most medium to large companies will rate the typical PO job role.

What’s to be done? Who will help with this? The BA is a great partner for a PO who has strong product management skills. Let’s take a moment and look at how this active collaboration works:

venndiagram

It is a common arrangement for BA’s and PO’s to work together, leveraging the best strengths of both, and applying the general principle of “you never approve your own work”. The communication and collaboration back-and-forth between the BA and the PO drives creation of ideas about what to build, and why. Through this process the ideas are refined & improved such that they provide a flow of well-written and valuable user stories to the development team.

Because the BA is an expert in moving between the “why”, the “what”, and the “how” of ideas, they free the product owner to excel at their core competency: creating a great product.

Here is what I say is the “value proposition” of the business analyst:

As a business analyst, I free the product owner to focus on the needs, desires, and interests of the end customer. The product owner can then maximize the value of the full suite of products and features that our company offers.

While they’re doing that, I’m making sure the deliverables are analyzed all the way from marketing through ordering, delivery, billing, accounting, and customer support.

My focus is on making sure internal and external customers will be satisfied, that the impacts are identified and managed so the company has no blind spots, and that the development team has a smooth flow of work to deliver.

If you can deliver on that promise, you’re doing your job well!


Ryland is a veteran technology professional of more than 20 years. An author and speaker who loves to inspire, he has been teaching for more than a decade. His subjects include career development, aligning your work with your values, agile software development, and business analysis.

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