The role of a Business Analyst (BA) is rarely mentioned in the Agile framework but it does not mean that business analysis does not occur. In fact, agile’s focus on delivering value to customers requires the entire team to collaboratively perform business analysis on a frequent basis.
I was looking for some definition of a Business Analyst and I found one that I liked on the International Institute of Business Analysis. They define the Business Analyst “as the agent of change”.
What is the role of a business analyst?
Business analysis is used to identify and articulate the need for change in how organizations work, and to facilitate that change. As business analysts, we identify and define the solutions that will maximize the value delivered by an organization to its stakeholders. Business Analysts work across all levels of an organization and may be involved in everything from defining a strategy to creating the enterprise architecture to taking a leadership role by defining the goals and requirements for programs and projects or supporting continuous improvement in its technology and processes.
Business Analysts are the go-to professionals for making the best-informed decisions. Companies depend on these roles to:
- realize benefits,
- identify new opportunities,
- understand the company’s strengths and weaknesses,
- and guide the organization’s future development.
So, it doesn’t matter whether you are called a Business Analyst or you have a different title but the skills of a Business Analyst are needed in Agile more than ever.
In the article you will find some of the Agile Best Practices for BA’s.
One of the most important tasks of a Business Analyst is to manage requirements. If a Business Analyst fails to identify and translate the right requirements, they’re out of a job. This is the reason why a successful business analyst is always good at requirements handling/management processes.
For a business analyst, requirements are defined as the logical and essential steps which need to be fulfilled in order to achieve a successful end-state or a solution to a stakeholder’s business problem. These requirements drive the solution and are key to any successful solution implementation. Business analysts are the ones who not only ensure the expected solution is delivered, but they’re also the owner of the requirements handling/management process. BAs identify the right requirements and help them convert them into a form consumable by delivery teams to deliver the expected outcome in a timely manner.
Evolve Planning & Prioritization
One of the main Agile roles is to have working software all the time. This requires a delivery value in every increment. In order to achieve this, we need to prioritize the backlog continuously. The backlog is ordered usually into a sequence based on considerations like business value, risk, and strategy. These priorities usually change continuously because the business environment changes continuously so we should be able to review the backlog and adapt these priorities regularly.
Effective prioritization involves considering:
- user needs,
- business goals,
- technical feasibility,
- taking a holistic approach to rank and prioritize features and initiatives.
It is also important to have a roadmap because it keeps the team on track with business objectives and they provide visibility of how the product involves over time. In Agile, however, the roadmaps are not commitments to a fixed time and a fixed scope and the roadmap should be updated as needed.
Support the Product Owner
Most agile approaches have a specific role to represent the ultimate business decision maker, such as the role titled product owner. The product owner sets the product vision and is responsible for understanding and representing the needs of the business and user stakeholders. The product owner determines which requirements are most important prior to the start of each iteration and determines how to release value incrementally to best satisfy the needs of the product stakeholders.
A business analyst does not always have the decision-making authority necessary to be an effective product owner, but they can become indispensable by supplementing a product owner’s lack of time or business analysis skill sets.
Business analysts work closely with their product owner to position the product to best deliver value to stakeholders, in the process building their domain knowledge and experience in solving business problems. A business analyst also supports a product owner by helping them stock the product backlog and grooming the product backlog.
Act as the analysis expert/business coach on the team
During the work of an iteration, the business analyst interacts with the team, acting as the analysis specialist on the team. Some of the activities the business analyst performs or provides coaching to the team during an iteration include:
- facilitating collaboration,
- generating examples,
- transferring knowledge,
- and being a good team member.
Develop Excellent Communication Skills
To be effective as a business analyst, you should possess excellent communication skills. You should be able to get your point across and have it understood, regardless of whether you are communicating face-to-face, over the telephone, or in writing.
Great business analysts know effective communication isn’t an option; it’s a necessity,
Any hiccups in these discussions create more work for everyone involved.
wrote Kiesha Frue, in an article written for Pestle Analysis.
Agile helps to enhance communication because, for instance:
- it helps to involve the customer earlier in the process,
- you are able to actively collaborate with the team members,
- there are Agile meetings, such as daily scrum, sprint review, and sprint retrospective that also help to improve communication.
Bridge the gap between the technical team and stakeholders
Agile business analysts play a crucial role in the team by helping to bridge the gap between business stakeholders and technical experts. They work closely with stakeholders to identify and prioritize their needs and translate them into user stories for the development team.
Business analysts also help to clarify any ambiguity and ensure everyone has a mutual understanding of what needs to be done. In order to do that, many business analysts have skills in a variety of areas, such as:
- conversing with and understanding a diverse group of stakeholders,
- grasp foundational business concepts such as sales, operations, financial statements, etc.,
- understanding of how the software works as well as familiarity with as many of the key building blocks used to develop information technology systems, for instance, databases,
- strong conceptual modelling skills such as process design, data/domain modelling, and user experience design.
Embrace Change Smartly
Change is constant and we need to continuously adapt to change. By the process to accept the change at any time even late in development we end up with a process that needs to be modified. Changing the plan is easier than changing the plans that have already been done. The continuous backlog prioritization ensures that in each sprint we focus our effort on what’s most important. Early but also frequent product reviews help us gather early feedback that resolves adjusted user stories in the backlog.
Also, one of the most important skills of a Business Analyst is problem solving. Problems present an opportunity to bring value to our customers and organization. Without the crucial skill of problem solving, we are limited in our contribution to the organization as well as career growth.
Many people conduct problem solving intuitively simply by “thinking” without pausing to consider the underlying process and mechanism for problem solving. Problem solving is the science of applying logical and analytical techniques to identify the underlying cause and recommend solutions that address the root cause. Finding answers to problems will greatly enhance our performance and the quality of the final product.
As the business landscape constantly evolves, business analysts must adapt to new technologies, methodologies, and industry trends. Therefore, adopting a mindset of continuous learning, curiosity, and adaptability allows business analysts to bring fresh insights and ideas to their work.
Agile business analysis is about increasing the speed and frequency of delivery of business value to the stakeholders of the project or product being developed. It empowers organizations to adapt to changing market dynamics and achieve their strategic objectives.
Embracing these business analyst best practices represents tactics and a mindset focused on delivering value and driving growth, which is central to the business analyst role.
I believe that adopting best practices can entirely enhance a business analyst’s performance and the results within their organization.