The Role of the Business Analyst in an Agile World
There is growing belief that Agile has killed the business analyst (BA). I would like to say that this is not true, but it doesn’t mean that something can’t be learned from this statement.
As a BA your position in the business environment is constantly under threat. Whether it is due to outdated methodologies or changing business environments, the role of the BA is shifting. It isn’t a case of whether BAs are still necessary, but rather what a BA would look like in an Agile world.
Who is the traditional business analyst?
The traditional business analyst records the needs and wants of the stakeholders and relays those requirements to the development team. The core principle of business analysis is to maximise the value delivered by an organisation to its stakeholders.
The BA forms the bridge between the organisation delivering the product and the stakeholders. The focus is not on software, but rather on providing solutions to business problems and to facilitate the development process.
What is Agile?
Agile is a set of methods and principles for software development. It is a response to outdated software development methods and seeks to uncover better ways of developing software to adapt in an unstable business environment.
Traditional software development attempts to finish the project in larger stages rather than sprints. Potential changes or issues are mapped out at the start of the project.
Agile software development builds software incrementally. The focus is on adaptability as work is broken down into small sprints and reviewed and changed at the end of each sprint. Agile is essentially a collaborative team effort; it uses the combined skills of a diverse group of people, rather than just the skills of developers.
With this focus on a collaborative effort, the Agile manifesto outlines four core principles:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
There is a clear focus on adaptability and a strong relationship between the team and the stakeholders. This is effectively the role of the traditional business analyst. If the principles are the core of Agile, then any environment or person who adopts these principles becomes ‘Agile’.
So what does this mean for the traditional business analyst?
Business analysis: from Traditional to Agile
The business analyst isn’t dead; they have simply become an Agile business analyst. Agile business analysts aren’t Agile because they work in an Agile software development team but because they hold the Agile principles. Then how do we define an Agile business analyst?
An Agile business analyst can be defined by the following characteristics:
- Adaptable: Agile requires you be adaptable and constantly open to change. This has been a key definer of the traditional BA as they have always needed to adapt to the business process.
- Goal Oriented: The goal of the Agile BA is to bring value to an organisation by solving business problems. The Agile BA must always be able to see the bigger picture and how that fits in with the development process.
- Innovation: As with everything the Agile BA does, business problem solving is at the heart of it. The Agile BA must constantly look for new approaches to solving a problem; you must constantly innovate.
- Leadership: Because collaboration and communication are at the heart of an Agile environment, the Agile BA must foster these principles and facilitate communication between the team and the stakeholders.
- Empathy: The Agile BA deals with the business sponsor, customers, users, solution team, technical personnel and management. They are the mediator and therefore a large amount of empathy is needed to be the link between all the boundaries.
- Business Oriented: While the Agile software development team is focused on the technological issues the Agile BA is focussed on the needs of the business and the project.
- Anticipation: The Agile BA must constantly anticipate a problem and the impact of that problem not only on a specific business area, but on the whole organisation.
Agile is a way of working. The traditional business analyst is not dying, but changing, constantly adapting in a changing business environment. The role of the BA has become Agile and has an important part to play in a dynamic world.
Fluidity is a Cape Town based software development company that has built their reputation on their ability to meet the needs of customers with the innovative power of tech.
Fluidity believes that companies who adapt will ultimately survive and thrive, and that innovation and technology is key to those ends. They partner with their clients as they help them innovate and compete with software solutions that create results.