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Role of a Business Analyst in the Agile World

Aug 14, 2019

By Chandrababu Mandadi

Agile is defined as collaboration among stakeholders to deliver value to customers in frequent increments with consistent         reflection and adoption. This definition focuses on the characteristics that exist in all agile environments.

Collaboration refers to thepeople involved in the effort work together which includes both the delivery team and project stakeholders.

Deliver value implies thetrue purpose of efforts which provide value to customers, whether that is through new software, more efficient processes or new products.

Frequent increments – the  team delivers value every few days, weeks, or months rather than once at the end of a project.

Consistent reflection and adaptation – theproject team reflects on their approach and the product on a regular basis and adjusts accordingly.

Agile Roles –  There are four primary roles included in an agile project.

The Product Owner is the ultimate decision maker for the product. This role is responsible for defining the product vision, prioritizing features according to business value, and answering team questions.

Business Analyst (BA) as a Business Advisor approach has 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 BA 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.

A BA supports a product owner by helping them analyze the business domain, stocking the product backlog, and grooming the product backlog.

Analyze the Business Domain – TheBA helps the team and product owner to understand and describe the business domain and problem to be solved by facilitating the discussion that explores the following questions:

  • What business processes need to be revised, created or eliminated?
  • What information do we want to know about and track about various entities?
  • What stakeholders (such as customers, suppliers, vendors) and systems are involved in the effort?
  • What policies and rules guide business behavior and decision?

The BA helps the team decide if the requirement models are useful beyond the life of the project. Factors to include in the decision are the effort required to keep the model up to date and the value of the model after the code.

Stock the Product Backlog to establish a list of user stories that represent the overall scope of the project. A user story briefly describes functionality or a feature valuable to either a user or customer of a system or a solution.

The BA helps the product owner, stakeholders, and the team to create stories as a reminder to deliver some functionality represented by the models or discussed in a conversation. Stories can be delivered from requirements models such as data models, process flows, workflow diagrams, use cases, business rules and user interface diagrams.

Stories can be delivered from requirement models such as data models, process flows, workflow diagram, use cases, business rules and user interface diagrams.

Groom the Product Backlog to maintain the product backlog so that it remains a tool for the product owner and team and not a burden.

The BA helps the product owner groom the product backlog by considering purpose, prioritizing the stories, operating the stories, splitting epics into user stories, and ensure a complete description of the solution.

He can help the product owner, order the product backlog by providing information on stakeholder’s perceived value of the various items in the product backlog. The model does not provide guidance on priority, but there are other techniques used to gather priority information from multiple stakeholders. Two of these techniques are value points and buying features.

In the value points approach, stakeholders are asked to get together as a group and indicate the relative value of stories in comparison to other stories in an approach similar to planning poker.

Business Analyst as Business Coach During iteration, the business analyst interacts with the team, acting as the analysis specialist in the team. Some of the activities the business analyst performs or provides coaching to the team during iteration include facilitating collaboration, generating examples, transferring knowledge, and being a good team member.

Facilitate Collaboration – within the team and between the team and team and stakeholders is vital for project success. Business analysts facilitate collaboration through helping with stakeholder analysis and acting as a language coach.

The BA has clear understanding of the stakeholders involved in the project so they can provide suggestions about which stakeholders that team member should talk to, for relevant information. Once they have helped their teammates identify the appropriate stakeholders to talk to, business analysts turn their experience translating “business speak” into “technical speak” and vice versa by helping team members from different backgrounds and team members and stakeholders “speak the same language”.

Generate Examples – Teams in an agile environment use examples to clearly communicate business intent, provide more detail about stories, and to confirm those stories were delivered properly. Examples are a good technique for remembering the information discussed during conversations, communicating that information to the team members who will deliver the user story, and for confirming the user story was delivered properly.

Transfer Knowledge – The BA along with the product owner have the best grasp of the big picture of the project and where it fits within the organization strategy. They spend a considerable amount of time during the work of the iteration transferring to the other team members the information gained while they were acting as a business advisor.

The best way to transfer that knowledge is to involve the team members in the analysis of the business domain and the stocking and grooming of the backlog.

Be a Good Team Member – B  BA gets the opportunity to help their teammates clear bottlenecks. Doing this improves relationships with the other team members and gives the BA an opportunity to expand their toolkit and learn new skillset through performing tasks.

Key BA Skills for Agile Projects – high-performance business analysis professional in the team increases the likelihood that the resulting product meets true business needs and fits in well with the current business environment.

Key business analyst skills that an agile project needs are;

  • Understanding of the business that the project is involved with
  • Ability to see the big picture and provide solutions
  • Outstanding verbal and non-verbal communication skills
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Ability to facilitate a team to consensus on scope, design decision, and implementation
  • Ability to ask strong questions to help team
  • Ability to document requirements
  • Understanding of the agile development process
  • Ability to lead the team for project completion

About the Author:

Chandrababu Mandadi is a Lead Consultant @ GAVS. An accomplished, result-driven and highly analytical professional with expertise in driving client and software development life cycle in Agile and Waterfall methodologies across US Healthcare and Life Insurance domain.

Passionate about:

  • Leadership and client management.
  • Data Analytics.
  • New Technologies.
  • Interacting with Businesspeople to understand and help them on their Business obstacles.