With the ‘Agile’ methodologies taking over the traditional ones, the most profound question that comes to any business analyst’s mind is “What’s my role in an agile environment where the focus is on delivering the software, in rapid succession, iteratively and incrementally, with minimal to zero documentation?” Just a few weeks back, when I was conducting a scrum mentoring session, almost everyone had a similar question, since as per scrum, there are only three roles i.e. Product Owner, Scrum Master and Scrum team. In fact, even before we initiated the session, one of the participants walked over to me, and very hesitantly, asked me “Do you think the business analyst role will die in near future?” When I tried to inquire how many had similar thoughts in their mind, almost half of folks raised their hands. So I decided to discuss this point to the core and put all fears at rest. Hence, thought of sharing my viewpoints and perspective.
While many from the business analyst community might be pondering over this question secretly, I believe, on the contrary, the role of a business analyst has become more important than ever before since the business analyst must now play an overarching role than just managing the solution requirements as he/she used to do in traditional waterfall approach. Let me explain it why. But before that, let’s understand what value a good business analyst adds to the project:
VALUE OF A BUSINESS ANALYST
The real value of a business analyst lies in:
(1) Understands the ‘Business Needs’ of the stakeholder
(2) Elicits stakeholder requirements by asking relevant questions
(3) Synthesize the different layers of requirements coming from various stakeholder groups
(4) Conducts analysis, using appropriate tools and techniques
(5) Creates relevant documentation for the implementation team to build the solution
(6) Manages the solution requirements across the project lifecycle. Resolves conflicting requirements, and controls product’s scope.
(7) Ensures that the solution requirements are aligned to the business needs of the stakeholders, resolving conflicts (requirements/stakeholders)
(8) Manages stakeholder expectations by working very closely with the customer and other business unit stakeholders.
(9) Ensures project goal is met successfully
Now let’s put the business analyst role into each role as prescribed by Scrum (Product owner, Scrum Master and Scrum Team) and see where all a business analyst fits and what value he/she brings to the table:
(A) Business Analyst as Proxy Product Owner: Simply put, product owner owns the product (software/solution) and is a representative of the customer. He/she is that individual who has clear vision of the project, understands the actual pain points, bottlenecks, issues that exists in the ‘Current State’ (‘As-Is’) and has clear set of business needs/requirements required as part of the ‘Future State’ (To-Be).
Business analyst naturally fits into this role since that’s the very essence of the business analysis work. A business analyst can unarguably step into product owner’s shoes when there is no formal designated product owner. I have seen than happening a lot, especially when there are multiple stakeholders. In such scenario, a business analyst must work very closely with the diverse group of stakeholders (process owners, end users, departmental heads etc), who would basically acts as our source of inputs for business requirements.
If a product owner is assigned by the customer, still a business analyst can work with the product owner and help him/her in ‘Product Backlog Grooming’ activities. A business analyst can work with the product owner to groom a product backlog. More specifically:
– Identify epics
– Split epics into user stories
– Write acceptance criteria
– Create supporting documentation in terms of business process flows, data dictionary, wireframes/mockups etc
– Housekeeping activities to manage the product backlog. Duplicates, metadata, completeness etc
(B) Business Analyst as Scrum Master: Scrum master is an individual who ensures that the team is marching towards the sprint/iteration goal without any hindrance. A business analyst can aptly play the role of a scrum master and let the core scrum team focus on delivering the sprint scope. A business analyst can play the role of the scrum master by performing the following:
– Facilitate ‘Sprint Planning’ meetings
– Conduct ‘Daily Stand-Up’ meetings
– Coordinate amongst the scrum team members in order to resolve any conflict (interpersonal, intrapersonal or technical)
– Manage the sprint boards
– Provide sprint/iteration status to external stakeholders
– Monitor the burn down/burn up charts to track the status of the sprint
– Facilitate sprint review and sprint retrospective meetings
– Perform housekeeping activities such as managing documentation in a tools, moving stories into the sprint backlog, starting/closing sprints etc
(C) Business Analyst as Part of Scrum Team: Scrum team consists of anyone required to successfully build the solution (software/application) for a sprint/iteration. Though scrum team members are not tagged by roles, as in traditional environments, a typical scrum team consists of scrum master, business analysts, solution architects, developers, and automation test engineers. A business analyst can support the scrum team by conducting a requirements walk through sessions (review user stories, acceptance criteria etc), fill the gaps identified by the scrum team, help identify the defects/bugs (another pair of eyes) by doing functional testing for the sprint/iteration specific user stories
So, as we can see, a business analyst carries more value than ever before. Unlike traditional waterfall model, where requirements analysis phase is ‘Compartmentalized’ and requires little to no requirements supports once the development phase begins, due to the ‘Iterative and Incremental’ approach and ‘Continuous Product Backlog Grooming’, a business analyst will be required to shoulder more responsibilities in terms of (a) playing the role of product owner or working very closely with him/her, (b) playing the role of a scrum master and (c) support the core sprint team to deliver the user stories.
Please share your thoughts, opinions, and experience with regards to this article.
Hello. My name is Chetan Mehta (CBAP®, PMP®, BPM). I, along with some like-minded professionals, founded Skillcubator Inc where we conduct training, coaching and mentoring programs in areas of business architecture, business analysis, business process management, CBAP®, PBA® and PMP® certifications. I hold BS in marketing/economics, an MBA in Int’l finance and currently work as a ‘Lead Business Analyst’ for ‘Booz Allen Hamilton’. I am so passionate about these subjects that it always keeps me motivated to explore more, read more, learn more and thereby enrich my understanding on these topics.more