Business Analysts & Agile Frameworks

A picture depicting an agile business analyst, created by DLT Labs
A picture depicting an agile business analyst, created by DLT Labs

There have been many assumptions and misinterpretations about the role of the business analyst in agile project management. But what is the add-in value that a business analyst brings to agile project management i.e. will BA’s role bridge in to provide add-in value in an agile environment?

Today we explore the role of a business analyst to see how they can bring in value to agile management teams.

Business Analysts Identify and Solve Problems Within Organizations

Nowadays, IT firms are trying to put business analysts closer to the management and client services teams. Such employees tend to work with leadership to find out problems and probable solutions to it. Mainly, three points are being addressed while finding solutions:

  1. Real needs or problem of a business
  2. Means to solve needs or problems
  3. Best fits to firm’s existing framework or goals

A business analyst needs to consider each of the above-mentioned points. Otherwise the development team will deliver something that will not solve the right problem or will solve them inappropriately.

The main problem in the role of a business analyst in agile management may be the management methodology itself.

Business analysts have a defined role in waterfall project management, but this isn’t a case in agile management. But, this doesn’t mean the role of a BA is any less important.

The term “developer” doesn’t only refer to employees writing codes. It also refers to implementation teams, QA team and support staff who provide necessary help in achieving the scrum masters’ and product owners’ goals.

Due to this reason agile encourages cross-functional teams. This way the team is not reliant on one person to perform specific tasks and provides room for BAs to step in wherever they are needed.

Business analysts might not be 100% comfortable in the development team. This can lead to conflict as they try to figure out where they stand in an organization.

BAs end up helping the Product Owner as a team assistant and developing user stories. The idea is not to find out what a BA’s role is, but rather create a customized role to fit the needs of teams, product owners and clients/customers.

The Dangers of Proxy Product Owner —

BAs may try to position themselves second to Product Owners which can be counterproductive. This is a potentially serious role understanding problem as “Proxy Product Owner”. The bone of contention here is that the product owner still has all the decision-making power in a project.

This can be confusing for team members. They will begin turning to the business analyst, resulting in projects slowing down due to gaps in communication and breaking up of role expectations.

The Product Owner’s confidence too can diminish as his decision making power is now in question.

Such a situation can be made worse if management decides to intervene and enforce their control without having to do actual work as is required from the Product Owner’s role.

Very soon the entire project team can start feeling there are too many managers and leaders within a project team, and not enough hands executing the work.

It is a strict “NO” for a Business Analyst to perform a “Proxy Product Owner” role in which they work as an assistant. But they can step into a “Product Owner” role full time.

This is a natural extension to a Business Analyst’s role. To fulfil the role of a Product Owner, the business analyst must acquire new skill sets along with full control of product ownership.

This role is undervalued in an Agile context. But if a company’s goal is to get a team to discover the best possible solution, a business analyst who can make such a transition is a gem.

Business Analysts Can Help or Hurt the Organisation

BAs work in the background to provide the necessary support and mediation to remove/overcome any obstacles.

The Business Analyst’s effectiveness defines the management’s mindset as to how they are being utilized. Agile practices and business analysis is of very high value to management when they are leveraged effectively together.

BAs organize the backlog, find out effective business processes, and draft micro requirements to make tasks more digestible.

BAs work in the background to provide the necessary support and mediation to remove/overcome any obstacles.

Failures occur when Business Analysts try to find the role they are best suited for without any guidance or if they mould into proxies for other team leaders.

Management should have a strong vision in mind about what a Business Analyst does. A BA faces multiple issues in an Agile environment if they are not proper directed and guided:

  1. Product Owner or overall vision can be influenced by strong personalities.
  2. Stakeholders can be influenced by a Business Analyst’s research and ideas.
  3. Business Analysts conduct unnecessary analysis and can overthink which can slow down the project’s progress.
  4. They can reduce opportunities for other team members to show their leadership and communication skills.

Eventually, problems occur when Business Analysts are not provided with a clear role and try to make a useful contribution to the project themselves. They end up getting in the way!

Business Analysts Have Skills That are Valued on Most Teams

It’s very disheartening that businesses aren’t aware of exactly what to do with their Business Analysts, as they are the most valuable sources of information within an organization and can be used in various ways.

The traits of a successful Business Analyst are such that they can comfortably fit in various aspects of an organization.

Business Analysts are trained to be value-driven and convey stories with the information they have. The traits are closely aligned with the principles of Agile Management for most teams!

Author — Santosh Kumar, DLT Labs

About the Author: He is cheerful advocate of Agile (SCRUM) practices with an emphasis on leading team growth, working with DLT Labs as a Senior Business Analyst. He is a result-oriented professional translating business user concepts and ideas into comprehensive business requirements.

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A DLT Labs Logo

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