We start most of our classes with introductions. Participants tell the rest of the class a little bit about themselves, their work, and what they hope to learn during their time with us. Most students include their job title as part of the introduction. Over time, we’ve noticed that fewer and fewer participants actually have the title “Business Analyst”.
What’s up with that?
Where did the Business Analyst role go?
Over time, we’ve noticed that fewer and fewer of our students actually have the title “Business Analyst”. Elimination of the Business Analyst title seems to coincide with the emergence of agile approaches and the roles associated with them. Like it or not, there has always been some resistance to BA work in organizations. We hear comments like:
- “They just document the information that comes from other people with no real value-add.”
- “Our business people define the requirements.”
- “Anyone on the team can do business analysis.”
- “Business Analysts just slow down the project and cause paralysis.”
As we all know, there is no “Business Analyst” role in agile. Companies seem to see that and say, “Woohoo! We just need our business people and some developers and it’ll all be good! We don’t need those pesky BAs and all their questions any more!”
So how’s that working out for you?
Agile encourages teams to “fail fast”. Interestingly enough, when retrospectives uncover issues or unhappy customers speak up, comments like these tend to surface:
- “There wasn’t enough analysis.”/” We need more analysis.”
- “This was a missed requirement; how did we miss it?”
- “This just doesn’t work for me; it’s not what I need.”
It’s interesting to see poor business analysis is the root cause of so many product issues, even in agile teams.
Business Analysis enables Business Agility
A contributing factor seems to be the agile term “development team.” So if it’s called a “development team, it must be a team full of developers, right?
Actually, no. In this context, a development team encompasses everyone that is involved in getting the solution ready to deliver to the customer. In fact, we find that using the term “delivery team” helps people understand the concept better. Within an agile delivery/development team three key functions exist: analysis, development, and testing.
If businesses want to quicky develop products and services that deliver value and exceed customer expectations, business analysis skills are critical to success. Notice the use of the term business analysis skills, not Business Analyst. The person’s title is irrelevant, but someone with the right skills must be doing this work. In fact, this skill set is actually more important than ever.
Why? Because it’s a VUCA world, my friends! Our world is:
- V – Volatile
- U – Uncertain
- C – Complex
- A – Ambiguous
The pace of change and innovation are faster than ever. Organizations can’t fall behind if they want to survive. The business analysis skillset is critical in ensuring that needs are fully understood, and that time isn’t being wasted on work that doesn’t deliver value.
The Agile Extension to the BABOK® defines agile business analysis as:
“…the practice of business analysis in an agile context with an agile mindset. Agile business analysis can provide a competitive advantage in fast-paced and complex-environments and has moved beyond software development initiatives to any business domain. Organizations have adopted agile practices at all levels of planning and in many diverse business areas.”
It goes on to say:
“Agile business analysis activities play a central role in learning and identifying what is truly valuable, what does not add value, and facilitate the learning and communication needed to continually deliver the right value….
“Agile business analysis supports an environment of creativity, rapid learning, and experimentation which leads to innovation.”
We’re all familiar with case studies of organizations that couldn’t adapt or innovate quickly enough to address changes in the marketplace – Sears, anyone? The recent pandemic was another test of organizational agility. Organizations had to quickly change the way they did business, particularly anything that involved face-to-face contact with customers. Even more importantly, though, they had to get the changes right – which is where agile business analysis comes into play.
Late in the pandemic, a student from an insurance company shared this story with us. Their organization needed a way to capture legally required signatures from customers without having the customer appear in person at an agent’s office. Management decided to create and launch a mobile app that could capture digital signatures. Off the team went – and built a really great app – only to discover after launch that a significant portion of their customer base lived in very rural areas with little to no cell coverage.
By contrast, thousands of restaurants and retailers developed contactless ordering and delivery methods that enabled their organizations to survive – and sometime even thrive. That didn’t happen by accident. Successful implementations were enabled by thorough analysis throughout the project.
How else does business analysis promote agility?
The BABOK® defines seven principles of agile analysis that guide agile business analysis practitioners. To briefly summarize them:
- See the whole. Focus on the “big picture”, ensuring that the context for the change is clearly understood. Assess how the solution will deliver value by understanding the reason for the need and the value that will be created.
- Think as a customer. Incorporate the voice of the customer. An initial high-level view of customer needs is typically decomposed into an increasingly detailed understanding of those needs. Feedback and learning is incorporated into future iterations as solution delivery progresses.
- Analyze to determine what is valuable. Continuously assess and prioritize work to be done in order to maximize value delivery. This includes avoiding waste by maximizing the amount of work not done.
- Get real using examples. Develop a shared understanding of the need and how the solution will satisfy that need by iteratively developing analysis models. Engage stakeholders continuously throughout the process.
- Understand what is doable. Understand the constraints that limit your solution choices as options are explored. Also consider limitations such as team capacity and velocity to set reasonable expectations for the team.
- Stimulate collaboration and continuous improvement. Agile approaches emphasize continuous improvement. Seek to continuously improve the solution as well as the processes used to develop and deliver the solution. Capture feedback, both structured and unstructured, to identify opportunities for improvement.
- Avoid waste. Identify activities which add value and activities which do not add value. Any activity that does not contribute directly to satisfying the customer’s need is waste.
Business analysis is here to stay!
It’s important to realize that change is now constant and that the next major disruption could be just around the corner. Agile business analysis practitioners are uniquely positioned to lead transformation efforts large and small. The ability to leverage our skillset for the advantage of our teams and organizations is limitless. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
If you’re ready to learn more, our Agile Analysis Boot Camp may be just the right learning opportunity for you. Building on skills and techniques learned in our Essential Skills for Business Analysis class, it walks business analysis practitioners through applying their skills in an agile environment. Check it out the full course description and outline!
Managing Partner, Lead Expert
Kathy Claycomb brings over 35 years of experience to the classroom. She has participated in all phases of solution development using everything from agile to waterfall methodologies (and quite a few in between). Before joining B2T, her career spanned roles from application developer to Senior Director of Services at various organizations. Kathy has broad industry background including transportation, manufacturing, insurance, energy, healthcare, and banking.
Kathy’s first love is teaching, and throughout her career she has always managed to spend a portion of her time instructing. She has an engaging, highly interactive teaching style that ensures students leave the course with a thorough grasp of the material. Her students consistently praise her teaching abilities and her talent for drawing on her personal experience to enhance their learning.
Kathy served as the Technical Editor for Business Analysis for Dummies, 2nd Edition.