Like any other disruption – Business analysis as a profession has been challenged as never before. Business analysts sometimes struggle to answer the following question of how is the agile world different from the traditional methodology of business analysis and how to adapt and respond to this change.
Let us first look at why and who is a Business analyst. A business analyst is someone who helps solve Enterprise problems – someone who bridges the gap between Customer and Technology. Business stakeholders seek those Business analysts (s) who can efficiently perform Enterprise analysis, conduct elicitation to bring out the real business need and deliver a solution which will solve those business-critical problems.
To respond to this paradigm shift and still be the trusted partner to our Customers and Business stakeholders, we ( business analysts) need to introspect the roles and responsibilities as well as the mindset that we bring to the table when we work in the Agile world. In traditional project delivery methodology, Business analysts are responsible for documenting business requirements and develop the functional/non-functional specifications and heaps of other documents and processes. Obviously, over a period of time, Business analysts start to feel that they the real owners of the project. To technology team Business analysts are face and voice of Customers. Without a doubt, this approach means heaps of responsibility on the shoulders of Business analysts and makes them an integral part of the project, but at the same time, there are few major pitfalls of that approach as described below.
Firstly, there is more than required dependency on the Business analyst(s) for a successful outcome of the project which sometimes may be demotivating for other team members. To add to that requirement put forth by traditional BA(s) to the team are documented in a way that it not only specifies the “WHAT” but also that is documented in a way that guides the “HOW” of the solution. which may not deliver the best Customer outcome(s)
As stated the four values of agile delivery are:
- Individuals and Interactions Over Processes and Tools. ...
- Working Software Over Comprehensive Documentation. ...
- Customer Collaboration Over Contract Negotiation. ...
- Responding to Change Over Following a Plan.
What that means to for Agile Business Analysts is People, Interactions, Collaboration and ability to adapt and change. How that will help us deliver to business goals.
Firstly, the willingness to adapt and learn. A business analyst has to deal with a new set of problems on a regular day to day basis and no two business or Customer will have exactly the same problem, nor they want exactly the same solution. At the least, the stakeholder expects a better solution. A key to achieve a successful outcome for a business analyst is to have those interactions with Customer and understanding the real need as well as facilitate discussions which will help deliver a better end result for the Customer. A mindset which focuses on the willingness to learn and change – will have key traits of Respect, Collaboration, and interactions, which in turn will help deliver better customer outcomes.
Secondly, People and Interactions. A traditional approach to business analysis is focussed around processes and documentation – what is not documented does not make its way to the solution, and that is the last thing that we would like to deliver as a valued outcome. They ( Customers ) want us to read their mind and deliver a solution which would solve problems which were not documented. A mindset which is people focussed over processes - will focus more on interactions and understanding the real needs as opposed to documentation – as well as work as an enabler who helps facilitate positive and healthy interactions inside and outside of team – thereby bringing in more brain power and valuable insights into each and every discussion. This translates into a healthy team culture, where people will take ownership and be open to ideas and interactions. A people-focused Business analyst will restrict themselves from dictating what and how but transform them as an enabler of how to achieve a better customer outcome. A big win of this mindset is getting insight into real Customer need and deliver a solution which not only meets business criteria but also delivers a value to our Customers
Lastly but not the least, responding to change. Any business problem is subject to change over a period of time, be it not being a problem anymore or change of priority or how to solve it. A key to success for an Agile business analyst is to understand this pertinent fact that requirements can change over time and hence deliver is short chunks to not only deliver quick wins but also de-risk the outcomes and at the same time have the willingness to respond to changing situations. This is a change of mindset over traditional approach but also enables the Business analyst with the flexibility of dealing with changes in a more collaborative manner.
To summarise, given the world we are in today, the skills of traditional Business analysts still hold good but it is about customer-centric delivery, where our outcomes must meet or exceed the expectations, and a true way to do deliver on that promise for an Agile Business analyst is to adapt to agile mindset.