Thursday, 29 September 2016 08:32

Why Does an Agile Approach Work?

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I’ve been working with an Agile approach for decades, and I know it works.

Before we get into why Agile works, let’s go over what an Agile approach entails. Agile has been around for a while; however, many organisations are just starting to use this approach. Depending on who you talk to, it could mean many different things. However, there are a few well-described approaches these days, unlike when I started working in Agile environments in the late 1990s.

Related Article: Snake Oil or Miracle Cure? Is Agile All It's Cracked Up To Be?

Scrum, Kanban, Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), DSDM, DAD, and SAFe are all suitable Agile approaches. Each approach has challenges but, used well they can provide enormous value to organizations.

Here's the thing about an Agile approach.

Agile is a state of mind, a series of techniques, and an approach to software development. The ability of the business to adapt and change should set the iteration cycles.

Planning is vital with an Agile approach, and experience is the key to getting things sorted before the gun goes off for the sprints. Just enough analysis and tailored artifacts to deliver the business need is Agile thinking!

Think carefully about scaling so all teams are coordinated to deliver the strategy, remembering that Agile still focusses on business needs and strategy. High-performance teams are built on trust, communication, and a clearly articulated goal on how improvements to business performance are going to be achieved—you are not just building funky software.

Design and build a maturity roadmap so your organisation becomes more Agile over time.

An Agile approach to business analysis works for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, an Agile approach is more likely to break down projects and initiatives into smaller iterations - but so what? Well, this process should force you to define and divide your scope into smaller defined pieces, which will help you to find success in your project. Because you have good project or initiative design, you are more likely to be successful.

Further, Agile teams encourage people to collaborate and play nicely—which, again, is a winner.

Another side effect of an Agile approach is having more control of vendor interactions; some organizations engage vendors with a “silver bullet” mentality, asking the vendor to solve problems and take advantage of opportunities for them. Often they ask a systems integrator to elicit requirements, specify, design, and recommend a solution—and this often results in a conflict-of-interest arrangement.

Outsourcing critical business thinking is never a good idea—every organization must take control of good thinking!

Here's an example of a good business analysis using an Agile approach.

The client, a large insurance organisation, briefed Business Analysts Pty Ltd (BAPL) to assist them in implementing a new system that would underpin their financial support functions. The existing financial support systems had reached end-of-life and were to be replaced with a new solution, Microsoft Dynamics.

The organization selected an Agile approach to delivery, but wanted to retain the function of business analysis to ensure quality requirements were achieved and adequate process modelling was carried out to provide context, scope, and to assist in change management and training.

With a depth of experience in Agile software delivery amassed over the last ten years, Business Analysts Pty Ltd worked with the development team and subject-matter experts to assist in eliciting the business need. Using BAPL’s knowledge of Agile and process-driven requirements, we were able to seamlessly integrate with the established project team and provide value from the outset.

BAPL played a key role in breaking down epics into manageable user stories without impacting the established velocity of the development team. Additionally, by extending the focus to business process, working with the subject-matter experts,
and aligning the user stories to these processes, the development team were given greater context for the purpose of their task.

Some of the key successes:

• improved scope management and traceability of user stories to key business processes and business outcomes
• greater context to user stories, providing greater clarity of requirements and higher quality functionality
• improved change management and training
• greater alignment between the business and software.

Every organization performs business analysis and good business analysis is all about better business performance. Together, technology and good business analysis is the key to superior results.

Good business analysis is the foundation for organizational

• innovation
• business agility
• cost reduction
• cyber security
• risk control
• technology efficiency.

As organizations look to become more innovative to survive and prosper with technology in overcrowded industries, good business analysis is critical. Businesses today are more competitive than ever, and good business analysis through an Agile approach can give organizations the differentiating edge they require to prosper.

Is your organization ready for an Agile approach?

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Tim Coventry

TopContributorTim is the CEO for Business Analysts Pty Ltd (BAPL) - an expert business analysis company offering business analyst services for to ASX listed & private companies, government and not for profit organisations. APL is an Australian owned and operated company with 50 consultants operating from offices in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. Internal practice uplift allows us to quickly ramp up with demand and maintain a very high level of competency.

With over 22 years’ experience and a strong contribution to business analysis across the globe, Tim is an acknowledged expert in his professional field.

Tim has expertise in all phases of the solution delivery life cycle with substantial practical experience in strategic analysis, business process analysis, requirements, tendering and evaluation and software implementation. He holds a Bachelor of Education, Workplace Category IV Trainer and Assessor Certificate, and is a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP).

Tim has presented at the BA World Symposiums in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, Building Business Capability in 2013 and 2014, PMI EMEA Global Congress 2015, IIBA Australia Chapter BA Professional Day 2013 and 2015 and participates regularly in International Institute for Business Analysis (IIBA®) forums.

With a strong background in education and assessment Tim has a keen interest in business analysis competency models, is an author of the IIBA® Competency Model and is a past IIBA® Australia Chapter President.

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