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Agile Business Analysis: An Introduction

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In today’s blog, we will take a few minutes to introduce the topic of conducting business analysis in an Agile environment, including what it is, the agile BA mindset, and the 7 principles of Agile business analysis.

Business Analysis in an Agile World

Intense business environments of today are driven by uncertainty and the high speed of change. Two practices that help organizations effectively meet those challenges are business analysis and Agile. BA skills are just as important in an agile (adaptive) environment as a waterfall (predictive) environment; however, there are additional techniques that can be used in an Agile environment and the timing of the work will be different.

For example, in a predictive environment, most of the business analysis effort occurs during the initial phases of the project, a phase often called “analysis.” The focus during this phase is on eliciting, organizing, prioritizing, modeling, and documenting requirements. Once this is done, the documentation gets passed on sequentially to the designers, developers, and testers to do their work. The business analyst in this approach often reports to the project manager.

In an Agile environment, business analysts are involved full time on the project. They support solution design, development, and testing. They are full-time members of the “Development Team”; their focus is on defining and delivering value while supporting, coaching, and mentoring the “Product Owner.” Agile business analysis is the resulting sweet spot for today’s most marketable project professionals. In fact, business analysis has become a core competency for any organization that appreciates the skills needed to align business and stakeholder needs with all aspects of the solution.

What is Agile Business Analysis?

Simply put, Agile business analysis is the practice of business analysis in an Agile environment with an Agile mindset. The focus is maximizing business value of any solution and applying the Agile principles of inspecting and adapting.

What is an Agile Mindset?

An Agile BA mindset guides the business analyst and their way of working. It aligns with the Agile principles, especially with the key elements of inspecting and adapting. It means you focus on delivering value rapidly and consistently, collaborate with others to get the work done, iterate to continually learn, simplify to avoid waste, and consider the context in which you are working.  In short, it means continually inspecting, reflecting, and adapting to both the current realities and business/team feedback in order to ensure the highest quality product has been created.

7 Principles of Agile Business Analysis

The International Institute of Business Analysis™ (IIBA®) has identified 7 principles of Agile business analysis. Although these principles focus on Agile business analysis, these principles are good for business analysts no matter what approach they are following (waterfall, hybrid, or Agile).

  1. See the Whole – Business analysts need to see the big picture and understand how everything in the organization fits together. Solution value is created through gaining a thorough understanding of the context, the solution, and the stakeholders.
  2. Think as a Customer – Business analysts need to thoroughly understand their customer needs. They must ensure any solution incorporates the customer need through a clear understanding of the expected user experience.
  3. Analyze to Determine What is Valuable – Working with other members of the Development Team, the business analyst must continuously assess and prioritize the work that must be done in order to maximize the delivered value.
  4. Get Real Using Examples – To facilitate a shared understanding, the business analyst can use models and real examples to help understand the need and how the solution satisfies that need.
  5. Understand What is Doable – Understand how to deliver a solution within constraints such as time, resources, team skills, and technology.
  6. Stimulate Collaboration and Continuous Improvement – Business analysts continually collaborate with stakeholders who have a need and those delivering a solution to meet that need. The Agile mindset uses feedback, both structured and unstructured, for continuous improvement.
  7. Avoid Waste – The business analyst can help identify the value-add activities, such as creating documentation only when needed, ensuring commitments are met, avoiding rework, making models as simple as possible, and ensuring clear and effective communication. They can also identify non-value-add activities, including any activity that does not contribute to the goal of meeting the business need. 

So, reflecting on these seven principles, how many do you consistently apply today in your projects? We would love to hear from you.

Continue reading for Part 2 where we further explore the role a business analyst plays in an Agile environment and how business analysis skills can be leveraged in an Agile Environment.

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