Naturally, the work takes new forms. To sum up the changes in the BA’s role, Roman Pichler says “just like other specialized roles, working on the team means engaging in a broad range of activities and becoming what’s sometimes called a generalist-specialist.”
Pichler says a BA may take on the Product Owner role or, as a team member, support the team with product backlog grooming activities. Grooming includes unpacking and refining requirements; this might be closest to a BA’s traditional role with the different that this function is conducted as a team.
Because of the collaborative style of a Scrum team, it’s likely that a BA has time to pick up other responsibilities and tasks. Working with the testers or the technical writer are the examples provided by Pichler.
Here’s what a BA did on one of our short Scrum projects. The BA was nearly full time on our project and was one of five staff provided by the client on a team of eight.
The BA supported the Product Owner by:
- researching the background for user stories
- meeting with parts of the client’s business to establish what we needed, what they were doing and how that might impact our work.
The BA worked with the Scrum team by:
- hunting out buried documentation about the system we were modifying
- assisting with the preparation of wireframes
- writing and quality assuring test cases
- writing copy and getting sign off for it.
And just like everyone on the Scrum team, the BA went to all stand ups, planning meetings and retrospectives. Their tasks were posted on the Scrum board alongside all other team members’ tasks. Despite the lack of requirements, use cases and reports, our BA was busy, productive and immensely valuable.
As more organizations experiment with Agile, in all its various forms, Business Analysts may find that their typical roles and responsibilities change. While there is undoubtedly still the same work to be done, it may take on different forms and involve different people. Anyone who has been on several Agile projects to teams will tell you that few, if any, Agile teams operate exactly the same way, use the same processes, or follow the same standards. Each group determines the best mix of processes, documents, interactions and activities to service their customer.
As a result, Business Analysts need to be open to different ideas and opportunities within an Agile environment. If you’re stripped of your title or self-contained office, do not take it personally. If another team member starts writing down requirements don’t feel as if you’re devalued. The goal of an Agile team is to leverage everyone’s knowledge, experience and talents to the benefit of the customer. Work with the other team members to find how you can best contribute. Typically this will involve many traditional Business Analyst tasks, but don’t be surprised if you end up doing something you never thought you would do.
Business Analysts play an important role in any team, Agile or otherwise. As the world continues to find ways to deliver value in shorter timeframes with less cost, Business Analyst can continue to leverage their communication, business knowledge and analytical skills to meet the needs of their organization.