The Power of the Agile Business Analyst: 30 surprising ways a business analyst can add value to your Agile development

In this blog, international solutions consultant, speaker and award-winning author Jamie Lynn Cooke discusses her book The Power of the Agile Business Analyst – 30 surprising ways a business analyst can add value to your Agile development team, which details how Agile teams can leverage the skills of an Agile business analyst to maximize the relevance and value of their solutions.

Agile approaches go to great lengths to provide developers with the foundation they need to deliver high-value software solutions. There is, however, relatively little equivalent support provided for the business users.

In most Agile methods, the business user is solely responsible for the identification, requirements gathering, valuation and assignment of priorities for their requested system capabilities.

Agile development teams rely on business users having sufficient knowledge, vision, objectivity, and time to ensure that these capabilities provide the highest value business solution.

In an ideal world, the business users who work with the Agile development team would be intimately familiar with the requirements of every business area impacted by the delivered solution (and the relative priority of each requested capability).

They would also be objective enough to see the solution beyond their current work practices, and would fully understand the policy, regulatory, and technical constraints of every feature in the solution.

In this perfect scenario, the business users would also be continually available to work with the development team throughout the project timeline to investigate their questions, provide real-time feedback on the system capabilities in progress, resolve any conflicting input from stakeholders (and management), and prepare the intended users – and the organization overall – for upcoming software releases.

The reality, however, is that business users are often juggling their involvement on the Agile project with their other fulltime commitments, rarely able to provide the Agile team with the level of dedicated support needed to ensure the highest business value solution is delivered.

Why is this book necessary?

The Power of the Agile Business Analyst – 30 surprising ways a business analyst can add value to your Agile development team challenges whether Agile projects are truly positioned to deliver the highest-value business solutions without offering business users the equivalent level of support, validation, and collaboration that is provided for the Agile development team.

To address that challenge, this book encourages organizations to include an Agile business analyst on every Agile team, so that they can provide business users with the support they need, as well as a valuable resource to assist the Agile developers in their analysis, design, testing, and implementation work throughout the project.

Epics and user stories are just the beginning of what an Agile business analyst can do for your team. They can work with the business users to gather requirements from all relevant stakeholders, objectively assess the business value and priority of each capability, ensure compliance with regulations, and find viable alternatives to satisfy business requirements.

They can work with the Agile teams on requirements clarification, user interface design, data migrations, systems integrations, documentation, release notes, and testing. With each new release, they can assist in user adoption, training, cross-organizational communication, and acquiring funding for ongoing project work.

Most importantly, the Agile business analyst can provide business continuity for the Agile team when the business users are unavailable due to their primary commitments.

This book shows you exactly how an Agile business analyst can maximize your Agile development work and significantly increase the value and relevance of your project outcomes.

Who is the book for?

This book is essential reading for anyone who has a stake in the successful delivery of an Agile project, including the Agile team members, their management, the business users, and the executives who are funding the initiative.

Contents:

Chapter 1: What is Agile?

Provides a high-level overview of what Agile approaches are, who uses them, and the most common Agile methods in use.

Chapter 2: The power and perils of Agile

Identifies the limitations in current Agile approaches that can affect the business value of your delivered solution.

Chapter 3: Why your team needs an Agile business analyst

Introduces the discussion on how including a skilled business analyst can add significant value to your Agile team.

Chapter 4: What are the risks of not having an Agile business analyst?

Describes key issues that can arise when business users do not receive the same level of support as developers on an Agile project.

Chapter 5: 30 ways for the Agile business analyst to add value to your project

Details 30 specific activities the Agile business analyst can do to assist the business users and the Agile developers throughout the project.

Chapter 6: Getting the right Agile business analyst for your team

Provides you with guidelines on how to hire the right Agile business analyst for your team. It also offers

guidance for those business analysts who have previously worked on waterfall software development projects to transition their skills to Agile projects.

Chapter 7: Moving your Agile team forward

Helps you to identify where an Agile business analyst can provide the most value for your specific project needs.

Chapter 8: More information on Agile

Provides general and practice-specific Agile and business analysis resources that you can refer to for further information.

Excerpt from The Power of the Agile Business Analyst

Here is an extract from the book, detailing one example of the business value that an Agile business analyst can provide on an Agile project:

The following example is taken from a project I worked on where the business users proposed 12 updates to their financial management system. The Agile development team was confident that the proposed updates were achievable, but had concerns about their ability to deliver one of the key features identified as high priority by the business users, namely:

Automatic reimbursement of travel expenses using a complex set of algorithms that combine duration of travel, point of origin, destination, and employee level, with more than 400 potential combinations

The Agile business analyst was able to work with the business users to identify the real business drivers behind this feature. In these discussions, it was identified that:

    • The legacy process of having travelers manually enter their total expenses required the finance department to recalculate and reconcile each expense report by hand. This was extremely time-consuming and subject to human error. It also required follow-up discussions with the traveler where the total expenses submitted did not match the calculations done by finance
    • The business users had not yet analyzed their historical travel data to determine if there were any significant trends or commonalities in travel behavior. Knowing the business users were pressed for time, the Agile business analyst offered to assist the business users in gathering and assessing this data.

The analysis of the travel data undertaken by the Agile business analyst resulted in the following findings:

    • Most of the travel undertaken (82%) is to one of four destinations: their regional offices
    • More than 75% of the travel is undertaken by non-executive staff
    • There are only two instances where a member of staff needed to stay more than five business days – that is, over a weekend.

Based on this analysis, it was determined that only 13 of the 400 potential combinations of travel parameters are commonly used. This provided an opportunity for the development team to create preset calculations in the system for the most common combinations, with a manual entry option where totals for the exception cases can be entered.

The finance department still needed to reconcile these exceptions by hand, but the alternative approach proposed by the Agile business analyst had the potential to result in a 90% reduction of their current workload.

The alternative approach also resulted in a much less complicated technical solution that could be realistically built into the existing architecture, and which required substantially less testing than the 400 potential combinations.

This meant that the objective identified by the business users was able to be delivered by the Agile team with achievable system features and minimal compromise.

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Jamie Lynn Cooke has 27 years of experience as a senior business analyst and solutions consultant, working with more than 130 public and private sector organisations throughout Australia, Canada, and the United States.

To find out more about Jamie’s other publications, click here.