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Alex Marciuc, our Business Analyst, answered some questions regarding BA in general and how it can be mixed with Agile methodologies, in order to maximise both the potential of both.

What do Business Analysis and Agile methodologies have in common?

Agile methodologies do not exclude Business Analysts, as some experts may claim. Of course, a BA’s activity will be slightly different, but the same skill set and techniques are needed, regardless of the development methodology.

Agile focuses more on individuals rather than processes, by regularly adapting to changing circumstances and, most important, by closely interacting with the development team and the client. However, this doesn’t mean that the requirements solicitation and the analysis process can be easily transferred from a dedicated BA to the entire development team.

The Business Analyst’s role has to change in the Agile world, in order to adapt to a more complex approach, that of software development. But the core activity of a BA is essentially the same, even in an Agile team.

Information Technology Management: What role does a Business Analyst play in development using Agile methodologies?

The main responsibility of a BA is to interact with the various stakeholders of a project and gather the requirements. In Scrum, this means working closely with the Product Owner and helping define the high-level product requirements and then document them in the form of specific Epics and Stories.

Moreover, the business analyst plays an important role in clarifying issues with the developers and help them understand every aspect of what is demanded. Consequently, negotiation skills are very important.

Are the product owner and the Business Analyst one and the same?

It is not recommendable that the BA take the role of the Product Owner. The latter requires making various decisions, which the BA wouldn’t generally have the authority to make. Therefore, every time something important needs to be decided, the Business Analyst would have to ask the Product Owner. Which is often the CEO, especially in startups.

Are Product Owners in Agile processes expected to deliver detailed requirements?

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Regardless of how detailed the requirements provided by the Product Owner are, a Business Analyst should always take their time and use the proper techniques in order to best define the project parameters. Sometimes, even if the PO thinks they have a clear idea on what needs to be developed, there are always issues that get overlooked. That’s why a fresh perspective and a rigorous analysis of every requirement can benefit both parties.

Getting better at BA. What do you have to study?

Business Analysts may take up many roles, depending on the development methodology used, the stage of the project or the analyst’s experience. Each one of these roles focuses on specific skills, that can sometimes differ. The most important ones are critical thinking, problem solving, communication and negotiation skills. The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABoK) comprises a list of the most important skills to have and develop as a Business Analyst.

As with any profession, there are, of course, several organisations that provide certifications in Business Analysis. For example, the BCS Business Analysis Certification also provides the opportunity to participate in sessions with an accredited BCS trainer before taking the exam.

Which are the most useful websites for a Business Analyst in Technology/Software?

batimes.com is definitely one of the safest recommendations. Apart from the excellent resources and articles, the comment section might bring up some interesting ideas.

You could also check the International Institute of Business Analysis website (www.iiba.org), where can be found diverse and relevant information.

How does Agile integrate the MO of a small company or team?

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To begin with, a small company or team should really research what Agile is and take their pick on the methodology they think might best suit the team or the company.

Secondly, unless they already have someone with experience in Agile practices, they might consider getting some outside help. Otherwise, things might take a while to mature. A team needs time before it can perform, as adapting to new practices is not always easy. Of course, that adapting period could be less extensive if there’s an external coach to help throughout the process.

Do the Business Analyst and the senior UX Designer’s roles overlap?

Although this question comes up a lot on forums and discussion groups, these 2 roles are not completely overlapping. One can not replace the other. Business Analysis does require some user experience knowledge, but its most important focus is to understand the client’s business needs and help them express the best product requirements meeting those needs. Of course, this involves extensive analysis, work and very good communication and negotiation skills.

A UX designer (senior or middle) focuses on the user’s needs, whereas the Business Analyst must take into consideration all the stakeholders of a project. He has to perform a rigorous analysis on what needs and requirements are the most important in achieving the business objectives.

Let’s just say that the focus of the BA is rather global, whereas that of a UX Designer is singular and restricted to the end-user.

 
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