As Agile organizations have grown in the past decade, many industries including the Software manufacturing industry have adopted Agile in their organization. As companies started preferring the Agile way of work, many benefits concerning the revenue, employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, smooth functioning of the product development processes, and increasing the potential of the members of the organization have been seen drastically. When companies used to use the traditional methodology, many of these benefits could not be seen, also many problems were faced concerning the time to market the product, employee job satisfaction, and having a creative environment. Hence, the transition of many companies from traditional to Agile Methodology not only eliminated the problems caused by the traditional way but also enhanced the organization with the benefits it offers.
The traditional software methodology has many roles that do not resemble the roles in the Agile sector. Many roles such as a Product Manager, where the whole responsibility of the product development was on their shoulder, has been taken over by the Development Team where the responsibility and the ownership of the project are shared between the members of the team equally. Frequently asked questions by many members of the company are what role does a Business Analyst perform in a Scrum Team and what are the possible outcomes delivered by hiring them. In such cases, it is important to understand where the role of a Business Analyst fits in a Scrum Team so that a Business Analyst along with everyone in the organization has clarity of their responsibilities in the Agile team.
What is a Business Analyst?
Business Analysts are smart, detailed oriented professionals, who are high-performers and have positional power to build strong relationships and a deep understanding of the business such that it delivers the highest value to the organization. Business Analysts are responsible for conducting workshops and meetings that become a platform for members of the organization to communicate their ideas and concepts such as detailed process flows.
The Business Analyst, also known as BA, plays a crucial and drastic role in the Scrum Team, though a BA role is not formally defined in the Scrum Framework. They act as the link between the Product Owner/customer and the technical IT team. The primary role of a BA is to evaluate the technical processes of a product and explain it to the Development Team. They do not concern themselves with the business process as such as the Product Owner would but they do play a major duty in business processes. The role of a Business Analyst is not definite and can vary drastically. The BA has several responsibilities to play and is an integral part of the Scrum Team.
Responsibilities of a Business Analyst
A Business Analyst in the Scrum Team should adhere to several responsibilities. Few selective ones among them are as follows:
- Review the User Stories created by the Product Owner and make sure that it meets the acceptance criteria. The BA has to make sure that every business rule is covered, and the functionality of the User Story is proper.
- Anticipating and analyzing the needs of the customers to find solutions to address their problems.
- Organizing the Product Backlog based on the prioritization provided by the Product Owner.
- Building User Stories according to the requirements and making sure that they meet the acceptance criteria. (To be done, if not done by the Product Owner.)
- Suggesting the requirements or improving them by working with the Product Owner and Stakeholders and understanding fully about the scope.
A Business Analyst has a major role to play in brainstorming sessions during the discussion of the upcoming Sprint Backlog. The BA sometimes is required to approve the implementation of the Product Increment as they understand all the technical probabilities associated with it. They also help the Development Team understand the requirements of the product. A Business Analyst also works closely with the Quality Analyst and analyses the test coverage, converts real-world use cases into test cases, provides ideas and explanations to text complex functionality, etc. The BA’s duties also include them to plan meetings to help the team in estimations by making them get clarity on the dependency, complexity, and flow of the product. A Business Analyst always keeps learning about new trends in the market and keeps innovating and staying updated about the business area for which the product has been made.
Where does a Business Analyst fit in a Scrum Team?
A Business Analyst does not have a specific constant role in an Agile environment. Their responsibilities are dynamic and are adjusted according to the environment where they are working and the situation that they are dealing with. Here are a few characteristics and patterns of a Business Analyst in any organization which describes how a BA fits in a Scrum Team.
Business Analyst as Product Owner
In smaller companies, depending on the customer and company, often, the Business Analysts perform the role of a Product Owner. They become a point of mediator between the team and the Stakeholders and are the point of contact for all the queries that arise about the product being developed. The BA needs to understand the requirements of the Stakeholders and make a plan about how the business would grow. They create User Stories, documents, prioritize the stories, and help the team understand the product. The BA is required to be present in the company as there may be a communication gap when geolocated to a different time zone.
The BA could function as a Product Owner by being easily approachable, and owning the product on behalf of the Stakeholders/customers. They have to make suitable decisions, have to learn new skills, and develop technical knowledge about the product being developed. If the company has a bigger staff with complex projects, hiring two different professionals is advisable. However, in simpler projects, having a Product Owner is an added advantage as the Business Analyst understands the product very well and can negotiate the scope of tasks and prioritizing User Stories.
Business Analyst as a team member
The Business Analyst is a professional that has superior knowledge about the technical process of the development of the product. BA acting as a team member would help the Development Team to understand the product well and discuss new ideas to create the Product Increment. The technical team feels comfortable to communicate the impediments they are facing during the process. The team finds it easier to collaborate with a person who is open to clarifications and discussions about the technical side of the product. The BA can also help the team to groom the Product Backlog when the Product Owner is not available.
As team members, the Scrum Business Analyst can also work closely with the QA team for testing the analyzing and the coverage, the use cases covered, any hidden requirements, or dependability or effects. The Business Analyst on the Development Team can elaborate on the acceptance criteria and explain what is expected from them. If the team needs more information, they can provide it and help them gain clarity on the work that they are processing. Creating wireframe documents, flow documents, etc can also help the team to understand the requirements of the product to the Development Team.
In complex projects that have several modules that are distributed among teams, having the same Business Analyst for many teams works as an advantage. With the same BA working across teams, they can think about the interoperability of modules i.e. how new features or updates would affect the other modules. Hence, companies should always consider this aspect of hiring a business aspect rather than the usual thinking of User Stories or acceptance criteria.
Why is a Business Analyst important in a Scrum Team?
A Business Analyst has a crucial role to play in the success of any Scrum project. Their involvement in a project begins from understanding the needs of the customer and goes on to the Sprint demo. The Scrum Business Analyst is the primary contact person of the Development Team whenever they face any impediment in the development process. The importance of the Scrum Business Analysts increases especially in the initial phases of a new project and with large scale projects.
A Product Owner may not always have a technical background, hence, it becomes the Business Analyst’s role to understand the product requirement and write the stories, acceptance, and wireframes that are achievable by the technical team. While the Product Owner can write the stories and document in 2-3 lines in simple terms with acceptance criteria with 1 line, the Business Analyst has to dig deeper and make the team understand the User Stories and acceptance criteria. In a few other cases, Product Owners may write lengthy User Stories which should be broken down by the BA to prioritize them according to the Sprint.
One example where the importance of Business Analysts can be understood is when there is no Business Analyst on the team the Product Owner has created a User Story such as “As a customer from an e-commerce website, I would like to perform all of these operations on my account. And the acceptance criteria are:
- The customer should be able to log in.
- The customer can view different categories of electronics on different pages.
- The customer should be able to pay the bill by linking their credit and debit card.
Now, this kind of User Story would hold several story points, and cannot be accomplished at once. Hence, a Scrum Business Analyst has to break it down further, otherwise, things will worsen for the Development Team as proper flow diagrams, and UI screens are not provided. This leads to a failing Sprint and a failed project. Hence, if a Product Owner is not a trained Business Analyst, it is highly recommended for the company to hire a Business Analyst on the team.
A Scrum Business Analyst is a high performing professional who is a knowledgeable individual in the technical side of the product development process. They help in various roles and have a dynamic responsibility when compared to the other members of the Scrum Team. A Business Analyst can act as a Product Owner in many companies depending on the size and nature of the project and scale of the company. They are excellent professionals who are contacted by the Development Team to discuss the impediments faced by the team during the development process. They also become great team members of the Scrum Team as they possess a piece of superior knowledge about the technical side of the products. Having the same Business Analyst for multiple teams can also be an added advantage as they can interoperate various features and updates and analyze the credibility of the product. Hence, a Business Analyst is an integral part of any Scrum Team and a crucial member of the success of any project.