Why Your Agile Project Needs a Business Analyst

Agile projects, due to their compact delivery cycle's known as Sprints, require a highly collaborative team, extensive leadership support and a robust, agile culture to function successfully.

The author of this page: Lindsey Benaissa
Lindsey Benaissa, Business Analyst Lead Jan 13, 2022

Two team roles crucial to Agile project success are the Product Owner and the Business Analyst.

In Agile teams, both the Product Owner and the Business Analyst roles typically conduct analysis, but their perspectives are quite different. While the roles collaborate to analyse things like scope, business or systems' processes and customer experience, each brings something unique to the team and to the project.

While these two roles are complementary, they are not replacements for each other as we will see below.

Steering the Course - The Product Owner

Working at a big picture level, the Product Owner takes a top-down view of the product, working with business leaders, stakeholders and customers to formulate a product vision, often working externally to the delivery team on activities such as:

  • Assessing the Strategic deliverables of the organisation and plotting business capabilities required for those deliverables against the functionality of the product.

  • Planning the roadmap for the product using inputs from the data gathered by the Business Analysts during the creation of User Stories or Requirements.

  • Monitoring potential industry trends as influencing factors for product roadmap decisions.

  • Conducting market analysis to assess other off-the-shelf products that may compete.

  • Collaborating with the project team and business analyst to ensure Sprints are on course to successfully deliver capabilities plotted in the Roadmap.

  • The Product Owner will also make key decisions about implementation design, with these decisions influencing current and future Sprints and the value of the product for the stakeholders.

Navigating the Business Needs - The Business Analyst

Ensuring business needs remain central to all project decisions the Business Analyst supports the Product Owner by drawing out and clearly documenting the business processes and project requirements. For Agile projects, these are captured using the User Stories technique, with all User Stories comprising the potential scope of the project - the product backlog.

Typical activities of the Business Analyst include:

  • Documenting the current and future state business processes.

  • Gathering requirements from stakeholders and framing them as User Stories.

  • Refining the User Stories in the product backlog.

  • Guiding stakeholders to ensure effective prioritisation.

  • Advising the Product Owner on the in-depth processes and motivations driving the 'why' behind specific User Stories.

  • Guiding the Product Owner in terms of the priorities, customer experience impacts and the process impacts of changes to the delivery sequence or indeed descoping of User Stories.

  • Liaising with the project stakeholders to close feedback loops, quickly getting feedback on innovation or design decisions that may impact customers or experience.

  • Assisting developers by reviewing prototypes from the customer perspective.

  • Grooming the product backlog, by prioritising and refining the User Stories per Sprint.

Working Collaboratively to Deliver Value

The Product Owner and Business Analyst work side-by-side to ensure a healthy, lean backlog, representing both the big picture and the finer details. A lean backlog ensures that the minimum viable product is delivered before additional features or functionality are added to the product, thereby delivering maximum value to the customer.

Working together each role brings unique perspectives, benefits and value to your Agile project.

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