Business Analysis is a set of skills that is the corner stone for a successful project no matter what methodology is being used.
Business Analysis is the art of listening, questioning, interpreting, and restating until you have a clear understanding of what your user really wants. Often what a user focuses on is not the real issue, and it is necessary to continue questioning until you get to the root of the problem; only then can the work to define a successful solution begin. If you Google “tree swing cartoon,” you will see many variations on this theme; however the bottom line is always the same: how the customer explains their problem is not what the customer really needs. A professional with a solid background in Business Analysis uses an iterative approach to eliciting requirements from a user – listen, consider what is stated and what is known to be true, question, reframe, repeat.
Business Analysis is the art of negotiating across competing and conflicting requests. In the event that stakeholder needs conflict with each other, it is necessary to work with the stakeholders to negotiate a compromise. More often, though, the requirements don’t out right conflict; instead, each stakeholder believes their features should be done first. In this case, it is necessary to work with the stakeholders to define a prioritized roadmap, which will address what is most important to the organization first, as well as identify when each of the other features will be addressed. Often this means not only prioritizing the features across the various stakeholders, but also negotiating within a feature set the “must haves” and the “should haves” so that everyone gets their “must haves” addressed before their “should haves.”
Business Analysis is the art of recognizing that anything can change and being flexible enough to address those changes calmly and with insight. Too often the term change management immediately invokes a long and painful process of justifying a change request and getting approval, while the original plan continues as if nothing was changing, thus wasting even more time and money on that which is no longer wanted.
Business Analysis is the art of working with both business-minded folks and technology experts to evolve a cost-effective and compelling solution to the business problem. This often also involves translating so that everyone involved understands each other despite the different lenses through which they view things. Here again the old saying “wash, rinse, repeat” applies – Model, Demo, Adjust, repeat.
While I have yet to find an Agile Methodology that identifies Business Analyst as a key role when I look at Scrum – what is a Product Owner but someone with a firm foundation of Business Analysis skills?