A Project Manager. A Clinical Psychologist. A Marketer. A Chartered Accountant. It is hard to imagine, but what do these jobs have in common?
 
These titles each represent the initial starting point for an agile business analysis (BA) professional. Meet Lori, Michelina, Parvathi and Ryland. Although they each imagined and were embarking on very different career paths, today, they are all proud professionals in the agile business analysis space.
 
An Agile Business Analyst: Success and Value 
According to BABOK® Guide, a business analyst works as a liaison among stakeholders to elicit, analyze, communicate and validate requirements for changes to business processes, policies and information systems. They understand business problems and opportunities in the context of the requirements and recommend solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals.
 
Although it sounds like the skills of many different jobs across any one organization, the reality is that they represent the essential, practical skills that a successful agile business analysis professional must possess. Over the last 15 years, the role of agile business analysts has continued to expand as agile has become mainstream in enterprises around the world. The role of the business analysis professional, especially one in the agile space, can be extremely complex and others across the organization may not see or understand the true value these professionals provide. At the end of the day, the definition of their role is quite simple; it comes down to the delivery of value and success.
 
The Agile BA Career Path 
“Through word of mouth, agile has become popular and mainstream,” said Lori MacDonald, Consulting Manager, Robbins-Gioia (RG). Lori began her path on a career in project management, but after experience with waterfall software development, she transitioned to agile. Today, Lori is an Engagement Manager in RG’s management consulting division. Lori helps her clients tackle complex management challenges with fresh and innovative insights.
 
“Each person’s career path depends on the organization and the industry they work in,” Lori explained. “Agile offers BAs a career path that allows them to become a problem-solver and a leader. The work you do is multifaceted when you are engaged in an agile world.”
 
At the time, “there was no discussion about being a business analyst,” explained Michelina DiNunno, arSensa as she shared her background starting out in business analysis. “As a marketing manager, I was also a project sponsor. I had to provide requirements and help team members gain a shared understanding of those requirements. To do so, required I wear a BA hat.”
 
Michelina progressed through her career focusing on launching new technology and had the opportunity to pilot scrum for a Canadian telecom company. Since then, after working in the corporate world, Michelina took a leap of faith and went out on her own. “Agile was so popular and the need for support in the product discovery space meshed well with my BA skills.” Michelina is now a consultant focused on agile transformation and business analysis.
 
The ability to translate complex information into everyday practicalities is not only an art, it is a science, and it is one that Ryland Leyton, an author of "The Agile Business Analyst," and Lead Business Analyst at Aptos Retail, knows all too well. “Business analysis professionals have the outstanding ability to dig into the smallest detail while balancing the 30,000-foot view. They have the ability to plan, implement, adapt and succeed.”
 
Ryland’s career path began in a Master’s Counselling Program. What started as a research study allowed Ryland to build the necessary skills to elicit questions and dig into responses. This experience opened Ryland’s eyes to a deeper opportunity in business analysis to examine problems, gain feedback and build solutions.
 
Through a variety of BA roles, Ryland moved into the agile space and hasn’t looked back. As Ryland shared, “I sat between two people – one a technophobe, but business expert, and the other a technologist - and saw they were both frustrated at not being able to communicate.” Ryland knew he could help translate and bring the product owner and the developer together.
 
Moving into agile provides enormous opportunities. With extensive experience in waterfall, Lori also made the successful transition to agile where she continues to provide value, learn and experience new opportunities.
 
Agile Business Analysis – An Expanding Opportunity 
The skills required by agile BA professionals are in sync with traditional BA skills: analytical thinking, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, creativity, etc. In an agile role, business analysis professionals utilize their core skill foundations, but they will use them in different ways during different time periods.
 
“Agile is about embracing and adapting to change,” said Michelina. “Everything BAs work on is about changing something – product features, processes, software and culture. We are natural change agents.” 
 
“As an analyst in agile, you are poised to do multiple roles,” explained Parvathi RameshApplication Analyst Supervisor for a global financial services technology firm. While Parvathi started her career as an accountant, she knew she wanted to move into IT and support financial systems. She saw huge opportunities to add value and help make fundamental improvements. Parvathi has had a variety of BA roles, including functional consultant and trainer, User Acceptance Testing, business and market intelligence. “My role was to analyze and understand key requirements. I would translate requirements so the organization could relate.”
 
All through her multiple roles, she wore a variety of different hats. She utilized her domain knowledge, her passion for problem-solving and her creativity to drive success. Jumping into the agile space was a natural transition for Parvathi. She started her agile role in the early days of scrum playing the role of a Product Manager on a global Product Management team. As a Product Manager, Parvathi was responsible for understanding and keeping current her knowledge of the industry and competitor products. She participated in the roadmap discussions; was identifying priorities; providing clarity in the details and conducting traditional BA activities, including building the backlog of user stories, developing acceptance criteria and doing the necessary analysis. 
 
Today, Parvathi focuses on building agile BA capabilities. When agile first gained recognition, it was difficult to predict how the practice and the role for agile business analysis professionals would gain such prominence. “BAs are an integral part of an agile project team.”
 
Michelina’s roles in the early days ranged from data mining to requirements. “It was the best experience I ever had, and I found it a natural way to work.” For Michelina, her experience began in sales and marketing and expanded into IT with complex product launches with many moving pieces.
 
“Requirements became natural in my role. In traditional marketing, many people want to focus on marketing, not software requirements. 20 years ago, the move towards non-traditional marketing, like data mining and e-commerce, meant a lot of analysis and change,” shared Michelina. Moving into agile to deal with that complexity made sense. “As BAs, we all have the skills that are easily transferable to agile.”
 
“You need to understand how to apply the same tools, but in very different ways,” said Ryland. “You can have anything, but you can’t have everything.”
 
Agile business analysis is about increasing the delivery of business value to the stakeholders of the project or product being developed. “The key principle of agile is being value driven,” said Lori. “There is obvious overlap. Agile can be applied to other practices. I find agile to be very applicable to other projects outside of technical projects.”
 
Even though agile is now mainstream, Michelina admits “there are myths out there, including ‘we don’t need BAs and requirements in agile’. Everybody wants to make a mark fast, deliver projects and provide solutions faster, and they turn to agile because it will make it happen. Agile forces you to focus. As business analysts, our value lies in figuring out how our organizations need to change and to help propel that change forward. Ultimately, it’s this value that will solidify our place in agile.”
 
Agile teams need BAs 
The benefits of agile are enormous, and there is an important role for BAs to play on agile teams. With significant enterprise benefits available from the delivery of agile, there is no doubt that the opportunities will continue to grow.
 
“It is about continuous learning through practical experience. It is an education every day,” said Lori. Gaining recognition of the skills and competencies a business analysis professional has can open the door to new opportunities. Lori continues to build her skills and recognition by obtaining a variety of certifications, including Certified Scrum Master and SAFe Agilist (SA).
 
Regardless of how you started your career, agile business analysis professionals can be sure that they will be on a path of continuous growth with new opportunities and a satisfaction of leading value and transformation. 
 
As these four professionals have shared, being an BA professional in the agile space has brought fulfilling and exciting work, dynamic challenges to help solve business problems and capture business transformation. It also provides an opportunity to learn and grow in this ever-changing and expanding career path.

Comments (2)

  • anon
    K. Praveen Kuma... (not verified)

    With the growing emphasis on Agile Methodology I see IIBA trying to incorporate the trending changes into BA practices is indeed overwhelming. With vast experience of Certified Professionals and community building, it provides a great platform to make ourselves enriched with market knowledge.
    Appreciate Michelina, Lori and Parvathi for their wonderful insights. Looking forward to more updates.

    Aug 22, 2017
  • anon
    Anonymous (not verified)

    Good one Parvathi!!! Your focus, determination, ability to understand the complexities is adorable!!

    Aug 23, 2017

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