What is agile business analysis?
Business analysis is usually defined as ‘the process of identifying and defining business needs, problems, and opportunities, and co-creating solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. It involves gathering and analysing data, eliciting and managing stakeholder needs, and ensuring alignment with business goals and objectives.’
However, to perform business analysis in an agile way, it is worth noting that many of the existing methods are no longer effective in addressing the problems that we face today in our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world.
There are three mutually reinforcing factors leading to increasing complexity in today’s world:
- The Impact of Science and Technology
- The Power of Networks
- Globalisation and Innovation
Traditional management, with its reductionist approach of breaking a problem into its constituent parts, just does not work in today’s ever-changing environment.
We must look at issues differently, look at managing complexity in an agile way, introducing a systems view. We must be sensitive to context and aware that the requirements are rarely knowable up front.
We must perform analysis on a continuous basis, accept incomplete information and use experimentation and validated learning to inform decision-making. In this way, we can produce better outcomes by looking widely enough across the business to understand the overall value needed.
Who in the business does it?
So who should perform this analysis? Traditionally, business analysts did, but business analysis skills are increasingly required throughout the organisation to support every aspect of the business.
Agile teams are cross-functional and teams actively collaborate. In an agile environment, business analysis is performed by people in a wide range of roles, from portfolio, programme and project managers, to product owners, scrum team members and solution architects.
However, lacking the formal training of the business analyst, agilists often struggle to employ the most appropriate techniques and fail to communicate with clarity the vision and value to be delivered.
Agile business analysis skills
Agile business analysis skills are needed to understand customers and the dynamics of the market in which the organisation operates, to help establish a unifying vision around value delivery.
Such skills are invaluable to the main board in defining business strategy, as well as in marketing and product management, through to customer services.
In the context of mergers and acquisitions, these skills are needed to help human resources, finance and support teams to re-align around new structures and ways of working.
The AgileBA course
AgileBA was the first knowledge product that explained how business analysts operate in an agile project environment. At the Agile Business Consortium, our understanding of what it means to be an agile business has developed considerably since AgileBA was first published in May 2015.
We have therefore engaged a team of business analysis experts to shape a new modular course, specifically targeted at building the relevant skills for these diverse roles.
Systems thinking and value mapping
The course includes learning about how to create a business case, how to identify the different elements of value in a particular situation and how to turn those into a vision.
It includes systems thinking – thinking about the business situation in terms of a network of interacting entities that generate value, and explains how to model that by value mapping.
It also explains why it’s important to have a clear vision for a product or project and crucially, covers the distinction between outcomes, outputs and impacts.
It covers how to use quantitative indicators to define what you are trying to achieve and whether it is succeeding or not. It includes learnings about the JTBD framework (jobs to be done) – how to understand and analyse the jobs your customer needs to do, to make sure your value proposition hits the spot with them.
Who is the course for?
The course is targeted at people who are expected to perform business analysis in an agile context where they are faced with high levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA).
New techniques for performing business analysis under these challenging circumstances have appeared and have been proven to be highly effective. These new course modules introduce a range of these new techniques and show how they support agile principles.
One of the greatest challenges when faced with significant complexity is communication of purpose with clarity.
Business analysis is required to provide this clarity, applying critical thinking to make sense of the complexity and volatility observed, while maintaining sufficient abstraction to be able to understand the big picture around value delivery.
The agile principle of gaining frequent and regular feedback to improve performance usually involves experimentation and then learning from these experiments to make progress towards viable solutions.
One module focuses exclusively on this area to help design useful experiments so that you can learn rapidly and make progress in circumstances where there are few facts on which to base decisions.
If you are an agilist, business analysis skills are more than just a nice-to-have, they are essential.
In short, business analysis is far too important to just leave to the business analysts!
Please note: blogs reflect the opinions of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the recommendations or guidance of the Agile Business Consortium.