Agile is not a methodology that prescribes how to deliver a work. It is a mindset that guides the way the work is approached. Actually, the mindset is what precedes and drives values, principles and practices in Agile. This also applies to Agile Business Analysis.
The Agile thought-leader Ahmed Sidky, was one of the pioneers of explaining what “Agile mindset” is about. In 2010, he defined it as preceding, even driving, the values, principles and practices. Summarising, you have to be Agile to do Agile.
The idea of Agile Manifesto, from 2021, is to uncover better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Although Agile originated from and for the software development, the Agile mindset can be applied other context ad fields. The core of the Agile Manifesto has four key values:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
- Responding to change over following a plan.
In addition to these four values, there are twelve principles to be considered when adopting Agile:
- Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
- Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
- Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
- Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is a face-to-face conversation.
- Working software is the primary measure of progress.
- Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
- Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
- Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential.
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.
As The Agile Extension to the BABOK Guide v2 defines, Agile Business Analysis is comprised of applying an agile mindset to the fundamental knowledge, competencies, and techniques of business analysis. It mentions that by adopting the Agile mindset and philosophy, the business analyst develops skills in:
• Communication and collaboration, communicating and helping to get support for the sponsor visions and needs; facilitate the negotiation of priorities, and get agreements.
• Patience and tolerance, working well under pressure and keeping an open mind when interacting with stakeholders.
• Flexibility and adaptability, coming out of their expertise to support the agile team.
• Ability to deal with change, assessing (quickly)the impact of changing.
• Ability to recognize business value, understanding what can add value to the business and support the vision.
• Continuous improvement, periodically reviewing with the agile team.
Agile mindset is about creating and responding to change in uncertain environments. To apply the Agile Mindset in Business Analysis work it is important to understand that the context, and combine techniques and practices to address the challenges of that context.
There are many frameworks (e.g. Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming, Adaptive Software Development, Lean Software Development, SAFe, LeSS, DAD, etc.) to help the Agile Business Analysis. The key is to find what works in a particular context, and an Agile mindset will help define that. The common characteristics of these frameworks are:
- Respect for people and the importance of creativity in delivering value,
- The importance of rapid delivery, feedback, and learning to ensure the product or service being produced meets real customer needs,
- Collaboration and communication among the team members and the stakeholder community in order to build shared understanding, and
- Break work into small slices of business value and deliver them incrementally and iteratively.
Note that traditional business analysts maybe will face difficulties when transitioning from a traditional methodology to Agile; however, because, in general, the business analysis work is human-centric, the Agile mindset can be achievable since it also depends on human collaboration to deliver value. Adapt mindset and obtain skills are needed, but the core business analysis knowledge areas will facilitate the transition.
Erivan de Sena Ramos is a business analysis and requirements engineering enthusiast, certified in CBAP®, PMP®, CSM®, ITIL® & COBIT®. Originally from Brazil but based in Australia, he has over 14 years of experience in ICT projects, as Systems Analyst, Business Analyst and Project Manager, working for the public and private sectors. He writes articles in Portuguese and English on LinkedIn and Medium platforms, and has authored the book “Dealing with Stakeholders” (available in Portuguese only).