Agile and Business Analysis

Lynda Girvan and Debra Paul

Published by
BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT
ISBN 9781780173221
RRP £29.99
Reviewed by Len Keighley

10 out of 10

Agile is certainly a hot topic as more and more aspects of IT delivery (and business process) adopt the methodology. That adoption therefore drives employees and consultants to migrate their existing skills to that of the Agile approach, in line with the part they will play in that process. This book aims to take the existing Business Analyst through the conversion process as well as provide them with a reference guide for future use. Therefore, the book will provide a useful additional tool for that skill migration.

The foreword to the book is written by Scott Ambler, the author of Agile Modelling and the co-author of Disciplined Agile Delivery. This along with several other luminary recommendations of the book emphasises the regard the authors and content are held within the Agile community.

The book is aimed at filling a perceived gap that exists in the Agile approach, of the need for Business Analysis principles to be available in an Agile manner. However, it does also stand back from this position to provide background to the principles and adoption of the Agile approach. Finally, it brings together the principles of Agile and Business Analysis to show how the two disciplines can operate together to enhance the delivery of IT applications and increase their benefit to business and/or organisation.

The book contains sixteen chapters, and each can be viewed as a separate entity as each has an introduction and conclusion. The chapters take the reader through the background to Agile and its philosophy, the decisions and approaches that need to be adopted and finally to the aspects that need to be considered before that adoption commences and the implications on the Business Analyst role in that environment. The number of chapters make a detailed review of these difficult, so the following is a selection of those I felt provided the most benefit, in terms of content, to a Business Analyst moving to Agile.

Chapter 4 - Adopting an Agile Mindset - this provides information on how the core values within the Agile methodology can be adopted in business analysis. It is interesting to note that the Agile values were originally drafted for use in software development but that they can also be adopted in other ‘process’ or ‘change’ oriented situations and therefore fit well with the business analysis role and business change in general. There are 6 key agile values that relate to business analysis; self-organising team, continuous improvement, iterative development & incremental delivery, planning for and building in change and doing the right thing and the thing right. These are further expanded within the body of the chapter.

Chapter 8 - Decomposing Goals - this highlights the need in the Agile approach to deliver business benefit, and therefore the derivation of business requirements, to utilising a goal-oriented approach to that gathering process. It is easy to think of goals as just requirements, but it is the subsequent decomposition of those goals into smaller goals that can be delivered earlier, yet still relate back to the original, overriding goal. Care needs to be taken not to align these smaller goals with functional areas as this can lead to the original goal purpose being lost. This may be the most critical part of the Agile approach and this chapter expands on these aspects.

Chapter 9 - Prioritising the Work - this covers the need to prioritise the goals identified by the chapter 8 process so that effective business change and delivery results. The Business Analyst will need to drive this to ensure that the most important and cost-effective goals are delivered first. This chapter provides a number of different prioritisation techniques that can be utilised, the most obvious being MoSCoW, must have, should have, could have and want to have but won’t have the time.

Chapter 12 - Modelling Stories and Scenarios - this covers the techniques used to model the functional requirements and their relationship to user stories and scenarios. It is easy to think that user stories can be used to capture all the functional requirements but, as highlighted in this chapter, a one-size-fits-all approach should be avoided. Other techniques may be better placed to capture the detailed functionality and provide a more overall picture where high numbers of user stories are involved. This chapter provides some of those techniques as well as mechanisms for modelling a hierarchical structure of user stories.

Other chapters of similar importance are Chapter 7 - Working with Stakeholders and Roles, Chapter 13 - Organising Tasks and Requirements, Chapter 14 - Estimating Agile Projects and Chapter 15 - Planning and Managing Iterations.

The book provides a valuable reference for use in different projects, that due to their nature, may need different Agile approaches and therefore should be used to guide the Business Analyst when commencing a new Agile delivery.

Further information: BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT

May 2018