Business Analysts Need to Get More Agile

Ann All

Like a rolling stone, business analysts gather no moss. It's been nine months since I examined the changing role of the business analyst in a story and follow-up blog post, but I am still somewhat in awe of the diverse set of IT and broader business skills it takes to be an effective BA.


As if the communications, collaboration and problem-solving skills mentioned by Forrester Research's Mary Gerush and the three hard-working BAs whom I interviewed for my story weren't enough, now BAs increasingly will be expected to understand how Agile software development works, according to a piece published on ITWorld. Forty-one percent of BAs interviewed by Gerush for a new Forrester report say they already use Agile techniques.


As I've written previously, Agile is quite different from the traditional waterfall software development process. Agile emphasizes speed and iterative change, which means BAs will likely need to change how they gather requirements from business users, one of their key tasks. If CIOs aren't yet mentioning Agile development, says Gerush, BAs may need to take it on themselves. She says:


Effective business analysts are constantly seeking to improve their core skills and staying up to date with technology changes to add the most value to their organization.


One of the ostensible goals of Agile is for software developers and business users to work together more closely during the development process. In that light, I think it makes perfect sense for BAs to familiarize themselves with Agile. Just don't expect quick wins.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 5, 2009 2:34 AM Al Gibson Al Gibson  says:

The history of how Agile got started should be enough to discredit it.  The C3 project at Chrysler in the late 90s was run by what became the Agilista High Priests and was a disaster.  The project was way late, over budget, and the payroll system created only serviced a small fraction of the company.  After C3 was canceled, the Agilistas declared victory and wrote the Agile Manifesto, a creepy authoritarian document which turned all followers into "consultants" whose salesmanship style resembles pyramid scheme operators.

(Funny how it's rare within big corporations that Agile is a grassroots thing.  It's always some "consultant" knocking on the door that sells the PHB on grand visions of harmonious magic and impossible positive metrics.)

I have direct experience with projects managed used Agile/Scrum methods (index cards, post-its, stand up meetings, ever-changing requirements) and many more projects over 20 years using the old waterfall style.  I have also been on a project in the waning days of Agile revolt by employees and it switched to a more sensible hybrid of iterative development coupled with traditional requirements gathering and sensible management.

But don't take my word for it. 

/. readers mostly have nothing but contempt for Agile.  Dilbert, too.

Aug 5, 2009 10:06 AM Al Gibson Al Gibson  says:

Agile is snake oil.

Aug 5, 2009 10:36 AM Ann All Ann All  says: in response to Al Gibson

Al, thanks for your comment. I've talked to both fans and foes of Agile. I'd be interested in a more specific take on what you don't like about it, if you have the time and inclination to offer more specific comments.


Aug 18, 2009 5:37 AM Ellen Gottesdiener Ellen Gottesdiener  says:

Thanks for your article. i'd like to get back to the core topic, adapting your analysis practices for agile.

Yes, business analysts will find their skills as analysts are leveraged on agile projects, and then some! in many ways, analysis on agile projects is more complex and rewarding.

In addition to Mary's Forrester report, here are some suggested readings:

  • Agile Business Analysis in Flow-the Work of the Agile Analyst (Part 1: & Part 2: )

  • The Agile Business Analyst: Eyes for Waste (

  • How Agile Practices Reduce Requirements Risks (

all the best,

~ ellen


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