Business analysis for agile projectsAgile is currently a very popular term in the world of information technology or IT.  Since the release of the Agile Manifesto and the proven viability of Agile Software Development Methodologies, every product or service supporting IT development strives for agility. As the discipline primarily responsible for developing business and stakeholder requirements for IT projects, business analysis is no exception. That, then, begs the question,

What is Agile Business Analysis?

When I put this question to the source of all knowledge in the 21st century (aka Google), I find the typical flood of information to sift through and analyze. My analysis reveals two distinct interpretations of the concept.

Primary Interpretation

The primary interpretation appears to be that Agile Business Analysis is the integration of traditional business analysis activities (i.e., eliciting requirements, analyzing requirements, modeling requirements, etc.) into the Agile software development paradigm, meaning business analysts do the same old things  but at a different time and to a different level of detail on the project. For example, requirements elicitation creates epics and user stories (hitherto Stakeholder Requirements) that are elaborated (requirements analysis) just in time for development whereby requirements modeling is one possible elaboration technique. In my opinion, this is “business analysisfor agile development” because the fundamentals of business analysis are only marginally impacted.

Secondary Interpretation

However, there is a second interpretation that is evolving and that I think poses a much more fundamental and positive change. This interpretation posits that we need to rethink the activities of business analysis and find ways of making those activities more agile by applying many of the principles that drive agile software development to the process of understanding what the business needs and wants. In that vein, I have reviewed the original Agile Manifesto and the 12 Principles of Agile Software Development to create a corollary for business analysis. I do not maintain that this is the ultimate answer, but submit it to the audience for discussion and collaborative evolution. For comparison, the official Manifesto for Agile Software Development is available at http://agilemanifesto.org and the twelve principles are at http://agilemanifesto.org/principles.html. I acknowledge that I extracted the concepts and components of the text below from those sources.

Manifesto for Agile Business Analysis

Business analysis is a business process for defining business solutions that may or may not require software development. For business analysis to add value to an organization, we believe:

  • Software is but one component of a business solution
  • Well-timed and focused business analysis maximizes the value of business solutions
  • Business analysis is an on-going business process and a competency that anyone can learn and which benefits the organization as a whole
  • Whereby software is essential for modern businesses to thrive, business acumen drives software development

Agile Business Analysis Principles

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous definition of inspired business solutions.

  • The business environment is in a constant state of change. Agile business analysis harnesses change and localizes its impact on software under development.
  • Inform solution developers daily of recognized and potential changes in the business environment that affect their work.
  • Business analysis enables effective communication between the business community and solution developers.
  • 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 an organization is face-to-face conversation.
  • From the business perspective, timely, effective, and efficient business solutions are the primary measure of progress.
  • Agile business analysis promotes continuous improvement. Everyone involved in the project should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  • Continuous attention to current and future business goals and objectives enhances agility.
  • Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is the core of agile business analysis.
  • The best business solutions emerge from well-guided, inspired teams possessing superior business and technical expertise. Any team member may need business analysis techniques at the appropriate level of detail.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

I welcome your comments, criticisms, and contributions.