Recently it became a common practice to kick all business analysts out of the agile development teams. These persons were not needed any more as according to the new way of working, the agile way. Right or wrong?

In a competitive market, companies are forced to be more innovative, flexible, and release value-added products to the market faster and at lower costs. The Scrum framework enhances the speed of product development whilst delivering high-quality products: a primary reason for its wide adoption.

The world of a business analyst is changing due to the agile way of working. New roles are created and existing roles are disappearing, so much so that at times a specific business analyst role is not even in place. However, there are some specific activities of a business analyst that will always be needed.

Product owner in a nut shell
If you are working in an agile way you must be familiar with tasks like building relationships with stakeholders and making sure their expectations are properly written down in user stories. Or, providing insights to the different needs and views from stakeholders related to the product, and ensuring that value and priority are properly assigned. Sounds familiar?

What if I told you that the business analyst is the perfect person for all of these activities? In an agile environment, the person who is responsible for these activities is now called the product owner. For this, the product owner needs skills and competences, which are actually, the same skills and competences of a business analyst.

Multi-tasking becomes the new normal
A product owner should be someone who is able to juggle multiple stakeholders, their wishes, and personalities. She/he must also be able to say NO to help the agile team cope with the ever growing product backlog. She/he must ensure a clear and prioritized backlog materializes out of the interaction with those stakeholders. Social skills and organizational skills are a must have to survive.

In parallel, typical business analyst skills are largely based on social skills. A proper business analyst should be able to talk with everyone, for example, to get to the core of the underlying problems and not get stuck in handling the symptoms. It is a small step to go from deciphering people to create coherence (based on priority and value) between these stakeholders. A business analyst should also be capable to ease communication by creating overviews and insights in processes and adapting information to specific audiences. This can be a great support when constituting the backlog, including setting up the user stories in a clear way for everybody to understand. This enables a team to work better and faster.

Adding a business analyst
So, combining the role of a product owner with a business analyst should be a piece of cake, right? Also, if a product owner has a large workload (large amounts of stakeholders, multiple products, operational tasks, etc.) a business analyst can ease some pressure by acting as his/her’s right hand. And what if the developers need help deciphering the user stories of the stakeholders to something specific they are building? A business analyst within the team can help the team with these specifications. Or can aid in preparing the user stories on a more detailed level, before the team picks up these tasks. Moreover, a business analyst can check if the performed tasks are done correctly and within the stipulated service level agreements. Add old-fashioned activities such as analyze activities or creating overview within process flows, and a business analyst can be a valuable addition to the scrum team.

In my view a business analyst can be added to the team, to act as a ‘general’ developer, assigned to specific business analyst/product owner related tasks. So, a business analyst in an agile environment can ensure that your business analyst activities are done in the right way and more! Not so bad for a role that has been deemed to be not needed any more, don’t you think so…?

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