How an agile BI Analyst collaborates with the Product Owner and fits into an Agile Team
Below are some questions that came in from a recent webinar my friend, Hubert Smits, and I gave on Acceptance Criteria for Business Intelligence User Stories.
Q: What is the role of a Business System Analyst in Agile?
A: Analysis is an important skill to have on any agile BI team. Business analysis provides detailed insight into the organization’s needs, the calculations and transformations required to meet the needs, and how the users will most benefit from the new feature being developed. Systems analysis digs into the source systems to find the right data required to fulfill the business needs, and figure out how to best acquire that data into the DW/BI system. Data analysis provides data quality and integration information that guides some of the most challenging aspects of BI development.
Whether the people exercising these skills have the titles of “BI Analyst” or “Developer” or “Tester” doesn’t matter at all in an agile project. What is important is that these skills are applied toward completed user stories. While the people with “Analyst” in their titles are usually the most productive in these skills, there are others in the team who could learn to be effective analysts in order to keep the work flowing. I’d rather have a developer jump in and do data quality analysis that needs to be done, rather than sitting idle waiting for a development task to be ready for development skills… just as a Business Systems Analyst could help out with testing if that’s the current task needing more hands-on-deck to keep the work moving forward.
Q: “Should a Business Analyst collaborate with the Product Owner?”
A: Absolutely! Often in BI teams, the Product Owner is juggling relationships with a multitude of organizational departments and won’t have the bandwidth do detailed business, systems, or data analysis on every user story, even to get a story to the point of “ready” for the team to work on it. Many experienced analysts end up in the role of Product Owner, which requires not only their existing analysis skills, but also additional leadership, prioritization, and facilitation skills. It’s a lot for a single person to take on, and additional help is always required in order for the team to be working on the right things at the right times. Once the team has started working on a story, people doing analysis work on that story will have lots of questions for the PO and other people the PO will bring into the conversation. Collaboration is required in this key relationship!
Q: How does each role relate to each other and what should be the Business Analyst position vis a vis the entire Agile team?
A: In a healthy agile team, people have skills and desires to learn skills, and don’t focus on titles and roles. The team should be small enough (5 – 9 people) so that you don’t need a title to understand what a person can do to help create working BI features. I mention this because I see lots of teams trying to do “mini waterfalls” in 2-week sprints by having people strictly retain the roles they had in a traditional BI project structure, and then they get frustrated that they aren’t seeing the speed and quality they expected with a change to an agile approach.
Having said that, on a tactical level anyone doing analysis on an agile BI team is a member of the delivery team… as are the people who do data modeling, ETL development, metadata development, report building, testing, etc. That whole group of people works together to deliver working functionality in a short amount of time. In scrum, there are only 3 official roles: Product Owner (person who identifies and prioritizes the work to be done), Team Member (all the people who do the work to deliver working BI features), and Scrum Master (the person who “holds the process” to keep things moving smoothly so the team members can deliver results as quickly as possible). Therefore, an Analyst is a Team Member and is not separate from the team.
I often hear similar questions, and often the “right” answer for the person asking depends on their organizational constraints and specific situation. If you would like some help figuring out how business analysts on your BI team “fit” into an agile approach, I’d be happy to have a more targeted conversation!
Hear the webinar in its entirety: Acceptance Criteria
Share Your Questions & Comments!