Guest Blog by Trina Silverglate, IT Consultant
Whether you are new to the world of business analysis or a seasoned veteran, you’ve probably discovered that the first step when starting a new project on a Scrum team is defining your role in relation to the product team, the developers, and the Scrum Master. In the agile scrum methodology, the BA is not a defined role, but often companies decide it will be most effective to include one on the team anyway. Because of the lack of definition around the role, as a Business Analyst Contractor, you can end up with a wide variance of responsibilities, which can set you up to fail or succeed. To set yourself up for success on your next Scrum project, we’ve identified these 5 simple steps:
1. Learn About The Team To Know Where You Fit In:
Ask if the project will have individuals that are dedicated to the roles of Product Owner and Scrum Master. If not, a BA with Scrum experience / certification may be asked to help fill one or both of those roles. If there is a dedicated Product Owner and/or Scrum Master on the team, find out how she or he will perform that role on the project. This is important, because it helps you to know where you will be needed and avoids any confusion regarding the responsibilities of the PO or Scrum Master vs the BA.
2. Dig In More to Know If The Role Fits You:
The BA role on a Scrum team can include a range of responsibilities. You may spend 80% of your time meeting with the PO, Marketing, and other business or customer-facing team members to create stories that can be added to the product backlog – and spend very little time actively engaged with the developers, conducting backlog refinement, or helping to scope the content of sprints and releases. Or, if the Product Owner and/or Scrum Master is new to the role or has other projects at the same time, you may take on the duties of coaching, helping to define the content of each Sprint, leading daily standups, and more.
When speaking with your consulting firm and the client, be honest about how you would like to contribute as a BA – and seek to understand what the hiring manager is expecting for your role.
3. Be Respectful of Boundaries:
There is a LOT of grey area in the BA role on Scrum teams. Remember that “textbook Scrum” does not have a defined BA role. This means your Product Owner and Scrum Master may have different expectations of your role based on BAs they have worked with in the past, or they may never have worked with a BA previously at all. Always reiterate that you are joining the project to support their roles; you won’t duplicate effort or detract from the key parts they play to make the project successful.
4. Ask questions!
This is absolutely key to making sure that you feel like you are a valuable member of the Scrum team AND to helping others see the value in your role. If it is not clear at the start of the project, ask each member of the team what her or his expectation are for your role. If someone is not sure, suggest how you can help and look for confirmation that your suggestion would benefit that individual and the project.
For example, you may want to offer to help the Product Owner with story creation, acceptance criteria, providing feedback in demos, and answering questions in standups. The Scrum Master may value your help in updating the Kanban, leading standups, helping to remove roadblocks, or following-up with developers who need help logging hours or getting work handed off to QA in a timely manner.
5. Approach Each Project With A Clean Slate:
Whatever you may have done on your last Scrum project, it is very unlikely you will have the EXACT same responsibilities on the next. Steps 1 – 4 offer some concrete and practical advice for being successful; however, if you don’t have the ‘clean slate’ mentality, it will be difficult to execute on those suggestions.
To be successful as a Business Analyst on a Scrum team, it is essential you first understand that your role will vary based on the duties of the Product Owner, Scrum Master and other team members. Then, be flexible and adaptable in your role on each project and directly communicate with other members of the team to determine where you will add the most value. In doing so, you’ll not only help your current team define the role of Business Analysts in Scrum, you’ll leave them wondering why there’s no official BA role in “textbook Scrum” in the first place!
About the Author: Trina Silverglate has 20 years of technical experience, holding a variety of roles, including technical writer, BA, Scrum Master and Product Owner. Her career as an IT Consultant has given her a wide variety of experiences at companies in the Twin Cities Metro area, giving her a unique perspective on how the role of BA varies in different organizations’ utilization of scrum methodology. She is a member of the Agile Alliance, IIBA Minneapolis, and a certified Scrum Master.