Last month we ran the beta of Learning Tree’s brand new course for BAs in Los Angeles. It was originally called Business Analysis in an Agile environment, then we decided to change it to the much snappier tittle of Agile Business Analysis.
The course development team was Scotty Kilbourne as author, Steve Johann as 3rd party IIBA BABOK expert, and me as the technical editor, all working under the hugely talented and very charming leadership of Kevin Rock, who was our product manager.
When we met for the first planning meeting back in May, we shared our findings of what was going on in the real world, and I was very pleasantly surprised to hear Scotty and Steve report massive interest in Agile from the rather traditional organisations they had been working with. In the USA GM (General Motors) have recently embarked on a major commitment to Agile, as have Citi (Banking) and from my own experience in Europe it’s UBS (investment banking), the UN and NATO who are giving Agile serious attention.
Client Pain Points
In nearly every case we discussed, a real pain point for the client had been the Product Owner / Business Expert / Stakeholder communication with the development team. Once a project had started, Product Owners did not have the time available that Agile developers (and the Agile process) needed them to give. Some of these clients still pursue the outsourcing model, in which cases developers were so far removed from the business (from the domain knowledge) that they were unable to do any of the ‘regular face to face communication with the business’ upon which Agile requirements gathering and validation depends so heavily.
As Kevin, who is also a screen-writer and novelist, put it:
“a big hole has appeared in Agile with the role ‘Business Analyst’ writ large above it in bright green neon lettering.”
He also noticed that the IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) had started working on an extension to their Book of Knowledge (snappily-titled BABOK™) called the Agile Extension to the BABOK (titles are tough, go easy on them guys), and so that is how we came to be gathered together to write a course that helps traditional business analysts support the move over to Agile development.
Our attendees were really lovely. All were BAs, had a good mix of experience and a couple had previously been developers. Now beta courses are always a little rough at the edges – that is the nature of the event, and this run was no exception. We got much needed and really useful feedback about practical issues such as making the steps clearer in the workshops, setting out clearer summaries, having more activities in the final morning and so on. What was exceptional though, was that everybody totally loved the course. And that got me thinking…
Scotty is very charming, has that winning Southern accent and some great stories. Sure, everyone picked-up that we worked well as a development team and were really proud of our efforts. And sure, we had a great bunch of attendees for the beta. But there had to be something else that made this event so meaningful.
And here’s my theory.
I think that our attendees, BAs all, were so pleased that finally, someone, had validated their work, understood how challenging and un-appreciated was the task they did, and made it possible for them to be heard. Here was someone, who painted a picture for them of a future where they were totally involved in the development process from start to finish (idea, to acceptance criteria, to construction iterations, to tests, to delivery) that was so clearly better than what they had experienced before, that it must have been like the promise of a new beginning.
Local Government Business Requirements
One of our attendees had been working on a project for which they had invested two years in defining some 7000 requirements. On the back of that, they (local government) had chosen an “off the shelf” package, but had then asked for some customisation, which had been going-on for the past four years! If that wasn’t bad enough, the expected delivery date was 2015 – a total of nine years after the initial requirement was identified and the budget allocated. It’s not difficult to see that Agile offers a lot of promise to a BA coming from that background.