Follow-Up Q&A to The Agile Business Analyst Webinar

Follow-Up Q&A to The Agile Business Analyst Webinar

agile business analyst questions and answers

Wow! More people than ever showed up to the Enfocus Solutions Webinar Series last week when CEO John Parker presented The Agile Business Analyst. There were so many questions asked that we couldn’t even begin to answer them during the webinar.

The original plan was to publish the Q&A as a blog post, but there were just way too many questions to do that! So, below are a few of our favorites. All answers were provided by the webinar presenter, John Parker.

It was really hard to pick just a few. If you’d like to read the answers to all of the questions asked, download the complete Q&A.

Q: How do we keep track of the changes made in a system if we don’t document them?

A: The changes are documented with user stories, maintaining clean code, and writing an efficient level of system documentation.  Agile does not mean “producing no documentation.” Agile documentation is lightweight and sufficient.

Q: What do you recommend for system documentation that must be maintained?  At the end of the day, organizations need a document outlining business process, business rules, data rules, etc.

A: This information is usually maintained in a collaborative business architecture and maintained separately from the team.  When an Epic is defined, necessary changes to the business architecture are identified as change impacts. These changes are further refined as Epics are decomposed into Features. Stories simply represent changes to the business architecture. I did not discuss all of this in the webinar, but this is a key part of agile portfolio and program management.

Q: How do you make agile work with a global workforce? Our developers are in India, but all the other resources are positioned all over the globe.

A: Great question and one that is faced by many organizations.  Here are some recommendations:

  1. Use a scaling framework such as DAD or SAFe to support complex issues such as integration between teams and distributed teams.
  2. Organize Teams into Agile Release Trains (ARTs) to support all activities within a given value stream.
  3. Separate product management functions from Product Owner responsibilities. Product Managers work with business stakeholders and Product Owners work with the Teams. The Product Manager and Product Owner will work closely together.
  4. Use an automated tool such as Enfocus Requirements Suite™ to support collaboration between teams and business units.
  5. Perform Inspect and Adapt activities to monitor quality.
  6. Each team needs to work on fixed cadence using predefined sprints and have a demo at the end of each sprint to demonstrate progress.

Q: Are [user story] conversations documented? How are they tracked?

A: Most agilests will tell you it is not important to document conversations, as the real measure for agile is working software and not documentation.  The real intent of agile is face-to-face communications.

However, I do not totally agree with this position.  Face-to-face communications are not always possible. Documented conversations are very important when you have distributed offshore teams, have time zone barriers, or have a lot of distrust between the business and the developers. They are also important when you have large teams with differing responsibilities.  For example, if BAs are working on the team, they will generally document conversations with users and discuss them face-to-face with developers. This simply keeps things from falling through the cracks.

Q: What is the best tool to manage all these backlogs, stories, and tasks, and track the relation and connectivity?

A: We of course recommend our own tool, Enfocus Requirements Suite™, for portfolio and program level backlogs, and we recommend JIRA for team backlogs. The two tools work very well together and are fully integrated.

Q: When you’re talking about keeping the backlogs separate, how do you recommend accomplishing this for an enterprise level?  The way I interpreted your discussion of the slide, you glossed over an enterprise (we’re [a state government], and our OIT covers so many major applications).

A: This is precisely why multiple backlogs need to be maintained separately.  First, you might want to maintain a Statewide (OIT) portfolio backlog that contains business and architecture epics on a statewide basis.  At the program level, you would probably want to have a backlog for each state agency. For example, Transportation is a completely separate program and value stream than Human Services. The programs need to integrate with multiple team backlogs, which may vary from agency to agency. Breaking it down this way can make agile very applicable for State Governments.  Here are some basic guidelines:

  • Use Epics to control governance and funding.  Epics need to be approved by OIT.
  • Use agile Inspect and Adapt methods to evaluate Epics and measurable results.
  • Epics are broken into Program Epics and Features. This process is done at the agency level. For rare initiatives that cross multiple agencies, use Program Epics to break down the work.
  • Break Program Epics into Features. Validate each Feature before building or coding it.
  • If work is contracted out, define clear conditions of satisfaction for each Feature.
  • Each team or contractor should maintain a separate backlog.
  • Use Inspect and Adapt methods to manage vendor activities.

Q: We are still following waterfall, but are interested in exploring what agile has to offer. Where do we start if we want to begin our agile transformation?

A: A complete agile transformation requires a strategy. We recommend contacting us for a free needs assessment to get started on a strategy that will work for your organization’s current needs. The needs assessment is a great place to start because there is no obligation to buy our software and services. Our goal with the needs assessment is to provide some free advice and make sure you’re on the right track in your agile transformation.

If you need more help than a brief conversation can provide, we recommend Enfocus Solutions’ strategic set of consulting services. The goal of our services is to provide on-going assistance to organizations looking for guidance during an agile transformation. The services focus on four key areas:

  • IT Service Strategy and Design—Integrate your existing agile processes with IT service strategy and design best practices according to ITIL. Enfocus Solutions will improve the way you understand customer needs and help you design better IT services.
  • Business Analysis and Requirements Management—Business analysis is much more than just requirements development and management. The business analyst is poised to be an enabler of successful change in the organization. Enfocus Solutions will help your business analysis team expand their skillset to deliver more value to the organization.
  • Business Change Management—Changes to the organization are capable of causing chaos. When change is transparently and collaboratively managed, customers and employees are happier with the outcome and more willing to go along with the next one. Enfocus Solutions will help you to collaboratively manage your business architecture to make sure there are no surprise or unwanted changes.
  • Enterprise Agile Transformation—Everyone seems to be making the switch to agile, but where do the project managers and business analysts fit in? Enfocus Solutions will help transform your project management and business analysis processes to work in an agile environment.

Download a list of all the questions and answers from the webinar here.

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