In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, agile business analysts play a pivotal role in driving successful data projects. As organisations strive to harness the power of their information and avoid the common pitfalls of complex data projects, agile business analysts serve to bridge the gap between the development team, product owners and stakeholders to ensure effective communication, requirements building and project execution.
Unlike traditional business analysts, agile BAs are experts at thinking outside the box and responding quickly and strategically to new information. These skills are essential because data projects inevitably evolve throughout their lifecycle, as does the business landscape. An agile approach helps to nurture an environment of innovation, rapid learning and meaningful experimentation that matches this dynamic environment. The result is a data product that delivers tangible, measurable business outcomes.
In this blog, we talk to one of Optivia’s team members, Praneeth Pancheti, to discover how agile business analysts deliver value at each step of a data project.
Phase 1: Analysis and planning
Analysis and planning is the crucial first step to any data project and requires a critical and holistic understanding of the business’ needs. At this stage, business analysts must understand the client’s long-term vision and growth prospects, the impact of the project on stakeholder groups, and the business use case development.
“From there, business analysts build out proprietary frameworks that include a feasibility assessment for various use cases. Agile BAs take this phase one step further by articulating the business benefit, which we actually find to be a recurring challenge for clients to do so themselves,” says Praneeth Panchetti.
“At Optivia, we communicate and engage with the client early on to ensure they understand what the project could achieve. This way we can reach an agreement on the business benefit before mapping out a path to obtain it.”
Phase 2: Requirements gathering
The goal of the requirements gathering phase is to understand the business’ pain points, opportunities and areas of improvement as they relate to the data project. However, a high-level vision and strategy of the organisation must always be kept in mind to ensure the requirements align. Again, this is where an agile mindset is of great benefit.
“At this stage, we identify user personas, and run a series of workshops and brainstorming sessions with them. These sessions help us prioritise the business requirements so we can address the most pressing problems first,” explains Praneeth.
“We use techniques such as MoSCoW analysis, where we take multiple criteria – for example, cost, feasibility, business impact and outcome – and prioritise them according to the business’ needs and goals. Of course, we refer back to the company vision when we make our recommendations, and document how they will impact the organisation’s people, processes, technology and overall data landscape.”
“We’re always really hands-on in our approach as this makes the companies we work with feel supported, empowered and confident that our efforts will deliver the results they need.”
Phase 3: Sprint planning and execution
Agile business analysts are also able to take ownership of sprint planning and execution. This involves actively participating in creating product backlogs that determine all the features to be delivered in a sprint, including refining user stories, updating requirements, and ensuring that the backlog remains up-to-date and ready for future sprints.
“At Optivia, we work closely with the client to maintain constant communication with the development team. So, we hold daily standups to gauge the sprint’s progress and showcase what the project has already delivered.”
“We use this time to track the progress of user stories, identify any potential risks or issues, and make any refinements to user point estimation (AKA user story prioritisation), which represents the effort required to complete the deliverable.”
Phase 4: Testing and quality assurance
This stage of a data project requires creating test cases for user acceptance testing (UAT) from both the customer and product owner perspectives to identify if any issues need to be flagged with the technical team. For example, an issue might be that the user experience of the software implementation or application is clunky and disruptive.
“For this phase, we invite stakeholders to collaborate with us in defining the acceptance criteria for user stories and validating that the implemented features meet the desired business outcomes,” says Praneeth.
“Our business analysts act as a bridge between the development team and stakeholders. So this means we help resolve any user ambiguities or changes that may arise during development and ensure that the team is charging full steam ahead toward the right outcome.”
Phase 5: Deployment and change management
Agile business analysts play a key role in managing change within a data project, from collaborative training to clear user documentation and customised documents. These three principles guide change management in an agile environment: what your organisation needs to start, stop, and continue doing.
“At Optivia, we formulate change management plans and strategies, with a strong focus on education and training as this has repeatedly been proven to increase project success. We then work closely with development teams, SMEs and end-users to ensure changes are implemented as intended and user adoption runs smoothly.”
“Something unique to Optivia is that we’re consistently monitoring and evaluating the progress and impact of the change during and after implementation. We assess whether the desired outcomes are being achieved and identify any issues or areas for improvement. We also welcome feedback loops for analysis to identify corrective actions and recommendations for optimising the change and its associated processes,” says Praneeth.
Optivia’s consultants are experts in agile business analysis. We can help you to define your business goals, gain more insights from your data, and invest in continuous improvement throughout your data project. Learn more about our specialised business consulting services here.
At Optivia our consultants have decades of experience in deploying data modernisation and analytics solutions to solve critical business problems. We are experts at combining industry knowledge with technology, so contact us today to discover how we can deliver seamless transformations for you.