Looking for Relentless Improvement? Start with the Business Analyst

In the past, organisations have relied on several bread-and-butter measures to evaluate project success, including cost, quality, time, and scope.

For market leaders, a different metric tops the list: Customer satisfaction.

In the most successful organisations, customer needs are a North Star that guides ongoing improvement. To unlock the potential of a customer-first future, many companies have reimagined their operating models to support shorter value streams, Agile practices, and DevOps frameworks. The goal? Driving continuous transformation for always-changing customer needs.

In support of new operating models, Business Analysts (BAs) must, too, step out of their comfort zone and help pioneer the path forward. They need to double-down on a customer focus and provide greater value faster than ever before.

In this blog series, we’ll explore how working in a product role and adopting the core principles of design thinking can equip BAs to lead their organisations along the path of continuous improvement. These changes will, in turn, better prepare businesses to thrive in a world marked by constant, customer-driven change. This first blog will focus on how you can reimagine your BA workforce, empowering them to take on a product ownership role.

Why are BAs well placed to make the transition to product ownership?

A growing share of organisations are adopting Agile and DevOps practices. To realise the benefits of these operating frameworks, organisations must, too, embrace a product mindset. In this progression, the BA's remit can start to look a lot like the product owner’s through several existing skills:

  • Being able to elicit requirements and understanding the root cause of issues
  • Managing stakeholders effectively and understanding the needs of the customer
  • The ability to think critically to help solve problems

The BA possesses a host of other technical and soft skills that translate seamlessly to a product owner’s responsibilities. However, it’s more important to note gaps between the two roles, along with opportunities to bridge those gaps. Take, for example, accountability. While the BA can readily build a set of requirements and recommend the best way forward, a product owner is responsible for decision-making based on a core set of requirements. In turn, they’re accountable for the product’s success or failure.

Now, for some good news: For BAs, the accountability gap is surmountable. Adept in understanding problems, analysing root causes, and measuring benefits (to name a few skills), BAs can readily apply their competencies to excel with the added decision-making accountability.

For BAs accustomed to Waterfall environments, Agile or DevOps can at first feel like a stark contrast. But that’s not to say that a BA can’t succeed, either working as a traditional BA or transitioning into a product owner role.

To ensure the BA’s success in this environment, encourage them to wield several of the essential tools at their disposal:

  • Shorten value streams to deliver smaller iterations of requirements regularly to teams. This approach aids in the continuous delivery process.
  • Take accountability for the delivery of requirements. Also, be accountable for the direction of the product itself.
  • Embrace a lean approach to documentation, producing enough information at the right time to allow teams to implement change continuously.

With the skills and tools in their wheelhouse today, BAs are uniquely positioned to help their organisations embrace Agile and DevOps ways of working along the path of continuous improvement.

The right level of detail at the right time

Importantly, BAs can complement fast-moving Scrum teams by offering the optimal level of detail for critical initiatives. In the world of Agile and DevOps, we believe this is the best skill that the BA brings to the table. By producing requirements at the right time and at an ideal level of granularity, BAs can help teams work through problems in an adaptive, just-in-time fashion. In this effort, encourage BAs to prioritise the quality of requirements and the right level of detail to ensure that solutions maximise customer value.

In all of the scenarios we’ve explored here, the BA must continue to work alongside their business stakeholders, developers, testers, and the product owner to ensure solutions meet business needs while being bite-sized enough to build and deploy quickly.

In an age where customer-driven change has become a constant, accelerated force, the BA is an ideal candidate to take on product ownership. Applying the practical pivots we've explored today, consider how you might reimagine the BA's remit, empowering them to pioneer the organisation’s journey towards relentless improvement.

Part two in our series will explore how business analysts can embrace design thinking principles in their everyday work to help propel continuous change.