Not only is your development effort likely to devolve into a more serial process, instead of an evolutionary approach, the bsas are likely to develop more documentation than is required. Your goal should be to create models and documents which are just barely good enough. Bsas can reduce feedback. When analysts are only responsible for analysis efforts, for creating models and documents that are meant to be handed off to developers (something which occurs far too often on geographically distributed projects there is less opportunity for feedback. There is the danger that they will create theoretically sound models, and make unrealistic promises based on those models to your project stakeholders, that don't work in practice. The feedback of people working with software is critical, feedback that you can't get from models and documents. The bsa quickly learns what actually works, and from the resulting changes requested by stakeholders quickly improves their analyst skills because they recognize mistakes they made.
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When you play this game you quickly discover that write the signal degrades between hops, decreasing the chance that the actual message gets through successfully. Although a highly skilled bsa, one with excellent communication skills, will arms reduce this problem it will never go away completely. Bsas can reduce stakeholder influence. An interesting implication is that your project stakeholders don't have as much influence over the software as they may think. They're influencing the traditional bsa, and the models and documentation that the bsa creates, but have no direct influence over what the developers are creating. This can even be said of user interface prototyping efforts, particularly when those efforts are led by a traditional bsa. Bsas often over analyze. Another inherent problem with traditional bsas is their tendency to actually do their perceived jobs. When you specialize in something you will naturally focus on that task. The implication is that the task of business analysis will be stretched out, instead of Iterating to Another Artifact as am suggests, such as a design model or even source code, a bsa will likely focus on expanding the artifacts that they specialize. This isn't a problem that is specific to bsas, instead it is a problem of people who are overly specialized (agile teams prefer people who are generalizing specialists, not just specialists).
Bsas can be out of date. Having previous development experience is father's critical for a bsa because it grounds them in reality. However, it may also lead them astray. For example someone with a data-intensive background may struggle when working with a development team that is using object technology (and vice versa) because they don't know which issues they need to focus. Minimally bsas should have an understanding of the technologies that their team is working with, but this isn't as good has having hands-on experience with those technologies. Bsas can act as a communication barrier. Although bsas can act as a communication bridge between the two groups they also act as a communication barrier. On the Agile modeling (AM) mailing list Ron Jeffries depicted the communication approach of traditional bsas to look like "stakeholder bsa developer bsa stakeholder". This looks a lot like the game of telephone tag, doesn't it?
It also opened up communication between the "tech weenies" in it and the "business morons" that the system was being built for. Clearly this was a step in the right direction. However, some very common problems have been known to occur: bsas often lack the right skills. Many organizations have difficulties hiring the right people and/or nurturing the right skills in people. The end result is that people are often thrust into the role of bsa but do not have the skills to fulfill that role, nor do they have an opportunity to gain those skills - this is clearly a mistake. Bsas can have undue project influence. A strong-willed bsa may inadvertently influence a project, perhaps by playing down requirements that they don't agree with or even influencing architecture roles decisions by being biased towards one type of analysis technique (such as focusing just on use cases or just on data models). This is particularly dangerous when bsas act as stakeholder surrogates and the developers and stakeholders have little interaction other than via the bsa.
Bsas often help project teams through the political minefields within their organizations, particularly when the bsa has worked within the same organization for several years. Bsas will work with project stakeholders to validate their requirements and analysis models via techniques such as reviews, walkthroughs, and play acting. Bsas will often aid in writing user acceptance test (UAT) cases and will be a liaison between project stakeholders and your testing organization during uat. When project teams don't have direct access to their project stakeholders, clearly not a good situation, bsas will act as "stakeholder surrogates". Typically developers will treat a bsa as the "customer" from which requirements, domain information, and business priorities are provided. The bsa in turn will work with the stakeholders to obtain information and to verify decisions. Business Analysts Gone Awry In theory the idea of having traditional bsas involved with a project should work quite well, and in practice it often does. The best analysts are organized and great communicators, having the ability to distill the critical information from your project stakeholders out of the "information noise" that they provide - often through a wide range of modeling techniques. For many organizations the addition of bsas clearly improved the quality of the requirements elicitation and analysis modeling.
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They may also help to identify potential areas of automation and even to aid in reengineering the underlying business process. A major responsibility of bsas is to work with project stakeholders to translate their requirements into something that developers can understand as well as to translate the resulting questions that the developers have into something the stakeholders can understand. This is an iterative process throughout the project. An important part of this is to the distillation of the differing messages of various project stakeholders into a single, consistent vision. This task often includes significant negotiation and political maneuvering. In this respect a bsa will high act as a knowledge integrator.
Furthermore, bsas often find themselves spending significant time in meetings, thereby saving the rest of the development team from this inefficient use of their time. Bsas will also explain technical/architectural complexities to project stakeholders, such as why your html-based application can't have as slick of a user interface as a visual Basic application. Bsas often explain what the developers are doing and why they need to do it, including explanations of the basis of schedules and estimates. Bsas will often work with project stakeholders to identify, model, and then document their requirements and business domain details. Act as a communication broker. Bsas typically have very good connections within the business community and therefore are in a position to help development teams find the right people to work with.
In one respect this is true, particularly when stakeholders aren't given any sort of training or support. With the use of inclusive tools and techniques, and with a bit of training, stakeholders can become active participants in the development efforts. Yes, project stakeholders still need someone to guide and facilitate their efforts, but they can do the majority of the work. You need analysis experts. You definitely need to do analysis, but whether you need someone who just does that is a really big assumption.
Agile developers are generalizing specialists, people with one or more specialties, a general understanding of the software process, and a knowledge of the domain. One of their specialties might be in analysis, or then again it might not. It is unreasonable to expect everyone to be an expert at every aspect of software development, but it is reasonable to expect it professionals to have some analysis skills and for some people to have deep skill in this activity (amongst many of their skills). You need to do analysis, but that doesn't imply that you need analysts. A bsa on a traditional software development project will perform one or more of the following activities: Scope the system. During the initial phase of a project, often called "iteration zero" or simply the inception phase, bsas may be the only "development staff" assigned to the project. At this point they will work with key project stakeholders to formulate and communicate the business vision, to envision initial requirements, and to scope the project. Their fundamental goal is to get the project focused early by translating the initial high-level vision into something realistic.
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Bsas and business Agility at Scale? Why have many traditional organizations adopted the idea of having bsas on staff? There are three general reasons, all of which I believe are misguided: developers can't elicit requirements. The common stereotype is that developers don't have the communication and modeling skills necessary to elicit requirements effectively, and sometimes they don't even have the inclination to. At best this is a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you believe that developers can't do this sort of work then you won't give them the training nor the opportunities to gain the skills on the job. My experience is that it is possible to train all but one or two percent of developers in the sort of communication skills and business knowledge required to successfully perform business analysis, although that doesn't imply that all of them understand that this is important. Stakeholders can't model and document their own requirements.
Systems analysts who are responsible for analyzing the requirements to determine the system resume needs to fulfill those requirements. Business analysts who are responsible for understanding the business and making recommendations for improvement. Business system analysts whose responsibilities are a combination of those of a requirements analyst, business analyst, and a system analyst. The focus of this discussion is on business system analysts (BSAs) even though many of the issues (or flavors thereof) are pertinent to the other analyst types. Bsas typically have experience in a wide range of techniques, including interviewing, structured meeting approaches such as joint Application development (jad modeling sessions, and model reviews. Good bsas have a good understanding of the business domain and are typically "people persons". This article covers: Why have bsas? The Traditional Activities of an Analyst. Business Analysts Gone Awry, towards Agile Analysts, bsa as Product Owner?
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