What’s the role of a Business Analyst (BA) on a project? Many organisations have amalgamated their product owner, project manager and BA roles, so you may wonder if each of them is really necessary.
We think so! In our experience, having a BA on a project brings unique value that cannot be replicated by any other role. Here we’ll discuss why it’s important to have a BA on a project and what they bring to the team.
What is a BA?
The core members of a typical cross-functional agile team tend to include:
- Designers - create visuals or wireframes showing how the product will look
- Developers - do the coding that brings the product to life
- A Quality Assurer - tests it to make sure it’s fit for purpose
- The Product Owner - sets the vision and roadmap
- Client Partner - owns the strategic relationship with the client
So, what’s left for a BA to do? Simply put, it’s the role of a BA to take ‘needs’ and turn them into ‘requirements’.
BA in practice
Let’s say you want to rebuild your website. You may know that you want the new website to be mobile-first, quick to load, easy to use and ideally include a full e-commerce experience.
The role of the BA is to sit down with you and find out all about these needs (and any others of course). Then, they’ll work closely with the development team to break down your list into a series of shorter, prioritised needs. The team can only focus on a few things at once, so your BA will help you refine your list of needs to understand which are most valuable to your customers or end users.
These will form part of your MVP - and you can read all about an MVP here.
Once you know what you want to achieve, it’s time to work out how to get there. The BA will run sessions with the development team to understand what needs to be done and when, to achieve each goal. They’ll also do research to understand the market, your competitors and any opportunities you may not have considered.
Epics and stories
The BA is also responsible for providing a brief on every piece of work the development team needs to complete. These briefs are usually split into ‘epics’ (the overarching task) and ‘stories’ (the small series of tasks needed to complete the epic.)
When a developer creates a piece of code, the epics and stories are a guide that help them understand the expected output of anything they build.
For example, if they needed to add a green ‘email us’ button to the site, they might break down this task into the epic.
Epic: “Add green button to the site”
Then the relevant stories that relate to that epic.
#1. “When a user views the homepage, they see the green ‘email us’ button”
#2. “If a user clicks the green email button, the user’s native mail client is opened in a new window”
There’s a particular format for epics and stories and the BA will usually write each story in shared software that the entire team can access, like JIRA.
Each task is allocated a unique reference number so it can be identified and discussed easily - this is called the ‘ticket number’.
Once the BA has worked with the development team to create all the epics and stories, they’ll prioritise just a few to work on first. The rest are added to the product backlog, which will be picked up in the next sprint.
What’s a sprint?
In an agile environment, all work is broken down into small chunks to make it more manageable. The idea is to do as much as possible within an allocated time frame, test what’s been done, then add more to it.
This time frame is called a ‘sprint’.
At Digital Detox, a typical sprint is 2 weeks. Within this time, we’ll work through a set number of stories. At the end of the 2 weeks, we test what we’ve done. Any working functionality is released (made live).
Then, we’ll begin a new 2 week sprint, where we’ll finish off any existing tasks from the previous one, or add new tasks from the product backlog.
Keeping the client informed
Another very important role of a BA on a project is to keep the client informed of the team’s progress. The BA is a vital lynchpin between the client and the development team.
They’ll have regular contact with the client to let them know how things are going, showcase any working functionality and discuss what to expect next. One of the best aspects of agile working is that these short sprints and regular contact mean the client can ask questions, raise concerns and make suggestions throughout the process, so there are rarely any unexpected surprises for the client.
The BA is like a gatekeeper for the development team - keeping them focused and unlocking any hurdles or challenges that might slow their progress. They’re the oil that keeps the machine running smoothly!
About Digital Detox
Our team of dedicated designers, developers, project managers and BAs work alongside clients to help them achieve their goals. From large scale strategic projects for huge enterprise clients, to plugging skills gaps in existing teams, our team can do it all!
Get in touch today to discuss your business goals and find out how we can help you achieve them!