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Jarett Hailes
Jarett Hailes

Thoughts on the Agile Extension of the BABOK

Today was the last day people could provide feedback to the IIBA’s Agile Extension of the BABOK. The most recent draft of the document was published in November 2011 for review and comment. The purpose of the extension is to provide readers an understanding of how business analysis can be performed within an Agile environment. Various Agile methodologies such as Scrum, XP and Kanban are presented in high level summaries, and then business analysis activities from the BABOK are mapped to the main events that occur in the general Agile environment. Finally, a list of techniques that can be applied to the BABOK activities in an Agile setting are presented.

Overall the document is well written and does a good job of describing how business analysis fits into an Agile setting. This is a topic that has been much discussed in the past few years, and two years ago I wrote an article that summarized several leading Agile experts’ views on how the Business Analyst role fits into the evolving Agile framework. As Agile methodologies continue to gain traction in corporate software development processes, it makes sense to ensure that Business Analysts feel comfortable with how their skills transition to a different environment.

That said I have a concern about having such an extension does to the perception of business analysis as a profession and to Business Analysts as a role. I do not see business analysis as some activity that is merely a component of software development or IT solution delivery. Business Analysts can play a strategic role in the organization to help ensure that the organization is capitalizing on its opportunities and adapts efficiently to changing market, regulatory and internal cultural changes. When BAs are deployed throughout an organization they can get a hands on sense of what’s working, what’s not, and can draw upon technical and behavioural expertise to find innovative ways to help the organization continually improve its operations. I have had the opportunity with several clients to step outside of IT departments and play such a role, and not only is it personally rewarding but it is also where I have been able to provide the most value.

In many organizations I come into contact with business analysis is perceived as some 'IT thing' done to 'help the techies figure out what the business wants'. This perception often comes found the originations of professional business analysis, and while understandable, it is something that must be challenged in order to unlock the potential of having professional Business Analysts throughout the organization working on problems that are not limited to an IT solution scope.

The second version of the BABOK made great strides towards demonstrating how business analysis can be performed outside of IT and explained why it is needed by organizations to adapt to today's constantly changing environments. While some organizations are starting to see the value of BAs outside of IT, having a document such as the Agile extension reinforces existing preconceptions of business analysis in a limited role. In some ways publishing an Agile extension seems like a mea culpa to the wider business audience, indicating that it is wrong to think of business analysis outside of a software development context. I am sure this is not the intention of the IIBA, but given the stage of development of the profession it may be an unintended consequence.

I have been meeting with several executives, managers of Business Analysts and consulting business development personnel in a study group of the BABOK. Through their reading and discussion of the BABOK’s concepts they have come to recognize the value of the information outside of an IT setting, which has taken some work given that while the BABOK V2 is more generic than before, many of the concepts and examples rely heavily on the IT domain. When I mentioned that there was now an Agile extension, most wondered if in fact we had all been reading too deeply into the BABOK; maybe it was just for IT environments after all.

Perhaps I am being too harsh on having such an extension – after all the Project Management Institute has a construction industry extension to the PMBOK, which is one of the industries that were a main influence in the beginning of the institute, as well as for government. The PMI even has an Agile practitioner certification, which is decidedly focused on software development. Nonetheless, I feel that given the developmental stage of business analysis as a profession, having such an extension sends mixed messages on the applicability of the body of knowledge, and limits the career opportunities for Business Analysts in the near term.

As I mentioned above I think the content is valuable and good for BAs who are working in the IT domain to know, but I believe that some other term may be been better suited to describing the document. Calling it an extension of the BABOK ties it too heavily to the general body of knowledge in my mind. I could have seen this as a valuable ‘industry application guide’ or something along those lines.

What are your thoughts on the Agile extension? Do you like the content? What do you think that such an extension does to the perception of business analysis in general and outside of the IT domain in particular?

This entry was published on Feb 29, 2012 / Jarett Hailes. Posted in Business Analysis, Agile Methods, IIBA & BABOK. Bookmark the Permalink or E-mail it to a friend.
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COMMENTS

Kevin Brennan posted on Thursday, March 1, 2012 8:36 AM
Hi Jarett,

The Agile Extension was developed for two major reasons:

1) A large number of business analysts were asking IIBA to provide some kind of guidance in this area, due to the growing acceptance of Agile development methods (even back in 2009, when this effort began). Many in the Agile community were questioning the value of or need for business analysis, and we felt it was critical to help practitioners understand why business analysis remains critical to success and how to do it in a way that helps Agile teams.

2) Agile methodologies represented an opportunity to test the underlying structure of the BABOK Guide's KA and tasks to ensure that they remained applicable in that context. A formal extension supported research we needed to do in preparation for version 3.

We actually launched two extensions at about the same time (the other being the Enterprise Business Analysis Extension, which covers topics including strategic planning, enterprise and business architecture, and business transformation). The Agile Extension came out first simply because it got to a releasable state first. You can expect to see the EBA Extension out within a few months. That one was launched for similar reasons--there was demand for it and it was a useful test for our existing structure.

Future extensions will follow a similar format to the Agile Extension, with information on the context in which that kind of business analysis work is performed, mapping of the core concepts and tasks of the Business Analysis Framework to that context, and new applicable and useful techniques. We'll likely continue to develop a mix of business and IT-oriented extensions based on demand from the BA community, as there are a couple of additional ones tentatively planned to kick off this year (which will be tied into version 3).
Jarett Hailes posted on Thursday, March 1, 2012 10:09 AM
Thanks for your response Kevin. I think having additional extensions will lessen the perception of steering business analysis back towards the IT domain. I also hope to see some of the techniques in the extension such as value stream mapping and business capability analysis, make it into the BABOK itself, since those are generally applicable in any domain.

Are there any plans for some practice standards for specific BA tasks on the horizon? Much of the feedback on the BABOK I get from non-BAs are questions on how to put many of the methods and techniques for specific activities into practice.
Nick Panagopoulos posted on Friday, March 9, 2012 11:35 AM
Perhaps the Agile Extension should just be called, how to apply the BABOK to different SDLC models.
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