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The role of a business analyst in Scrum: why a team needs a BA

What role does a business analyst play in Scrum? This article discusses how a BA helps developers create high-quality software, and why the BA’s tasks are crucial for project success.

The author of this article is EPAM Business Analyst Lizaveta Sokal.

In my previous article, I explained what Scrum is, described its components, and provided a more detailed overview of each component.

After considering the basics of Scrum, we turn our attention to the next question: what is the role of a business analyst in Scrum?

What is a business analyst?

But first, a quick reminder of what a business analyst does and why they are needed in the software development process. Let's start with definitions.

The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK), developed by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), provides the following definitions:

  • A business analyst is defined as any “person who performs business analysis, no matter their job title or organizational role.”
  • And business analysis is defined as the “practice of enabling change in the context of an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders.”

To explain it in less formal language: business analysis is necessary to study the goals, capabilities, and problems of a business, and to find the best solutions to meet its needs. Business analysis helps identify the requirements of a business at various levels, defines and analyzes possible risks, and develops a strategy to manage them. Without business analysis, there is always a risk of choosing a solution that doesn't truly satisfy the business and stakeholder needs.

A person whose direct responsibilities include performing business analysis within a specific project is considered a business analyst, regardless of their official position within the organization.

More about the profession

Tasks of a business analyst

The specific tasks of a business analyst can vary greatly depending on the project goals, the product being developed, and even the company they work for. The work process of a business analyst typically includes the following stages:

  • On any project, the business analyst needs to conduct an analysis of the current situation. This is necessary to determine the starting point and understand the existing business needs.
  • It is also necessary for the business analyst to define the desired future state; to understand exactly what the business wants to achieve, including the business requirements that need to be met, and to assess possible risks.
  • In addition, they identify possible solutions and choose the most suitable one within the given context.
  • The business analyst must also identify all relevant requirements: business requirements, stakeholder requirements, and solution requirements. The business analyst determines the relevant requirements by interacting with stakeholders.
  • Then, they analyze, document, and discuss all identified requirements with the development team to ensure a common understanding of what will be developed and why.
  • The business analyst also supports the development and delivery process of the final solution to stakeholders and participates in the solution evaluation.

Now that we have summarized the tasks of a business analyst, let's go back to the question of their place in Scrum.

Roles of a business analyst in Scrum

It may seem that there is no place for a business analyst in Scrum since that framework clearly defines the roles within a Scrum team as Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers. But luckily this is not the case.

It's important to mention, however, that Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers are roles within the Scrum team that may not necessarily correspond to the specialist’s actual role or position in the company based on their title. In other words, depending on the project, a business analyst can perform one of several Scrum roles.

Developer

Developers include not only software developers but also testers, designers, architects, business analysts, data analysts, and others who contribute directly to the product development. According to the Scrum Guide: "Developers are the people in the Scrum Team that are committed to creating any aspect of a usable Increment each Sprint."

In the role of a Developer, a business analyst performs the specific tasks that I mentioned in the Tasks of a business analyst section above.

The most common scenario is that a business analyst in Scrum is a part of the development team.

Scrum Master

“The Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide."  This means that the Scrum Master helps everyone within the team and throughout the organization understand the theory and practice of Scrum.

Both the Scrum Master and the business analyst actively interact with stakeholders, including the development team, clients, users, and others. They both play the role of facilitator and are responsible for effective communication.

The main tasks of a Scrum Master are to assist in Scrum adoption, ensure the team's effectiveness, organize and improve processes, and remove obstacles to achieving the desired goal. The key tasks of a business analyst are to identify, analyze, and document requirements, and communicate with the client and the team.

Thus, the main responsibilities of a BA and a Scrum Master differ, but they have certain tasks and areas of responsibility in common.

The role of the Scrum Master can be performed by a project manager or any other team member who has the necessary knowledge and qualifications. The Professional Scrum Master certification can confirm the required knowledge.

Can a business analyst be a Scrum Master? Yes. On projects, it is quite common to have situations in which someone who would typically be categorized as a Developer performs two roles. For example, they may be the Scrum Master and Developer, or the Product Owner and Developer. The Scrum Guide does not prohibit this. It explains that if "the Product Owner or Scrum Master are actively working on items in the Sprint Backlog, they participate [in the Daily Scrum] as Developers."

Therefore, within a Scrum team, a business analyst can:

  • be a part of the Developers and perform BA tasks; or
  • simultaneously be a Scrum Master, additionally fulfilling their responsibilities.

However, if a specialist in the business analyst role on a project exclusively performs the duties of a Scrum Master, they will no longer be considered a business analyst on that project.

Product Owner

The Scrum Guide states that the “Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team.”

The Product Owner is responsible for: the strategic vision of the product, creating and prioritizing backlog items, ensuring that the team understands the product backlog and its goals, and making key decisions regarding the product. A business analyst is focused on analyzing and developing specific requirements.

In my opinion, the responsibilities of the Product Owner align most closely with those of a business analyst. Both roles require an understanding of the business goals, defining and managing the scope of work, developing requirements, and communicating with stakeholders.

The Product Owner role can be taken by a product manager, business analyst, or a representative of the client, any of whom may hold different positions and titles within their company.

Can a business analyst be the Product Owner? Definitely yes. There are generally two possibilities:

  • A business analyst may take on the role of the Product Owner.
  • A business analyst may work collaboratively with the Product Owner.

In the second scenario, within this collaboration various options are possible. Often, the Product Owner is working on the customer side and has additional responsibilities beyond this role.

If the Product Owner is unable to fully participate in the processes for some reason, the business analyst can act as a Proxy Product Owner. Although such a role is not officially defined in the Scrum Guide, it is commonly found in professional environments.

A Proxy Product Owner assumes some or all of the Product Owner's responsibilities. The Proxy PO role can be filled by a member of the development team, a business analyst, a project manager, or any other individual who possesses a good understanding of the product and the customer needs. The Proxy Product Owner acts as a liaison between the team and the Product Owner, ensuring that the team has the necessary guidance and clarification to proceed with its work. The Proxy Product Owner is responsible for backlog prioritization, providing requirements to the development team, and so on. Typically, a business analyst takes on this role.

For additional information, you may wish to read other Blog articles concerning business analysts, including:

Conclusion

In conclusion, I believe that there is definitely a place for a BA in Scrum because business analysis is essential in any product development process. A business analyst is responsible for identifying, analyzing, and documenting requirements, as well as clarifying them to team members. A business analyst also plays an important role in the communication between the business and the development team, helping to eliminate misunderstandings and align expectations to offer an optimal solution.

It should be mentioned that the work of the BA and team as a whole is focused on creating a high-quality product that meets the needs of the business and users. The specific role that you will take on as a BA depends on the project, the product, the client, and other factors.

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