The Agile IT Business Analyst as Mediator
In the past, advancements in information technology (IT) typically were a topic of discussion among high-level developers, project managers, and analysts. Analysts documented large complex requirements documents that sometimes took years to produce. It was difficult for systems development projects to adjust these documents to evolving needs and new priorities. This process is changing the Government’s broad adoption of Agile to deliver mission-critical software quickly to users.
Agile is a framework in which product owners organize high-level requirements into smaller, related pieces to create a portion of a system, software, or application that teams can develop, demo, and test quickly. The Agile framework is more adaptable to project changes and impediments than traditional software development methods, allowing all stakeholders to observe the adjustments and provide feedback throughout the process.
As Agile has changed the way that software is developed, the role of the business analyst has shifted to that of a mediator. The analyst works with both stakeholders and developers to discover how developers can plan for and support the business needs of a project. This requires skills in facilitation, communication, and empathy.
Agile IT business analysts must meet with stakeholders and developers simultaneously to understand both sides of the process – requirements and programming. Business analysts must be multi-skilled, and be able to test changes, present demos of the product, and train users. Often, their responsibilities also require a high understanding of programming and coding.
Many Federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), have adopted the use of Agile. This allows the Government to create, update, and deliver IT products in a quicker and more efficient manner. However, there still seems to be a scarcity of trained Agile IT business analysts, especially in the public sector.
As Agile appears to be the way of the future in Government and business, the need for well-educated and experienced Agile IT business analysts who are true facilitators and consultants is critical. DHS should actively hire Agile experts as coaches and provide training in Agile methods to their current business analysts.
In doing so, DHS will enjoy long-term cost savings and be better prepared to meet Federal IT requirements and needs. This means better systems for the users to address mission needs more quickly.