First, Mark highlighted four of the 12 Agile Principles as being people-focused, and the area of influence of the Agile BA. They are the ones around:
- Inspired People (Motivation & Trust)
- Face to Face Conversation
- Self-Organizing Teams
Specifically, what I heard him say was that the BA coaches people toward collaboration, including helping the customer be a real part of the team. The BA also understands intrinsic motivation, factors that influence communication, and how to shepherd small groups through Tuckman’s stages of group development, and toward real flow.
Let me be really clear here. To me, that describes the perfect job. But I have this nagging question that comes up. And maybe it’s the Fundamental Agile Question for me at this time: People pay for this? Really?
What’s the most important thing the BA does? Have you worked on projects where the role wasn’t filled? Is it considered dispensable, fluff, unnecessary expense? Or is it important for an Agile project’s flow?
Short answer: yes, Angela, they pay for it. :)
Long answer: I’m not sure I would call that description a BA. It sounds more like just a coach. Certainly, my practice is focused around these actions at least 75% of the time. The rest of the work, usually a handful of technical problems, is, for me, the easy part.
The software industry is almost entirely captive to fear and failure. This produces a remarkable range of social pathologies.
Jerome Bruner once remarked that the role of the psychoanalyst is to help the patient find a story that allows her to become who she wants to be. That’s what a coach does, too. My most important activity, over and over again, is in bringing the group mind and the group heart to bear on the daily work life.
(Are these answers too weird or disjoint from their questions? Just re-ask me, and we can try again.)
Well, ok, but then what’s a BA, Mike? Just a domain/tech translator?
Well, no one on an agile team is “just” anything. Agile roles are very loose and floppy, like bunny ears.
BA’s can start as domain-tech translators. But the good ones quickly realize that the answer isn’t to spend your time writing down business procedures as if they were flowcharts, it’s bringing people together to solve problems.
I’m an external consultant, so I always start looking for a coach-after-me as soon as I arrive. The candidates — I’m saying 90% here — fill one of two “informal” roles on the team. One is the domain experts, be they called BA’s or SME’s or whatever. The other usual suspect is the #2 geek. (Not sure why.)
Hope that helps. But if not, I’m going to give it a rest, and let our so-far *awesome* comment-squad help us out.