The BA Role, Testing and Support

So this has been a very slow start to my blogging life, I realize this, but essentially since I first got my new job and have subsequently started, really not a whole lot has been happening to blog about. I have just completed my 11 weeks of training with the 15 other new new-hires which has been a mix of methodology and industry training (of which there was a lot to cover).

What is clear however is this company has a very structured and well documented (oh my god the amount of documentation, the intranet is huge!!) approach to the implementation of their software. My role, as it turns out, is actually a combined role of Business Analyst and Customer Support (CS). So I do go in and gather all of the requirements for the software implementation and create a Business Requirements Document from which to work, but instead of passing this client relationship and knowledge on to the CS as it was historically done, I will now also see the client through the test and audit phase after the software has been loaded with the data, help them understand the reports the software generates and will be on-site for when the software goes live.

So I understand that this is not a 100% business analyst role, not that there is really a clear standard for that role anyway as every company seems to use the title and role differently, but it did get me thinking over what percentage of typical Business Analyst’s actually do work on their projects through testing and go-live in the same way?

It seems to me that if you are in a consultancy specializing in Agile software development or as a freelance business requirements gatherer then the answer is probably very little. You have a specific job that you are called in for and any additional involvement is not so explicit. But if you are working in the belly of the corporate beast as I am, then your role probably does have a more holistic aspect where you are seeing projects through to conclusion.

At this point what this actually means for my job is completely unclear as I haven’t even started working on an account. However at this juncture I am looking forward to being able to see my clients through to go live as I feel it will give me a good sense of achievement to actually see the results of the earlier requirements gathering work. I also foresee an excellent learning opportunity because only when the software is up and running and being used by the clients users can you really see how it is used in real life, and where you may have made some errors in the BRD and set-up.

There is an article on the Business Analysis Times that discusses this area – http://www.batimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=248&Itemid=1. I also stumbled across a posting on this on the Requirements Networking Group website (http://www.requirementsnetwork.com/node/1199) however this is in direct relation to Agile and SCRUM development of which I have no knowledge at this point.

If anyone has any input on what happens in your role in relation to testing I would be very interested to hear.

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The BA Role, Testing and Support

5 thoughts on “The BA Role, Testing and Support

  1. You said, “It seems to me that if you are in a consultancy specializing in Agile software development or as a freelance business requirements gatherer then the answer is probably very little. You have a specific job that you are called in for and any additional involvement is not so explicit. But if you are working in the belly of the corporate beast as I am, then your role probably does have a more holistic aspect where you are seeing projects through to conclusion.

    A business analyst in an agile software development team should be required to see the work through testing and delivery. And, this would be happening every iteration (2 weeks or 30 days). I worked in this role in my last company (global 50 monster company) and when we went agile, this was the big change.

    Before we went agile, the BA would write documents and then dump it on the dev and test teams to deliver and fix. In this scenario, a lot of flaws were found in the requirements and the BA could be long gone onto the next project. Agile was about removing this waterfall and bringing these timelines together.

    For every small company I’ve worked in, the luxury of many people doesn’t exist so they are put on a project to see it through to completion. I found it rare for a small company to have a BA leave a project after initial requirement gathering. Sometimes that BA was more present than the PM (or they were one in the same), and therefore was the one held accountable to make the client happy. The client isn’t happy until they have received working software that adds business value!

    If I’m understanding your post correctly, your key word in the section I copied was ‘consultancy’. Hopefully people aren’t thinking that agile and consultancy goes hand-in-hand. Also, I’m trying to point out that your large company is starting to behave like a smaller company or an agile company (or both).

  2. karmark96 says:

    Kevin,
    Thanks for this reply and your insight, it is very valuable and is helping to clarify this topic in my mind. As you can see by my blog title I am just moving in to the BA career and so am still finding my way.

    I appreciate the clarification between the phrases consultancy and Agile, but I never believed that Agile was only practiced by consultants. I was not aware however that as part of Agile you are an integral part of the testing phase.

    To be honest I have very limited knowledge of Agile, even though you mention that my company is maybe borrowing some Agile methodology, it is not explicitly discussed. Do you have any website or book recommendations where I can start learning about this?

  3. Start with these basics:
    1- look up the following terms on wikipedia and hope that nobody spammed the posts recently: Agile, XP, Scrum, Crystal, FDD, Lean Development, DSDM, Kanban, Toyota Lean development.
    2- contrast this with wikipedia searches on Waterfall, Gant, PMBOK, PMI, ISO 9000, CMM, Six Sigma, SDLC, RUP, RAD.
    3- look for the similarities and differences.

    Many people might shun me for sending you to wikipedia, but it’s a generic overview. This baseline will help you build up.

    Then go look at the following for the real thing-
    1- http://agilemanifesto.org/
    2- http://agilemanifesto.org/principles.html
    3- go to the agile 2007 and 2008 conference websites to see presentation topics, review material, or get an idea of the leaders in the industry (I’m going to Toronto next week for Agile ’08!)
    4- start looking for books by the best in the business: Schwaber, Beck, Linda Rising, Alistair Cockburn, Bob Martin, (or anyone who signed the original manifesto).
    5- look for agile groups in your area, look at the agile alliance website, become a member
    6- google video has postings with some presentations that are great by some of the best
    7- go to vendor sites like VersionOne, Rally Software, Danube to look through their blogs and community boards.
    8- keep trying, learning, googling

    Agile has changed my career path. It is not the silver bullet, but applied appropriately, it is a set of philosophies and practices that can really improve a team’s quality, productivity, morale, etc. Good luck if you choose to go down this path.

  4. Flyingbrick says:

    Karmark96,

    Congratulations on your new role! I’m sure you will find the career change both rewarding and challenging. I have been a business analyst for about 3 years now, but still consider myself to be an amateur in the role and have much to learn.

    In that sense, I am like you and am keen to pick up the skillsets and knowledge required to become a good business analyst, and am always on the lookout for good information from others, reading material and training to complement my work. As such, I am keen to keep abreast with what is happening outside the workplace and this will include learning about your experiences as well as the comments others put on your blog.

    Cheers

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