Bringing Agile to Business Analysis: takeaways from the Montreal Agile Tour 2016

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Bringing Agile to Business Analysis: takeaways from the Montreal Agile Tour 2016

Earlier this month, I had the chance to assist to the Montreal Agile Tour conference along with over a thousand participants.  This was my first participation to the event, and hopefully not the last! There was too many interesting keynote sessions, workshops, and conferences to see them all but it was a perfect occasion to benchmark myself against the industry best practices. It was also a great opportunity to learn about new approaches and see how I could improve my work as an Agile Business Analyst.

One thing that struck me during that day was that being Agile doesn’t necessarily mean working in a Scrum environment, with sprints, backlogs, and various Scrum roles.  There are many, many other ways to apply Agile principles and bring benefits to your organization. I know it’s obvious, but it hasn’t been that clear for me up to now.

I probably captured enough material to write posts until the end of winter (which officially started yesterday with our first snow in Montreal!), but I wanted to share with you some of my key takeaways from the conferences I assisted to so that you could dig into them before I publish new posts.  Enjoy the read!

Bringing Agile to Business Analysis, from different perspectives

1 At work, I’m known as the whiteboard guy since I’m usually using it as soon as there’s a misunderstanding in a meeting (ie almost always). I really think that BAs should rely more often on models & visual representations of requirements to make their stakeholders life easier.  An opportunity to improve my skills in graphic facilitation was, therefore, a no-brainer!

During a 2-hour workshop with Pierrick Thibault, I had the chance to learn more about this discipline and find many interesting ways to structure & highlight information during a worksession (which can be a lifesaver when eliciting requirements). If you’re curious about what it can look like, you can check Pierrick’s Twitter account:

2 Organizational transformation can follow a top-down approach, but using a more agile, bottom-up strategy is often a better way to succeed. Using examples from his own life, as well as from Alcoa and the Cincinnati School Board, Olivier Gourment explained how this approach, combined with a simple three-step model (a vision of the transformation based on innate motivations; foundations based on motivation and stability; and execution driven by experiences at a small scale), could generate an incredible momentum toward transformation.

Related post:   3 Business Analyst skills to help you succeed

As the best change agents in an organization, BAs should understand how these approaches can help them to drive transformation in their activities.

3 Knowing when <the thing you’re delivering> will be ready is probably one of the key concerns of your customers (beside the value of your solution).  Answering this question quickly allows you to eliminate a great amount of noise from your customer, and the best predicator of this moment is simply your cycle time (ie the elapsed time between the moment you start working on something and the moment your deliver it to your customer).

Daniel Vacanti explained very clearly during his workshop how using a predictive approach and determining the right level of acceptable risk for your customer can make this planning nightmare an easy thing to do. He also showed how you can easily measure it in almost any context, at any level of granularity, even in non-Agile context. I will definitely come back to this subject in a future post, so stay tuned 🙂

Takeaways from the keynote sessions, with a Business Analysis twist

From Simon de Baene (Innovating around the world) | Take time to innovate, and allow people to really focus on their ideas and bring them to life; it might save your organization in the long run. GSoft implemented a really great approach for this (similar to the Google 20% time for innovation), sending teams all around the world for the sake of working abroad on a specific idea, with great results.

I was really inspired by the approach, as innovating from time to time vs spending one or two weeks focused on one key idea might not always deliver results, and doesn’t bring as much motivation. Next step: get people at work on board with this 🙂

From Jason Little (Rethinking Agile transformation) | One thing struck me during this session about dealing with changes brought by Agile transformation: there’s no current state once you start talking about change, nor future state since you’re constantly changing.

From there, dealing with change means finding ways to reduce uncertainty, which can be done in various ways (either active, or passive ways). This is interesting from a BA perspective, since people that might look like resisting to change might actually be passively responding to it, and might just need time to understand it.

Related post:   You're probably doing it wrong: 3 ways to improve your BA practices in 2015!

The session’s slides are available here.

From Henrik Kniberg (Agile everywhere!) | Agile can probably be applied in almost any context, and Henrik explained it very well in his session. I could write a lot about what he said, but one of slide sums it so well that I’ll just share it with you here:

The complete slide deck is here.

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