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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Business Analyst as Innovator

One of the agile precepts is the build it as you go approach. Regardless of the size of the final deliverable, the product is created and delivered in small releases, each release adding some value for the customer or product owner in an iterative process. The decision of what should be developed each release is done by listing all the features and functions a customer wants and then carving out those features the solution team can implement in the next iteration.
There is an underlying assumption here which is rarely true: all the innovation and capture of new ideas for the product has already been done before the implementation effort takes place. I'm wondering where that innovation took place and who did it? The solution team innovates, but the team innovates in terms of software development process improvement (a standard mandatory element of the Scrum process, for example) and technology. But who is providing the business innovation: the new product that will eclipse the competition, the variation in service offerings that will increase the efficiency of business service delivery, the internal improvement invention that will reduce the overall cost of doing business?
While agile does not address this issue with its focus on development of working software, someone needs to do it. The product owner is focused on getting the defined features implemented to solve the immediate business problem and then getting back to work. Who addresses innovation? The business analyst. The very role the agilists have claimed should be removed from the agile equation.
Perhaps it is a better and more valuable role for the business analyst in the overall organization to be focused on innovative ways of improving the businesses processes thus directly returning value to the bottom line. A higher calling, perhaps. So when the business analyst role is summarily excised from the agile development cast of characters and product owner is not an option and scrum master doesn't seem to fit, perhaps Corporate Innovator or Business Process Improver might be the role to pursue.