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2. The Agile Mindset

2.4 Agile Extension and the Agile Manifesto

Agile Extension to the BABOK® Guide

The agile software development movement was founded on a document which encapsulates a philosophy of work, the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. This manifesto presents a set of values and principles which are the underpinning of the way of working embodied in agile software development.

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development (Agile Manifesto) was penned by a group of practitioners and methodologists who sought alternatives to the way software was developed at the time. A high percentage of software development initiatives were late, exceeded their planned budget, and didn't achieve their quality goals. The teams building software were stressed, unhappy, and dissatisfied with the working environment.

The Agile Manifesto states:

“We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”

If we apply agile thinking to business analysis we can view these statements as guidelines for a philosophy of analysis.

These statements may be rooted in software development, but they can be related to agile business analysis in any context. Replacing “working software” with “working solution” expands our thinking and gives us guidance for an approach to analysis with an agile mindset.

  1. We are uncovering better ways of delivering solutions by doing it and helping others do it.

    This is the most important statement in the Agile Manifesto. It reinforces the practice based and empirical nature of the agile mindset. You learn what works by trying things out, not theorizing about what might work.

  2. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.

    Business analysis is a human-centric activity. Business analysis practitioners start by understanding stakeholders’ needs which requires them to work closely with stakeholders at every step of the value chain. Solutions frequently change the way people work, and agile business analysis practitioners make people the center of the work.

  3. Working solutions over comprehensive documentation.

    Agile business analysis practitioners focus on producing something, showing it to stakeholders, and eliciting immediate feedback to determine if they are on track to satisfying the need. Agile business analysis practitioners engage stakeholders in conversations in order to build and maintain shared understanding.

    Documentation does provide value, but only when it’s written to match its intended purpose. Agile business analysis practitioners produce documentation as they implement a change and use it to facilitate and support discussions with stakeholders.

  4. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.

    Agile business analysis primarily focuses on satisfying needs. Business analysis practitioners learn to understand needs by showing increments of solutions to stakeholders and analyzing the feedback received. This ongoing collaboration with stakeholders facilitates new information about the need and constantly refines the understanding of the need until the need has been satisfied.

    This ongoing collaboration with stakeholders also uncovers new needs based on customer demand, new competitors entering a market, government legislation that impacts the solution, or any other factor that may impact the solution.

  5. Responding to change over following a plan.

    Agile approaches do plan. In some contexts the plan is called the product roadmap. In an agile context, success is measured based on how well solutions satisfy the customer’s needs and the value they derive from the solution. The ongoing learning and feedback that is central to the agile mindset allows for business analysis practitioners to continually refine their understanding of the need and make changes to the solution to ensure the solution satisfies the need.

    It is the ability of agile business analysis practitioners to accurately respond to change that allows them to deliver value to their customers faster, with higher quality, and with the ability to rapidly change direction in response to changing conditions.