Agile Business Analysis, an introduction to APMG’s certification
Today we’re exploring Agile Business Analysis
To get a thorough, in-depth and accurate view, we spoke to experienced trainer John Humphries; he tells us why he chose this certification, what he loves about the content of the course, how it differs from APMG’s Agile Project Management certification, and why he wishes this qualification was around when he was starting his project management career!
John, can you begin by outlining your experience in Business Analysis?
As a technical project manager, it usually fell to me to understand the real customer needs after a project idea had been sold to a customer. It helped when I was invited to work with the sales team in the early stages. We could then discuss what was possible and not possible within the scope of our products, our capabilities and capacity.
The Agile Business Analysis course would have been extremely useful early on in my career for its ideas in getting closer to user’s real needs and help speed up the way I engaged with end-users and customers.
So, in your view, is the Agile Business Analysis course useful?
Very useful indeed. And offers a holistic approach to requirements analysis. By that I mean it looks at the bigger picture from an organisational perspective.
It starts by covering how to make and assessment of the wider business environment and understanding objectives and value in the context of the proposed project.
An Agile refresher to ensure everyone is on the same page in terms of understanding the principles, process, roles and products. This section is only as detailed as needed for the particular class.
The course then encourages a useful discussion on stakeholder engagement and roles and responsibilities.
Followed by practical work using techniques or practices to understand and develop customer journeys, methods of eliciting and drawing out requirements and working with business representatives to prioritise those requirements.
Part of the Agile BA’s role is likely to involve facilitating workshops and there is a module devoted to this.
Who would benefit from the Agile Business Analysis certification?
The course has been devised for several audiences. For example, business analysts from traditional business backgrounds who wish to gain an agile perspective. It will definitely be beneficial to members of agile teams as it will broaden their knowledge on gathering and formulating requirements. I’m talking in particular of roles such as business visionaries and product owners, agile project managers, team leaders, scrum masters, business ambassadors and testers.
And of course, it’s squarely aimed at anyone wishing to gain a recognized certification in Agile Business Analysis. This would be a great course for them.
What can you say about the Agile BA handbook?
The course text, the AgileBA Handbook, was developed with the Agile Business Consortium, who have been thought leaders in Agile for over 20 years. It gives really superb practical and comprehensive guidance for the role of the Business Analyst who needs to work in working in an Agile way and gives context to the role beyond project boundaries into the organization’s mission, strategy and objectives.
It’s lead author, Dot Tudor, is well known in the agile world as a coach, an instructor, and practitioner with many successful agile transformation projects to her credit. It really comes through in the book.
It’s an excellent reference book for any agile team, even if they don’t plan on taking the course.
What prompted you to take the Agile BA course and when did you take it?
One of the recurring questions on courses such as PRINCE2, Agile Project Management, and Better Business Cases has been ‘how to get better at capturing the requirements?’ And while I have my own experiences to relate to and took an online course with the IIBA, that’s the International Institute of Business Analysis, several years ago, I wanted something for today’s agile world.
I felt that as the APMG’s Agile BA course, uses the same terminology as their Agile PM course it would supplement my overall knowledge to better inform students in those other project management classes.
As a trainer I was looking for more ‘filling for the sandwich’ so to speak. It’s having the ability to talk in-depth with delegates about an associated subject. Also, as a consultant it I wanted to ensure I was using appropriate up to date techniques. As Stephen Covey would say: ‘sharpening the saw’.
I took the course in September 2019. The course was delivered over two consecutive weekends. We did the Foundation exam on the second Saturday and the Practitioner exam at the end of the Sunday presentation. It was quite intensive and our instructor, Dawn Kidd, kept us enthused and busy, ensuring that we understood everything at every step along the way.
Are there any pre-requisites for this course?
A little knowledge of planning techniques, agile and change management could be useful, but certainly not essential. If you are already familiar with those areas there’s still new things to learn. I thought it was going to be an easy course with my background and instead I found it both interesting and challenging (in a good way) in learning about ideas from the business analyst’s viewpoint and practicing applying the learning to different case studies.
What is it you like about this course and how is it different from the Agile PM course?
As a trainer I like to get back in the classroom as a learner. It’s great seeing how different trainers approach a subject and to experience their style of delivery and facilitation. It’s also fun being a participant, getting to work with the others and discussing practicalities from a learners perspective.
What I like about the Agile BA course is that it encourages focus on the wider business environment and strategic objectives. This is to ensure alignment of the underlying requirements and benefits.
The Agile PM course on the other hand focuses on the project environment in which the agile deliverables are produced.
The Agile BA course describes stakeholder identification and engagement with a range of people external to a project and highlights specific interactions with other members of the agile project level roles and solution development team. The Agile PM course is almost exclusively concerned with the latter.
The DSDM Agile Principles, Process, Roles and Practices are described to an appropriate level from the Agile BA’s perspective in contrast to the Agile PM’s viewpoint. I think that a fair summary of the main differences.
It’s great that it’s been written based on real experiences. So, how do delegates learn to apply the learning?
It’s essential to apply the learning quickly as we learn by doing. Applying the ideas quickly will help participants better remember when and how to apply the various techniques and methods.
In real situations, customers don’t always know exactly what they need or what is even possible. “Show me something and I’ll tell you if it’s what I want” is the kind of reply I sometimes get. It’s fair enough really, because customers and users are sometimes looking for prompts to help them verbalise and articulate what they want. They know in their heads, but it’s getting the right words out! This is when working with a Business Analyst can be invaluable.
So with that in mind John, let’s say I’m already certified in project management and agile, and I’ve been gathering and analysing requirements on many client projects and I think I’m pretty good at it, is there any benefit in getting certified as an Agile Business Analyst?
As project managers, we develop a sense of how to discuss requirements, and get experienced in asking the right kinds of questions, in testing our assumptions and not second guessing what it is the customer actually needs. This course helps us build on our foundation knowledge and experience.
The number one reason for me was to learn about business analysis techniques geared to an agile environment. The Agile BA Foundation and Practitioner certifications are a real bonus.
The great thing about the course is that by the end, you’ll have tried out many practical examples where you’ve applied the techniques. This means you’re ‘ready to run’ as soon as you get back to your workplace.
It can be a career enhancing qualification as many organisations are now using Agile techniques to help deliver business change and agile focused certifications are considered favourably by recruiters and employers as job searches will show.
Personally, it has led to contract assignments and I recently became a certified Agile BA trainer.
So from what we’ve heard, the certification shares many of concepts with DSDM’s (dynamic systems development method) Agile Project Framework. It makes the Business Analyst role extremely clear so you’ll be able to fall right into the role in a real Agile team acting as that person with one foot in the project level team and the other in the Solution Development Team. You’ll certainly be instrumental help in achieving outcomes that meet the real business needs.
Plus, as an added bonus, when you get the certification you become eligible for a year’s free membership with the Agile Business Consortium.
Studying for your Agile Business Analysis certification with Training ByteSize
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