Few years ago, I heard an opinion that team dynamics between developers and business analysts tends to very quickly become polarised. The research of these led to the following opus.
While love and hate might be overstated, some developers in the community keep wondering if they’d be better off without BAs. No matter how much I’d like to say “yes” outright, to make it somewhat fair, I did some research on both good and bad in Dev/BA relationship.
A quick google reveals some of the most obvious reasons why Developers need Business Analysts (and I guess should love them for?)
- BAs figure out requirements by talking to end users/business so developers don’t have to
- BAs are able to turn vague business rules and processes into code-able requirements
- BAs leverage their knowledge in business and SDLC to break the work into manageable chunks
- BAs have enough domain knowledge (and stakeholder trust) to be able to make some calls and unblock developers on the spot
- BAs are able to negotiate features/scope on behalf of developers
- BAs document scope of work and maintain it
- BAs document everything so that it can be used to validate project outcomes
To be fair the only one meaningful “hate” result I’ve got was
- BAs are difficult
BAs are as difficult as anyone else. Hopefully we’re all professionals here so that should just be a matter of working with them rather than against them. We all have the same goal in the end. Read on.
How many “love” are points actually valid?
Sounds like a lazy dev reasoning
If you’re passionate about what you do – working with users/business is an excellent opportunity to learn, grow and see how results of your work help real people solve real problems. If you’re not passionate about what you do – maybe you should do something else instead?
Formalising requirements is a biggie indeed
Not just because it takes time to sit down and document that process. Often business have no idea themselves, so it takes collective effort to get it across the line. And I doubt anyone can nail everything down perfectly right from the get-go. Also, truth is everyone has some sort of domain knowledge. So given the Dev is up to scratch, it seems logical to shorten the feedback loop. Cutting the middleman ensures everyone is on the same page and there’s no unnecessary backwards and forwards. This can be dangerous though because it’s very easy to get carried away and let this phase run forever. This is where an impartial third party would be required. Another reason to potentially involve a BA here would be domain knowledge should the Dev be lacking in that department.
BAs presumably excel at knowing domain
But Devs are likely far far better aware of all the technical intricacies of the solution being built, so naturally Devs would have much better idea how to slice the work. On a few occasions I personally found myself in these situations. You can’t just build a rich UX user facing feature without thinking about all the plumbing and backend work that needs to happen first. Some BAs can argue they know the guts of system just as well. Perfect – with modern software development values of cross-functional teams there’s no reason to not get coding then.
This is a valid point...kind of
Dependent on (inter-)personal relationships, however. Personally, I find that having a stakeholder proxy in the team tends to speed things up a bit. Unless stakeholder is readily available anyway.
Being an impartial third party BAs are indeed able to help
From my experience Devs tend to overengineer, hiding behind things like “best practice” and “future-proofing”. Common sense seems to be a very elusive concept when it comes to crafting code. So having someone not personally interested in technology for the sake of technology is probably going to benefit the project in the long run.
Developers do get carried away
I’ve been there, as well as probably everyone else. It gets very tempting to slip another shiny trendy library into the mix when no one is watching. Generalising and abstracting everything seem to be one of the things that set good developers apart from outstanding ones. For the sake of project success, this obsession just needs to be kept in check with goals and timeframes as in the end clients pay for solutions not frameworks.
Documenting software is key
Unfortunately this is something developers are generally not very good at – most of us would jump at coding instead of writing a plan first. This leads to all sorts of cognitive bias issues where features get documented after the fact they are finished, and every justification goes to actual implementation rather than initial business requirement. Just having someone else with a different perspective take a look at it most likely going to help produce better results. Even better if documentation is made up front and independently. It becomes a valuable artifact and validation criteria.
It seems, applicability of all the aforementioned heavily depends on how experienced the particular Dev or BA is. There’s no point arguing whether the project would be better off with or without BAs (or Devs for that sake). Everyone adds value in their own way. As long as everyone adds value.