October 26, 2016

Getting started with lean business analysis

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Agile and lean thinking are starting to produce good results, not only in the world of start-ups, but also in IT environments in established organisations. But more value can be created, and more waste eliminated, by bringing lean principles to the business and to the business analysis profession. There are lots of great resources available online. In this post, I gathered some material that inspired me.

If you want to start with some background information on lean and agile in software development, you can check the Agile Manifesto and Martin Fowler’s overview. (For brevity, I’m skipping Toyota and Lean six sigma, but of course they deserve to be mentioned.)

The Agile Manifesto’s principles got applied to business analysis by Luke Johnstone, who created the Lean Business Analysis Manifesto in late 2015, and later David Morris, who details potential types of waste in business analysis and how the Manifesto’s values can help improve in this article.

Table comparing lean business analysis values with standard values

Steve Blais has a good write up about the agile BA, concluding that BAs are agile by definition.Dave Saboe also has an interesting podcast on applying agile principles and values to business analysis. Related to this, Kupe Kupersmith argues that BAs should not see themselves as bridges between business and IT anymore, but rather as facilitators and advisors (with which I wholeheartedly agree).

As a business advisor, you will be focusing a lot on business value creation. Steven Thomas explains how he uses benefit maps to visualise what benefits we will realise for our organisations through projects and programmes.

We can also get some inspiration from the startup world, where three books made a big impact:

These books can be summarised as follows:

  • Get out of the building
  • Get out of the building with an MVP
  • Get out of the building with an MVP and a business model

Related to this, 18F also has a good overview of the Lean Product Design approach.

Sources like these are relevant for business analysts for several reasons. For example:

  • We need to put a lot more focus on listening to our customers rather than focus on our organisation’s products.
  • More broadly speaking: we need to put more effort in understanding the problem before developing all sorts of solutions. Business analysis is about understanding businesses, customers and customer problems first, and about designing and developing solutions and software second.
  • We need to think more about identifying and validating the assumptions we make when designing solutions, rather than analysing, documenting and developing features.

Making the change towards a lean approach has a big impact on how your organisation works. Or better: how the people in your organisation work. Stephen Parry has some great reading material on his blog about creating adaptive, learning, and engaging organisations.

While above resources give you a broad perspective on lean thinking, Lynda Girvan’s and Debra Paul’s upcoming book focuses on the practical side of agile business analysis.

These are some of my sources of inspiration. Do you have some interesting resources? Please do share them in the comments.

Want to try this out yourself? In my upcoming IT Works workshop on Lean business analysis, you can experience yourself the practice of bridging classic BA techniques with lean startup principles.

I hope to see you there (or get in touch if you’re interested but can’t make it)!

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