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In Agile, does the term Developer mean Programmer?

Posted by Chris Adams

Article Rating // 6469 Views // 0 Additional Answers & Comments

Categories: Business Analysis, Agile Methods, Roles and Responsibilities, General


So, what is your definition of a developer. This seems like a straightforward question, right?  Well, maybe it's not.

If your career is in the IT sector or software development, you'd probably think it's someone who develops software by writing code or programming.  And yes, you've heard of real estate developers, but saying the word developer on its own may not bring up real estate or physical buildings.

Maybe it should? defines a developer as "A person or thing that develops or innovates," and the definition of develop makes no mention of coding or programming.  Merriam-Webster suggests a few different meanings for the word develop. The one closest says "to create or produce especially by deliberate effort over time."  

When you let yourself forget about software for a moment, you'll begin to realize there are other types of developers who are not close to the Technology Department and have no clue about C++, Python, or PHP.

Some know neighborhoods best because they are real estate developers.  Others understand curriculums because they are academic program developers.  And some want to reach new markets, so you guessed it, the company hires a market developer to handle the responsibilities of getting into, establishing, and growing that market segment.  

So why bring up a topic such as this?  We’re business analysts.

I met someone recently, and they told me their company does not have or hire business analysts. They run their teams based on their interpretation of the Scrum Guide. They have scrum masters, product owners, and a development team. Knowing that the team works to deliver potentially releasable increments (at the end of each sprint), they consider that to be individuals who are programming an increment of a software feature.

Many companies and teams outside of the technology department have sought to run their day-to-day work and projects based on Agile. Going back to taking the programming out of the development team, you start to realize that other organizations can deliver product increments without writing software code.  

Take, for example, an academic program developer. After their program idea is approved, they design the course, determine where the class takes place (physical, virtual, hybrid), promote the program, etc. Many of these tasks could be performed in any order. And many of them can be broken up into smaller stories to deliver an increment at the end of sprint. The developer could have a syllabus finalized and approved to use. They can train instructors to teach the course based on the syllabus. 

The development team should be composed of people who can work together to deliver that increment. The Scrum Guide does not specify who should be part of the team, nor does it suggest the team members have a background in programming.  

While I can't fault that company for not hiring business analysts, I'm not convinced they should exclude them. Maybe they're lucky their developers have the business acumen to do the analysis, but it's not always the case. Many developers are happy and feel most comfortable behind a keyboard, coding all day, leaving the analysis to someone else.

You can have a business analyst on a development team and completely follow Scrum, even if most if not all cannot write a programming language.

Note: While this conversation occurred before November 2020, when the new Scrum Guide came out, it does not change the discussion (in fact, I bet the new guide causes more confusion).

It shouldn't, however. The fact that "the development team" is now "developers" still doesn't mean that developers program software. It is just a change in terminology, not in philosophy. 

Angela Spring
Business Systems Analyst
LinkedIn Profile



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Do your homework prior to the business analysis interview!

Having an idea of the type of questions you might be asked during a business analyst interview will not only give you confidence but it will also help you to formulate your thoughts and to be better prepared to answer the interview questions you might get during the interview for a business analyst position.  Of course, just memorizing a list of business analyst interview questions will not make you a great business analyst but it might just help you get that next job.



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