BA Role in DevOps


Is there something called as Agile BA or DevOps BA? Or is there a dedicated role such as ‘BA in DevOps’? How are Agile and DevOps related? How does the Business Analyst role change or goes through metamorphosis, when it comes to DevOps?

One day, I got a corporate training enquiry and that is when I heard the term ‘Agile BA’ for the first time. At that time, I had already worked on Agile projects yet nobody had referred to my role particularly as Agile Business Analyst. A thought came to my mind, what if there was a job post saying “looking for a ‘Waterfall BA’?” I even heard once: “With DevOps there is hardly any role a need for BA or PM”.

Jokes apart, the range of contributions a business analyst can make in DevOps, is worth pondering over. It makes us think of fundamentals of everything we have done so far as a team, in particular as a BA. It makes us also wonder where exactly things defer in a DevOps setup? Where a BA role is the same (with or without DevOps).

Let us look at first what DevOps means. It is set of services, processes and technologies aimed at shortening of feedback loops. DevOps (development and operations) is also an enterprise software development phrase. It describes a type of agile relationship between Development and IT Operations. It is also a combination of culture, technology and services. The emphasis is on rapid development and on fast adaptation to changes. It promotes a culture wherein empowerment of the team is very crucial. Autonomous teams are of greater importance over having a hierarchical structure. Team collaboration, transparency is very important as well.

As shown in the diagram below, there is an ongoing and continuous loop around Plan, Build. Integration, Deploy, Operations and Continuous feedback.

Business Analyst role in Agile or DevOps

Image credit: Imageby DirkWouters from Pixabay

At each stage from the above diagram, DevOps allows for effective execution using specific DevOps tools. It also enables reducing the friction between Dev teams and Ops teams. DevOps is complementary with Agile Software Development. DevOps teams often use Agile methods such as Scrum, Kanban, Continuous Improvement. In fact, often the work in operations and support is unplanned. DevOps mindset forces teams to look even beyond Scrum to Kanban. It enables CI/CD and closer interactions between support, maintenance and dev.

With this brief overview, let’s look at a few areas where a BA can contribute in a DevOps environment and what will help a BA ensure success in that area.

Transformation/Initiation phase

In the initial phase or transformation phase, BA can contribute in various tasks such as

  • Providing inputs in building the DevOps transformation roadmap
  • Providing inputs to planning stages
  • Building process models for transformation phases
  • Provide inputs to the leadership team in choosing pilots for the DevOps transformation. Usually these initiatives are so large that an organization cannot transform all the ongoing projects in a big bang way. Simple pilots are a good start wherein teams can assess the success of it and use learnings.

In this phase, following skills will help ensure success for a BA:

  • Strategic thinking. Ability to see big picture and an ability to convert same into a definitive scope. BA can use scoping techniques such as process modelling, context diagrams out here.
  • Collaboration and asking right questions. BA can maintain an open questions or elicitation tracker and drive the items in it to closure.
  • Ability to choose a few options for the pilot project with a reason and justification. Using this, leadership team can make a conscious decision about it.

Pilot Phase

In this phase, BA resumes usual agile project tasks such as scope definition, requirements analysis, elicitation, solution design and pilot validation. Throughout, a BA needs to collaborate across teams to understand the needs and transform those into the solution that the pilot represents.

Pilot will have a few simple user cases implemented in it. The goal is to ensure that the DevOps tools and technologies are working together well. Here, BA will be additionally benefited if he/she is aware of CI/CD and DevOps tools in general. During Pilot, BA must ensure that acceptance criteria is well defined. Agile Scrum Retrospectives are of immense help to see what went well and what to improve.

In this phase, following skills will ensure success for a BA:

  • A wide variety of Agile project skills such as Kanban, Scrum and technological knowledge
  • Basic understanding about DevOps (tech fundamentals)
  • Ability to write requirement artifacts using techniques such as user story map, epics, user stories, backlog management, acceptance criteria etc.
  • Ability to track traceability and dependencies despite constant flux.

Larger Scale DevOps Implementations

Pilot is successfully completed at this stage. In this phase, BA starts working on larger DevOps implementations. BA needs to pay specific attention on maintaining and monitoring requirements. There is a lot of continuous feedback on the features, changes to those. The team is translating product vision into smaller implementable/testable units. BA team needs to maintain the traceability of as many BA artifacts as possible.

In this phase, following skills will ensure success for a BA:

  • Maintaining process models, detailed requirements, continuous tracking of their changes and associations
  • Ensuring continuous feedback not from the management but also from the implementation teams
  • Active participation in testing, UAT etc
  • Knowledge of projects across the wider scale program and their inter-dependencies, constraints etc

In a nutshell, BA role may seem like quite challenging in DevOps setup. It may sound like everything seems to be continuous and changing. At the same time, it is great real opportunity to apply some Zen principals. 😊 Further, as we have seen in this brief write-up, it is in many ways, like BA role in any setup. Larger set of responsibilities are still the same.

Thoughts? Would love to hear your experiences and ideas.

Swati PitreAuthor: Swati Pitre, CBAP®, is Sr. Business Analyst 

Sr. Business Analyst, Consultant and Trainer with 20+ years of industry experience across various domains and geographies. Recognized by clients as a valued member of business and technology teams, with a proven track record of delivering artifacts and solutions of high quality. Recognized by participants as a highly effective and hands-on trainer and coach. Self-starter, process-oriented, and creative with unique problem-solving skills.

Her specialities include Process Improvement, BPM, Predictive Analytics, Product Development, Quality, and Governance. She undertakes various training courses such as CBAP®/CCBA®/ECBA® Prep Courses, Comprehensive BA Job oriented Course, Agile BA Course, and several other customized courses.

She is also a public speaker and has completed Level 3 of Effective Coaching Pathway at Toastmasters International. She is a yoga and fitness enthusiast with varied hobbies include reading, writing, art, travelling and music.

LinkedIn: Swati Pitre, CBAP® | LinkedIn



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