Measure Twice, Cut Once

March 31, 2015
Codazen

Why Product Analysts are the Missing Piece
in Successful Agile Software Development

Tape-Measurer

As companies have come to adopt agile as the preferred software development methodology, many of the more traditional business roles have been removed from the team makeup. Within Scrum, primary roles are defined as the product owner, ScrumMaster, delivery team (engineers and UI/UX designers), and related business stakeholders.

So where does the product analyst fit in?

Some may argue that the role has been absorbed into the product owner’s responsibilities – to drive the strategic roadmap and feature set for the product as the leading domain expert. Yet, along with maintaining a big-picture approach and shaping the product’s positioning within the market, product owners must also manage day-to-day details of project scope, requirements, and timeline. For many product owners, the challenge lies in splitting focus among all these responsibilities in order to balance the project from both a strategic and tactical perspective.

Too Much To Do, Too Little Time

Product owners are put in a unique position in which they are accountable for communicating different messages to people at various levels both inside and outside of their organization. Some may have a solid big picture business approach, but lack the time and attention to detail necessary for documentation and business analysis. Others may get so caught up in the details that they risk losing sight of the big picture. In either case, the product owner may risk being stretched too thin, becoming a bottleneck for the team since she is unable to dedicate her time completely in any one specific area. Issues are likely to arise as messages are relayed back and forth, lost in translation between the product owner, UX/UI, and engineering teams. Sometimes a product owner’s lack of formal story writing experience or training may result in incomplete or spotty product requirements which can lead to scope creep and deviations in project timeline and budget.

What can your team do to avoid this?

Product Analyst to the Rescue

Bringing a product analyst into the picture can make all the difference. He can help bridge the gaps and act as a liaison between the product owner and delivery team. The product analyst’s responsibilities are tactically inward-focused and include project-specific duties such as requirements gathering, story writing, assumption validation, user acceptance criteria development, and more. He will develop an in-depth understanding of the stakeholders’ business needs, interpret, and share that understanding to the more technical team. Rather than having the product owner completely involved in the details of the project, the product analyst can work closely with her to get questions answered quickly for both sides. This helps expedite the process for clarifying story details, grooming the backlog, and researching requirements for future sprints.

Just like the old adage, “measure twice, cut once,” having a product analyst dedicated to triaging requirements and managing story quality ensures that things are done right the first time, saving time and money down the line.

ProductAnalyst
The product owner’s responsibilities can now be strategically outward-focused—working to develop a higher-level product strategy, articulating the vision, and communicating with stakeholders to bring feedback to the team. As the decision maker responsible for return on investment of the project, it is critical for her to drive the project based on business priorities while the product analyst can help translate and facilitate that work from a project priority standpoint. Working together, the two can make a great team, cover all their bases, and balance the many demands of developing a robust software product.

Coda

Hiring a good agile product analyst is definitely an investment, but one which is necessary for any agile organization that wants to move faster, become more adaptable, and build a successful product the first time around.

Posted by Melody Liu, Marketing Coordinator

About the Author

Melody graduated from UCI in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, specializing in Marketing and minoring in Digital Arts.

She’s been with Codazen for almost two years and has been paramount in leading our marketing vision as well as maintaining the Codazen aesthetic. Melody has been known to kill cacti by loving them too much and obsessively labels inanimate objects.

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