Business Analysts’ Critical Role on Agile Projects

One question that comes up, both with our students and our coaching clients, is this: Where do business analysts fit into agile projects? Business analysts – or BAs – often find themselves in one of three roles on an agile project: the product owner, the product owner agent or a business stakeholder.

Business Analyst as Product Owner
Seasoned business analysts with in-depth product knowledge can make good product owners. Product owner responsibilities include:

•       Provide project strategy & direction
•       Provide product expertise
•       Organize & prioritize requirements
•       Work with customers & the development team
•       Involved daily, provide clarifications
•       Accept or reject work results
•       Responsible for ROI
•       Critical role on agile projects!

Because a product owner has budget responsibilities, some financial knowledge or training will help the BA who is transitioning to the product owner role.

Business Analyst as Product Owner Agent
For larger projects, some organizations have created a role called the product owner agent. The product owner agent helps the product owner with the day-to-day work of providing clarifications and organizing the product backlog. While this is not an official scrum role, it is a common position for business analysts to fill on agile projects. Product owner agents:

•       Take on tactical PO responsibilities
•       Work directly with product owner, stakeholders and the development team
•       Are fully empowered to make final decisions during the sprint

It is important to note that, when a product owner agent is part of a scrum team, the product owner still accepts responsibility for all decisions. Successful agile projects have involved product owners!

Business Analyst as Active Stakeholder
Because anyone on an agile project can add requirements to the product backlog, business analysts can also be stakeholders on agile projects. As a stakeholder, business analysts will:

•       Identify product needs & enhancements
•       Create requirements and user stories
•       Work with the product owner
•       Provide input on priorities – but do not prioritize
•       Provide feedback during sprint reviews.

The business analyst-stakeholder is a very active role, compared to other stakeholders. With the right input, the active stakeholder can help enhance agile projects and their resulting products.


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