Business analysts play an important role: Traditionally, they act as the link between the business units and IT, help to discover the user needs and the solution to address them, and specify requirements. But in Scrum, there is no business analyst role. So what happens to the individuals?
Business Analyst as Product Owner
One option for business analysts is to take on the product owner role, as the following picture shows.
I feel that this option is often a natural extension of the business analyst role. But it usually implies significant changes: The individual should now own the product on behalf of the company, make the appropriate product decisions, and be responsible for product success. The new product owner often has to learn new skills to effectively play the role. This includes creating a valid product strategy, developing an actionable product roadmap, and aligning the stakeholders in addition to working with the development team and managing the product backlog. Consequently, the individual will usually benefit from developing the appropriate product management skills.
Business Analyst as Team Member
The second option for business analysts is to work as team members. This option is depicted by the picture below.
Business analysts working on team often help their peers refine the product backlog. But as backlog refinement should be a team effort, analysts working on the team will take on additional responsibilities, for instance, working closely with the testers or the technical writer. As a business analyst on the team, you should hence expect to learn new skills and broaden your expertise.
Avoid the Proxy Product Owner Trap
Dealing half-heartedly with the role of business analysts in Scrum is a common mistake: Business analysts neither play the product owner role nor are they team members. Instead, they end up as proxy product owners, a go-between the real decision maker and the development team, as shown below.
Avoid using a proxy product owner—certainly as a permanent solution. Take the following example from one of my clients. The head of a business unit was asked to take on the product owner role for a new product. As the individual struggled to effectively fill the role due to their other work commitments, the business analyst stood in as a proxy. While the analyst took care of the product backlog, the business unit head make the strategic product decisions and told the analyst which product features should be implemented. Unfortunately, this resulted in misalignment, a long-winded decision-making process, and poor morale.