Business analysts (BAs) and business analysis can play many different roles on projects using Scrum. This is a healthy topic to discuss as an organization, whether you have BA’s as team members or you train developers/architects to do good business analysis. This posting is not going to try and cover all possible uses for business analysis and BA’s on a scrum project; rather I want to suggest a unique role as the Product Owner Advocate.

As I present the ideas around this role, I want to keep in mind that this role probably only applies from the perspective of an IT department or consulting organization doing a project for a business unit. I am specifically not addressing the BA relationship in a software development organization, not that there won’t be parallels.

Additionally, I am not going to define Scrum. Here is a great overview for those of you who haven’t been exposed to it.

The definitions and structure of scrum make a lot of sense on paper, but often times there is some factor in the environment that just doesn’t quite fit. In my experience with scrum, the Product Owner role is typically one that is hard to fill (keep in mind the above context). The challenge for any organization is to try and stay true to scrum (in order to achieve its benefits) and still make adjustments that allow for success within the organization.

Wouldn’t we all love to be able to designate a person that fills the role of Product Owner who can be dedicated to refining and prioritizing the backlog, working with the team and representing the project to the rest of the organization? The fact is, while most organizations can designate a person with the authority of a product owner, most cannot dedicate one to spend the time to be a product owner.

If we don’t have a strong product owner, then the team risks delivering the wrong business value with the product they create. The ability to understand the backlog and implement it requires time to understand it and an available product owner to communicate.

Scrum should NEVER be attempted without a product owner that can provide the necessary investment to make a project successful. So if we don’t have one should we abandon scrum? Maybe, but I want to present the concept of the product owner advocate that would still allow a team to use scrum.

Product Owner Advocate

The product owner advocate is a role that allows a business analyst to provide the TIME necessary to support a scrum team, while keeping the AUTHORITY with the product owner. This BA represents the interests of the product owner to the scrum team and ‘advocates’ for the product. They are committed to the product and are invested in spending time with the product owner, to understand their priorities, desires, biases, etc., as well as the scrum team where they represent the product owner.

Over the next several posts let’s look at a series of responsibilities and see how the product owner advocate would work with the product owner and the scrum team.