The BA is the least knowledgeable about Agile

most knowledgeable

According to VersionOne’s 2013 State of Agile survey, Business Analysts rank as the least knowledgeable about Agile.

I sort of understand this, but it really shocked me when I saw it. As you can see in the image above, the ScrumMaster is judged as being most knowledgeable. That makes sense to me. The Project Manager is ranked as the next most knowledgeable. More so than the Developer. That was news to me. From what I have seen, its the Developers that have been embracing the Agile concept with passion, and a lot of this is filtering upwards.

To read that the BA was at the butt-end of the list had me break out in a cold sweat. I can imagine that, because the Business Analyst has been traditionally involved in the big “document it upfront” way of doing projects (aka Plan-driven), that there is quite an adjustment to move into a change-driven approach.

Also, a lot of the Business Analysts knowledge is very BABOK 2.0 -based. And the BABOK 2.0 didn’t even mention Agile until they published the “Agile Extension” in 2013. (Fortunately, IIBA will be releasing version 3.0 of BABOK soon that takes a completely new look at the Business Analyst and how it fits into the real world).

But is this a valid excuse for being listed way down at the bottom of “most knowledgeable”? I think not. There are plenty of resources out there that help even the most documentation-addicted Business Analyst become a little bit more knowledgeable about this philosophy.

Why do you think Business Analysts know so little about Agile? What else can be done to improve this situation?


  • BABOK: Keeping up with the current trends of Agile Requirements Definition and Management
  • IIBA and Agile Alliance publish 2013 Agile Extension to the BABOK Guide in print, in bulk and for licensing
  • The Project Manager vs. the Business Analyst
  • The Agile Framework: Agile Values and Principles, The Agile Toolkit, The Agile Organization
  • Is Agile a Cult?
  • Superman vs. Batman: The Agile Version

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0 thoughts on “The BA is the least knowledgeable about Agile

  1. That is not good news! What is even more scary is the Product Owner role only being at 4%. If the product owner is the “single wringable neck” they should definitely fully understand agile. I see this role as the Lead BA for an agile project.

    I know we are seeing requests for training and information to support business analysis in the agile world. We recently launched a new class that readers may want to check out Whether folks avail themselves to a class or not, the first step is getting them to care to find the multitude of information that is available.

    It will be interesting to see how the published BABOK v. 3 helps in this area and how it is received by the business analysis community.

    • You are right bout the Product Owner. They are meant to be part of the core team (at least in Scrum). One would expect that their understanding of Agile would be a bit higher. Having said that, I could imagine that a lot of “Product Owners” have been roped into the job – “Hey we are doing this in an Agile way – we need you, dear stakeholder, to be the Product Owner…” –

      Thanks for the training link…

      And, yes, very interested to see what BABOK3.0 brings to the BA world’s mindset.

  2. I really question the methodology of this survey. Who are these people claiming the title of product owner? If they are they scrum product owners, this REALLY doesn’t make sense. OR are they product owners simply representing the interests of the business? And only 44% of Scrum Masters are knowledgeable about Agile – how is that possible? Are they really performing Scrum?

    On the other hand, as a seasoned product owner and BA and I have witnessed a great number of organizations who think they are operating under an agile methodology but in reality are doing no such thing. In fact, what they are doing is taking a lot of agile methodology out of context and applying the parts they like and discarding everything else.

    So maybe this does make sense…

    • Bruno

      You ask some good questions. One’s that I think that I will follow up with the people who’s survey it is.

      With regards your second statement, I’ve also seen bits and pieces of Agile/Scrum being used. In fact, I believe that there is more use of this “hybrid model” than anything else. Maybe that shows that Agile is not actual working in the “real world”. Or it could mean, as you say, that companies don’t really “get” Agile….

      What do you think?

  3. Hey Mark, I agree that this is a valid concern, but it’s not correct to say that BABOK v2 doesn’t mention Agile. There’s actually a fair bit of content about agile methods (which we also refer to as change-driven). While there will certainly be a lot more in v3, v2 (published in 2009) has more agile content than the current edition of the PMBOK.

    That said, IIBA does believe that it’s important for business analysts to get a better understanding of agile and we’re going to continue to work on improving that in the years to come.

    • Kevin – you are right. In fact, I remember when I first picked up a copy of BABOK (2.0), how the terms “change driven” and “plan driven” were really good ones. Sorry that I didn’t mention that…

      And I agree with you about IIBA’s goal to give Business Analysts a better understanding of Agile. I have seen that in the BABOK v3. I’ve also read some, but not all, of the large number of articles, etc, on the IIBA site that deal with Agile.

  4. Hmm…interesting survey- I am not shocked because I’ve observed on any agile project I’ve worked there are some folks in the roles surveyed that may not truly get agile — yet.
    But I will say not true about the BA’s I met on my last agile coaching assignment;collectively they were very engaged in understanding how to adapt some of their old behaviors to “be” more agile not just “do” agile. These BAs were passionate and organized about improving their elicitation, analysis and documentation strategies to provide more value and risk reduction for the team and customer each iteration.

  5. Wow, that is interesting. My thought, though, is that maybe it’s because business analysis work changes very little in Agile. The techniques are the same but the frequency and level of formality can be different. Maybe we don’t “need” to draw a distinction between methodologies because we’re already operating with an Agile mindset?

    • Excellent point Colleen. You are right – the core skills of the BA don’t really change. Just the way they need to use them.

      By the way – I appreciate your comments in the LinkedIn group discussion. There you also make a great point.


  6. I think it depends on the BA and the desire to continue to grow and learn. There are hundreds of free resources online, loads of videos on you tube, and endless books on the subject.
    I am a member of the older generation(29 years working for the state of Ohio), those who resist the new ways, but I have jumped in head first and am having a great time with it. I’m taking a Certified ScrumMaster course at the end of the month with the end goal of getting my CSM Certification.
    Of course, I call myself the reluctant BA as this is the title slapped on me in a re-org and I’m not even close to being documentation obsessed. More of a KISS kind. That pile of documentation becomes obsolete before development is done and nobody has any interest in trying to maintain it so why waste the time in the first place?

    • Well said Jody. You are right. learning is key. (Even for us “old school” people).

      Good luck with the CSM certification. Drop by and let me know when you get it. It’d be interesting to hear your experiences. Maybe you could write a post about it.


  7. Hi Everyone, before we rush too much to judgement, I’d caution everyone to consider how the question was worded (I’m checking with Version One on the specific wording of the question.) Based on how the results are portrayed, I’m suspecting (or hoping) that the question asked something along the lines of “Who on your team is the MOST knowledgeable about agile?”

    That’s a lot different than jumping to conclusions about what group, as a whole, knows agile at all. Almost by definition for teams practicing scrum, the Scrum Master should be getting the highest scores. The fact that only 44% said their scrum master was the most knowledgeable when a much larger percentage of that said they’re practicing scrum says something in itself.

    Based on my interaction with BA’s around the United States, there is a fair number that are very familiar with agile and there are many others who are just starting down their journey of learning about it.

    To sum up, it may in fact be true that BA’s as a whole do not know MORE about agile than everyone else on their team, but I wouldn’t immediately jump to the conclusion that BA’s don’t know much about agile. This may just be a case where you can make statistics say whatever you want them to say.

  8. …interesting and provocative table! I feel an artefact like this could be a great elicitation tool….

    I suspect there are 2 main reasons it comes out like this:

    -The make up of the survey participants would bias it towards structured method’ agile” e.g. scrum, as thats what Version One provide. (pure guess)

    -The fact that us BA’s are a sceptical bunch and while we get ‘Agile’, our training tells us when it makes sense to apply and which elements are appropriate to use. In a recent project at work, the Dev’s accused us of not being Agile, at which point i pulled out my agile principles cards out of my pocket (yep really!) and took them through it point by point. Our project met 10 out 12. So are we agile or not? The Dev’s didn’t think so, i did. Hence we’d be perceived as not knowing about Agile.

    PS BA’s check out “Adaptive” methodologies. They are true change driven, without any of the ‘jargon’ or purism.

    • Simon

      Great comment. Your feelings about the make up of the survey are something that several others have remarked about (there was a lively discussion about this post in one of the LinkedIn groups). Your second point about BAs being aware of when, and when not Agile should be embrace, is also spot on. I believe that Business Analysts know enough to not just slavishly follow the Agile flag “just because…” (In fact, have you read my other post “

      “Adaptive Methoologies”. Is that not just another name for what IIBA called “change-driven” (aka Agile)?

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