Top 5 Agile BA Skills You Need to Succeed

Top 5 Agile BA Skills You Need to Succeed

by | Feb 23, 2020

As the popular singer and songwriter, Bob Dylan, once said, “For the times they are a-changin’”. Businesses are competing on a new level to deliver better value for their customers and stakeholders. And with the trend of companies “going agile” these days, it’s vital for BAs to adapt their Agile BA skills. So while you may not be a superhero (maybe you are… I shouldn’t assume), there are certainly ways that you can approach doing business analysis in an Agile way – helping both you and your company succeed.

Agile BA Skills – Requirements negotiation and prioritization, Courtesy of Dilbert

Actually, being an Agile BA isn’t that drastic of a change from the traditional BA role as you may think. How and when things are done is the key difference for the Agile BA mindset. Since Agile is a change-driven vs. plan-driven approach, the Agile BA favours lightweight and just-in-time techniques – striving to eliminate wasteful work and prioritizing the highest-value work for the team.

There are many popular Agile approaches including Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), Kanban, etc. One Agile approach is no better than the other. And the Agile approach that’s chosen will depend on the qualities of your project and team itself. But regardless of the Agile approach you use, the basic skills required of the Agile BA will still hold true. Here are some important Agile BA skills you’ll need to succeed in an Agile world.

Top 5 Agile BA Skills

Traditional BA skills are totally still relevant – they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. But for a BA to be successful in an Agile environment, they must also exemplify the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto.

The values of Agile require a particular mindset that is different from non-Agile approaches. So while all these and many other values and skills are appreciated, the following are my top 5 recommended skills for the Agile BA.

Note: These recommended Agile BA skills do not include BA techniques (e.g. backlog grooming, user stories, etc.).

1. Communication & Collaboration

BAs are popular folks – I mean, don’t expect celebrity treatment. But, as a BA, you probably communicate with nearly everyone! That includes end users, customers, executives, sponsors, developers, management, support, sales, marketing, vendors – you get the point. A BA must consider everybody’s needs and concerns. All this while ensuring a shared understanding of the product vision and requirements. That’s no easy task!

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.


The Agile BA leverages the knowledge and creativity of the team. They prefer verbal and face-to-face conversations whenever possible. They have patience to deal with disagreements – What! People argue and disagree?! The Agile BA strives to seek consensus by negotiating and influencing the team and stakeholders. At the same time, they embrace conflict, facilitate playfully, and bring out the best in a highly collaborative team.

2. Flexibility & Adaptability

Agile approaches assume constant change, and so too should the Agile BA. No one can predict the future – if you can, I need you as my investment advisor! The Agile BA should embrace change, especially new or changing requirements. They adapt by doing analysis and detailed requirements at the last responsible moment to avoid potentially wasteful work.

Agile values cross-functional and self-organizing teams. As an Agile BA, you must continuously self-reflect about how you can best contribute to the team. Perhaps that means adapting your role or skills to be more effective together. Feedback can drive positive change – including professional feedback about yourself.

3. Business Knowledge & Value Recognition

As a BA, you’re expected to thoroughly understand the business, product, and vision. This is especially true if you are acting as the (proxy) Agile Product Owner. The team and stakeholders look to you as a “go to” person for clarity of the vision and requirements.

A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.

Charles Darwin

In an Agile environment, there is a special emphasis on the prioritization of requirements – E.g. What is to be done next and why? The Agile BA must be able to recognize and prioritize business value in addition to having business and product knowledge. The work of the team will be prioritized based on the highest-value needs of the customers and stakeholders.

4. Analytical Thinking & Problem Solving

So, you think you don’t need as much analytical thinking in Agile? Think again! Constant change in Agile requires continuous analyzing and problem solving. For example, how does a new or changing requirement impact the overall requirements and team? What are the challenges and risks? What are ideas and options for approaching that change? The good news is that you’re not alone. The Agile BA can facilitate and collaborate with the team members to understand those changes, impacts, and make decisions together.

5. Tools & Technologies

To be honest, it’s actually conflicting to list Tools and Technologies as an Agile BA skill. After all, the first value of the Agile Manifesto says, “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” – whoops! While you could rely completely on sticky notes and whiteboards, it’s also unrealistic to function without any tools or technology. Let the needs of your work environment and team dictate what’s necessary – but aim to be lean.

Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives.

Steven Spielberg

An Agile BA advocates “lightweight” work and documentation, which means less upfront analysis and documentation. Instead, they favour just-in-time and purposeful documentation that moves the team towards the vision. The Agile BA may still use traditional tools such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations – however, simply consider how much and for what reasons.

All that said, Agile approaches introduce new activities and some interesting tools that can help teams be better. Some examples of Agile tools include backlog management, knowledge management, real-time collaboration, estimating and reporting for sprints and releases, etc. In summary, tools and technologies should be used because they make the team more effective. They should not be used for the sake of using the technology itself or out of habit.


As Agile approaches become increasingly more common, it’s crucial for the BA role to adapt. An Agile BA must demonstrate Agile values in addition to traditional BA skills. Even though there are many, the most important Agile BA skills that I recommend are: 1) Communication and Collaboration, 2) Flexibility and Adaptability, 3) Business Knowledge and Value Recognition, 4) Analytical Thinking and Problem Solving, and 5) Tools and Technologies.

What’s your next step as a practicing or transitioning Agile BA? First, understand your current strengths and opportunities. Next, find ways to improve. Ideas: Read more books or online material, join a meetup, find a pet project, get a coach or mentor.

I hope that you enjoyed this article. What are some other Agile BA skills that you believe are important? Please share your comments. Thanks for reading!


The Agile BA skills discussed are based on the competencies in the BABOK and Agile Extension to the BABOK. Agile Product Owner perspectives were inspired by Agile Product Management with Scrum by Roman Pichler.

1. BABOK v3: A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge. International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), 2015.

2. Agile Extension to the BABOK Guide; Version 1.0. International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), 2013.

3. Pichler, RomanAgile Product Management with Scrum: Creating Products That Customers Love. Addison-Wesley, 2010.