Little by little...

Little by little...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pairing Backfire

When I was introduced to agile practices, paired programming made immediate sense to me. In contrast, there was a lot of resistance from the developers on our newly formed team. I tried to persuade them of the value, but sounded like a hypocrite since, as a BA, I was not pairing myself. Then our management decided that if it was a best practice for the developers, then everyone should do it.

Groan! Suddenly I felt pressure to talk over every thought and idea with my own pair who was either a tester or another BA-like support person. (Side note: they were both skeptical introverts.) We spent hours together every day, creating wikis and automated Fitnesse tests, meeting with sme’s and writing emails. It seemed nothing was off-limits. During breaks we would even be in the bathroom at the same time!

Over a few weeks, we began making excuses to escape pairing. We avoided working in the bullpen, found meetings that only one of us had to go to, and exaggerated other non-project tasks. The pairing disappeared and so did the collaboration.

I learned many lessons from that experience.  Here’s just a few of them:

·     The most important aspect of an agile team: the people, the people, the people. Obvious, but missed by so many managers.
·      You cannot make someone share their thoughts and ideas against their will. As long as you are creating an environment that is open, then don’t take this personally. Tough lesson for me.
·      You also can’t make people listen to your ideas. That is another un-enforceable.
·      You can’t take a sound principle or method and just enlarge its scope. It will organically grow and expand if it should and if our focus is on continual improvement.
·      The 'work' of requirements gathering is very different than the 'work' of programming. Pairing may not be for all roles, but collaboration is for everyone. 

On my new team there is no required pairing for the BAQA’s. But we do collaborate on anything and everything. We self-organize and decide what makes sense for the needs of each situation. This gives us some autonomy and prevents us from suffocating each other. And best of all, since the other BAQA’s are guys, I never have to worry about bumping into them in the bathroom.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Resist or Roll With It

At an agile conference that I attended recently, there was a session where each table was labeled with a role from an agile team. Attendees were to get up and sit at a table that had their role on it.

So I got up and scanned the room for my table. There were several for Product Owners, more for Developers and Testers and even a few for Directors (aka upper management since the conference was geared toward managers investigating agile practices.) But I still didn’t have a home. Where do the BA’s belong?

I finally asked an organizer and received the answer, “Oh, we didn’t think of that one when we were creating the labels.” Ouch! Am I obsolete? Not wanting to make a fuss, I found a seat with the testers since I have a hand in creating our automated tests (and there were cookies at their table J).

Since discovering agile, I have been only mildly troubled at not seeing the term ‘business analyst’ anywhere. Why should I worry? My contributions at work are valued and my boss frequently recognizes my worth to the team. And I enjoy what I do, despite some frustrations.

But I’m not na├»ve. I know that the times, they are a-changing. The tasks that I do now will be obsolete in a year, if not next week. The tools we use are constantly re-evaluated and replaced. The only constant in life is change and it’s my choice whether to resist it or roll with it.

That’s why I now write acceptance criteria with gherkin instead of requirements with a traceability matrix. And instead of getting ‘final’ approval for an un-read pile of documentation, I demo working software every two weeks. My idea of ‘change management’ now involves moving index cards on our story wall.

So I’m not worried. I know that my value is not in the tasks that I do. And it certainly is not in the title you give me. I will roll with it whatever you call me.