Who is the person in Agile who drives the software requirements process, particularly the software requirements analysis and planning?
It really varies. In a Scrum environment, for example, there may be someone who is the Scrum Master. We prefer to think of the Agile leader as the Product Champion. The Product Champion knows the business intimately and has the ability to collaborate with a team of equals.
The Product Champion supports and facilitates the whole idea of a partnership where the customer perspective, the business perspective and the technology perspective come together. The leader wouldn't single out any one person as the main contributor. All of these players have to be able speak up and say, "OK, I've got something to say, to offer, about this."
The nature of the effort decides who is the right choice for the leadership role. Say, for instance, that the team had to re-platform a particular product; in that case, the technology person might be leading that effort. But, if the team is introducing a new product, or some new feature to the product, then it's going to be the Product Champion who's going to lead. There's not one set leadership model in Agile that fits every individual project effort.
We like to talk about leadership using a lowercase letters. It always doesn't have to be "THE LEADER" with all caps. At EBG Consulting Inc., we recently coached a project where a developer asked a question that led to an important discussion. He facilitated the conversation with the business and used the Options Board to help guide the exchange of ideas. It was clearly evident and powerful to the entire team that this person was serving as a leader.
More information on software requirements analysis and Agile project management
In another Agile [development] coaching situation, a QA person had been pretty quiet during the session. Then he spoke up and said, "I don't have enough here to do my work. I need to get more detail. I need to be working with you hand and glove. I can't be sitting off in another room." This was a form of leadership -- it wouldn't necessarily happen in a more traditional environment.
What's needed [in Agile is] a framework in which anyone on the team can feel comfortable in stepping up and either guiding the conversation, asking more pointed questions or offering insights.
For many years, Ellen and I have used the expression: It's the goal, not the role. Overall, be clear on what needs to be done (the goal), who has the skills to do the work (not the role or title), and how everyone can work together and learn from each other.
About the expert:
Mary Gorman is vice president of quality and delivery at EBG Consulting Inc. She co-authored Discover to Deliver: Agile Product Planning and Analysis with Ellen Gottesdiener. Gorman holds certifications in business analysis and Scrum. She had a hand in developing the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) Body of Knowledge as well as the IIBA certification exam. Gorman is a prolific writer and popular speaker on software development topics as well as an active industry analyst and consultant.
This was first published in May 2013