In this episode, Shane Hastie helps us to better understand how to use the Agile Extension to the BABOK and shows us how Business Analysts can benefit organizations through better portfolio management.


After listening to this episode, you'll understand:

  • What kind of information is in The Agile Extension to the BABOK
  • How to get and use The Agile Extension
  • How to apply agile principles and backlog management to portfolios
  • Why fixing portfolio management can have a big impact

Show Notes

The Agile Extension to the BABOK®

The team creating the Agile Extension to the BABOK® looked at some of the techniques that are unique to or applied differently to business analysis in agile environments.  While it started as an effort by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), in 2011 it became a joint effort between the IIBA and the Agile Alliance.

The agile extension provides more depth than is in the Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide). Whereas the BABOK provides information on what to do, the agile extension provides information on how to do it.

Certified Business Analysis Professional™ (CBAP®) or Certification of Competency in Business Analysis™ (CCBA®) exams, only information in the core BABOK is examinable.  Information in the Agile Extension will not be on the exam.

There are two aspects to the Agile Extension to the BABOK; a broad guideline as to what you would be doing as part of analysis in an agile environment and a framework heavily influenced by Ellen Gottesdiener’s and Mary Goreman’s Discover to Deliver approach.


Discover to Deliver

Projects or initiatives broadly have two aspects; discovery and delivery.  When you’re doing analysis work, you’re either doing it for discovery (to figure out where next to go) or delivery (getting to the needed just in time detail).   You would move between discovery and delivery at a regular cadence as an analyst.

Information in the Agile Extension to the BABOK includes techniques for discovery such as personas and value stream mapping and techniques for delivery such as Behavior Driven Development (BDD) and Real Options.  The extension describes the techniques and how to apply them.


Portfolio Management in Agile

In agile, we need to be prepared to constantly adapt our plans.  That approach works extremely well at the project or initiative level, but at an organizational level, budgets and plans tend to be longer term and less adaptable.

The current rate of change often means that those plans are negated and organizations find it difficult to adapt quickly to changing market conditions.  We need to take the concept of backlog management and apply it at a higher level to programs and portfolios so that we are able to adaptively respond to changes in the world around us.

The traditional definition of project success has been on time, on scope, and on budget.  Those constraints still exist, but they are not the driving factors today.  Instead, we look at maximizing customer value and producing a quality product before focusing on the constraints within which we need to work.

Changing to a value focus changes our mindset about the way we work.  If we apply this thinking to the portfolio level, we are able to chunk it down and deliver the most valuable pieces first while constantly reviewing what we delivered and determining if we need to shift team backlogs to focus on something else.


Where Can We Start Impacting the Portfolio?

The first thing we need to do to allow more adaptability at a portfolio level is to express the portfolio backlog in terms of discrete chunks of value.  The chunks of the portfolio, which can be referred to as epics, features, or capabilities, should be no longer than half of the typical release cycle (often three months).  These smaller chunks of value allow the organization to frequently get feedback and adjust their backlog.

Consider the metaphor of a roadmap.  If you know where you are and where you want to go, a roadmap can show you several ways to get there.  You will need to adapt your journey based on your experience in the moment.  You may need to take a different route based on traffic conditions or construction.

Applying similar thinking to portfolio roadmaps, you need to have small enough pieces or value to be able to adapt your route and make rapid changes as the environment around you changes.

Listen to the full episode to hear all of Shane’s advice.



Your Homework

Find ways to visualize the backlog not as a linear queue, but as a map.  You can do this through Story Mapping, a powerful yet often underutilized technique.  Story Mapping is great for visualizing the work to create a shared understanding, seeing the big picture with the ability to also see the details, and provides an opportunity to prioritize group backlog items into MVP, releases, or features.

What’s your take?

Have you used The Agile Extension to the BABOK or any of the portfolio management approaches Shane mentioned?  Please share your experience and comments in the section below.


Links mentioned in this episode:

Shane will be delivering this as a workshop at Agile India in March 2016 –

Shane Hastie

Shane Hastie

Chief Knowledge Engineer at Software Education

Shane Hastie is the Chief Knowledge Engineer and Agile Practice Lead for Software Education, a training and consulting company working in Australia, New Zealand and around the world. Since first using XP in 2000, Shane has been passionate about helping organizations and teams adopt Agile practices. In 2011 Shane was elected as a Director of the Agile Alliance.

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