Card sorting – agile BA technique 158

Card sorting is a simple and useful way to gather feedback on which features people want in a new system, which problems they want solve or generally speaking, what they want.

So I was surprised recently when some business analysts I was working with had not heard of the technique and I thought I would describe it here so they can look at it again.

All you need is something people want and a pile of cards to sort:


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Is there a template for a BA role description?

Is there a generic job title or description?

A lot of people ask me for a good template for a BA role – but I tell them there is no such thing.

A BA “helps people understand things”, but different business analysts help different people understand different things in different contexts.  Some may not even have the job title of BA.

Fortunately though, it is possible to agree on what a BA is doing on a specific project, or for a specific client.  Doing this can help with setting and managing expectations.

How can I explain my BA role to someone else?

I always start with a sentence about why the BA is there in the first place.  This is a much better starting point than trying to list all the things a BA might do without providing the reason.

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Is it enough to say that the BA is the “universal translator” between business and IT?

I often hear that we need a business analyst to translate what the business people say, so that technical people understand them. Then, I am told we need the BA to then translate what the technical people say, so that the business people understand them.

I guess it goes something like this:

It sounds good, but actually I don’t think it is true.

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BA’s need to learn question tennis before they end up as dead as Rosencrantz and Gildernstern

One of my favourite plays is “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”. It is the story of two confused people who are friends (?) with Hamlet (and minor characters his story).

Question tennis

One of the best scenes in the play is when the two characters play a game of “question tennis”. It is worth watching this short video if you haven’t seen it.

The idea of the game is to keep asking questions so the conversation is always in the other player’s court. So each player must answer every question with a question. If they mistakenly answer with any other response then the other player wins the point.

But how does this relate to being a BA? Well, this is where I think a lot of BA’s run into trouble.

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