If you’ve already had exposure to Agile as a BA then you are likely to have come across two Atlassian tools – Confluence and JIRA.
Whilst they are primarily designed for end-to-end Agile teams where ideas are taken from conception to implementation in sprint cycles, they shouldn’t be discounted as useful tools for BA’s working on more traditional waterfall projects.
Because fundamentally, at its core, Agile consists of multiple mini-waterfall projects in that you have an idea (conception), you define the idea with stakeholders (requirements definition), the idea is built (development), tested (test), and implemented (delivery). It’s just that in Agile, this occurs every few weeks (depending on the length of your sprint cycles) instead of a number of months.
So what are Confluence and JIRA anyway?
The simplest way to think about each tool is as follows:
Confluence – A Wiki type tool (but way more powerful than a typical Wiki) that you can use to capture requirements detail and supporting material (meeting minutes, documentation, sign-offs, diagrams etc.). The main advantage of Confluence over a Wiki is that it is designed as a collaborative tool to create content so you can create pages and tag users with actions either directly on the page or using each page’s comments section. Each time you tag someone, they receive a notification by email.
JIRA – A workflow type tool where you can create hierarchical tasks, assign to users, and track progress for each activity (be it a sprint or analysis phase) using a visual Kanban board.
Using Confluence and JIRA for an analysis phase
Now that we know what each tool does at a high level, you can see that when combined, Confluence and JIRA are effectively information capture and task management tools. Whilst they are designed for Agile sprints and team collaboration, there is no reason why they can’t also be used, and effectively so, by a Business Analyst to capture analysis and progress on a Waterfall project during an analysis phase.
Here are a few ways how Confluence and JIRA could be used:
- A Confluence site can easily be setup to act like an official Business Requirements Document or Functional Specification Document.
- JIRA tasks can be created and linked from Confluence pages so that you can easily track what tasks are outstanding in order to complete the detail required on the page.
- JIRA tasks can be assigned to specific users so where multiple users are responsible for specific content on the page, ownership is clearly defined and visible for all users.
- A visual Kanban board specific to each user is an easy way for tasks and progress to be tracked.
- Similarly for a Lead BA, a Kanban board for the activity your team is working on is an easy way to identify choke points and where a team member needs support.
- Confluence pages will automatically capture an audit trail of changes, and stakeholders can ‘like’ the page so that they are alerted when changes are made.
- Stakeholders can add feedback to the page by commenting on it, just like you would on a social media post.
- Where a physical document is required, pages can easily be exported to PDF or Word.
You’ll notice that none of the above involve creating tickets for developers to do anything (which would be the case in a true Agile environment) which emphasises my point that you don’t have to be a BA working in an Agile team to use the tooling to good effect.
Get your hands dirty
The best way to learn anything is to learn by doing.
If Confluence and JIRA are tools available in your organisation, why not request them to be installed, have a play, and be a pioneer for their adoption by the BA community?
If they aren’t available, you can always go to https://www.atlassian.com and sign up for a free trial. If you think it would make your life as a BA easier and want to pitch it to your boss, licenses are quite reasonable starting at $10.00 per month (at the time of writing) for each tool (so Confluence and JIRA would be $20 per month) for up to 10 users.
10 users covers a reasonable sized team of BA’s so for $20 a month and the potential productivity gains is a pretty good deal.