Tester and BA Roles: Have They Combined?

I remember when I first started my software testing career, BAs (Business Analysts) were something frequently discussed.

I was in a small startup at the time so the thought of having a dedicated BA was a distant dream. A lot of what I was doing I was told should be the job of the BA but in startup life, you can tend to cover many roles :sweat_smile:

More recently I’ve noticed the lack of discussion around BAs. It’s just not something I see popping up in discussions or blog posts anymore.

It got me thinking, has the role of tester and BA combined? Are there still dedicated BAs out there?

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In my last role, I worked to a BA; I think he was a bit surprised at how much of the BA role I was able to input to as a tester. In my current role, we don’t really have separate BAs; instead, the product owner fulfils many of those functions. As testers, we’ve started in the past few years to engage in BA-like activities; this is still a work in progress.

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I have recently started my career in testing, and i have found that there seems to be a lot of crossover between the BA and testing roles. In my organisation we have separate BA and Testing roles.

As i am new into this world, as i enjoy getting stuck in I am still slightly unsure on what exact tasks sits with each role after the initial BA analysis once the development and testing has started, which i have found myself getting quite heavily involved liaising with the product owners which ends up easily loosing collaboration between testers and BA’s.

The BA’s in my team are heavily involved in getting requirements from the product owners from the outset, conduction impact assessment sessions and setting up 3 amigos.

Once it is in Dev/Test stages i find then i need to go direct to the product owners to understand this from a user perspective to be able to conduct my tests and ensure quality of the system, which maybe this is duplicating effort that has already been done by a BA?

It would be interesting to hear from the BA’s out there!

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i’ve been in QA for quite a while now. i’ve worked mostly for large companies in a large metro area and then in a smaller metro area but still for larger companies.

when i started, QA actually did all the requirements gathering and use cases. there were no BAs. i think i started seeing BAs in the mid 2000s. strange but true!

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When I started in testing back in the early 90s, PMs, BAs and QAs were very much separate, but there was less focus on agile at that time, more focus on quality than quantity and speed.
BAs I think have been lost in the transition to agile methods but the need for a liaison between the business and technical groups has never changed. Blurring these lines I feel has been a mistake, having a dedicated BA role allows for the technical areas to get on with the doing, without thinking they will upset stakeholders.

QA embedding in dev isn’t a new thing, it was being done in the 90s and QA were very technical, now new tools allow anyone to “have a go” at testing but without the technical ability to undertake RCA should anything happen.

Pretty soon we’ll have gone full circle to the point that PMs create requirements and devs test their own code.

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Interesting :thinking:

Are you still seeing BAs now @margaretb?

scores of them! :grin:
most recruiters won’t even consider a QA for a BA role.
uncertain if it’s true the other way around.

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@margaretb genuinely I find it the other way. The amount of QAs that find BA work is immense, especially around London.
I still work with BAs very closely but there are two breeds of BA, those that are fully stakehodler focussed and those that can offer some greater technical understanding of the software architecture. Sometimes the latter sounds great, but it just ends up meaning that the BA tries to ‘design’ the software too, which can annoy devs. BAs as a liaison with stakeholders and a translation to the project are the best. Testers that have been a BA usually understand and guide a BA as to what sort of User Stories and level of info they require.

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There was a Government job listing here (NZ) recently which I really wanted to go for, but I was put off by the official role, which was ‘Senior Business Analyst’ (I have no official BA training).

The role was focussed on Web Accessibility testing/prioritisation/remediation/training and they wanted someone with a “Web background (eg Web Advisor, Web Business Analyst, Web Developer, UX Designer, Test Analyst)” which fit me as a developer.

I ticked a lot of the technical boxes, although I was discouraged by terms like ‘Expert’ (which I’ve always found to be a relative rather than absolute measure).

The listing linked to a separate document, which outlined the role of junior/regular/senior BAs. The latter’s responsibilities were to “lead key projects and streams of work, manage relationships with vendors, mentor other Business Analysts and proactively contribute to applications architecture design”.

Most of that sounded way over my head, so I did not apply, because I have no prior experience of working within Government departments and I feared that I would only deliver on half of the role.

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@dotherightthing the irony is, you would have probably excelled in this role with your experience so wide ranging. I don’t put in job descriptions terms like ‘expert’ and favour ‘x years experience’ and then simply query them in interview to validate the level of their experience. Yes it means more time spent at interview or telephone interview, but I’m sure that there are many perfect candidates simply put off by the job description.

Thanks Lee, glad to know it’s not just me put off by this wording. These opportunities seem to come along once in a blue moon, but I’ll apply for the next one and see what happens in the interview.

@dotherightthing try exporting the text to a text editor, remove all mentions of words like ‘expert’, ‘proficient’, etc and re-read. You’ll probably end up applying for most!!!

I applied for a job once, without a hope in hell of even getting an interview. I did get an interview, then found out that they had the agency author the job description and just bloated it with buzzwords and dropped tech lingo everywhere but the company were very immature in their software development methodology and I was seen as a Guru rather than me not expecting to get a foot in.

They offered the job and I excelled in the role. Don’t judge a company by the job ad, they probably didn’t write it.

Cheers Lee, all good tips. I also see job ads as a bit of a Xmas wish list, and possibly somewhat informed by the real or perceived skill set of the outgoing person. I think the reality is that no-one knows everything, but everyone brings something extra and unexpected. Therein lies the value in a new person, but also the risk.

I think alot of employers would benefit from changing the job descriptions to be more matrix style. If a BA role was listed by essential activities and columns representing the candidates proficiency. This could also allow employers to more easily grade what salary to offer OR the candidate to see inadvance what sort of salary they could expect based on their experience. Rather than saying “Well the salary range suggests $40-$60k so obviously I want close to the higher end”

Where I work now we currently have no BA’s. So we have Product Managers who are responsible for the backlogs and prioritising them, but the quality and testability of those stories is very much down to Product Manager and product. So testers can be compensating for product managers that are not as diligent with testability in the stories, usually in a reactive way.

The danger is as each product has its own sprint planning/retro cycle that becomes a divergence in responsibilities as improvements are made in product silos. So being clear from the outset what the baseline set of responsibilities for each product lifecycle are and making sure that each product operates under those constraints is very important.

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@ghawkes I think that approach is fine where you maybe have an agile team and/or a solution that is developed in a componentised/module fashion. If you have a team that has much resource rotation, a large complex solution that has multiple dependencies on data feeds or WS calls then it gets much more difficult to give that flexibility.
I’m not saying that every company should have a BA per se, but the role of a BA isn’t to be squandered or absorbed easily into another role. Done correctly, the deliverables of a BA can drastically reduce time in design and development.

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Yes, they are separate entities.
BAs can still be found in the wild, although they do perform testing activities from time to time.
On one project, we used BAs to test products as part of a Maintainable cycle, and also as part of User acceptance testing.
I do find QA or testing is an approach that is different to BAs who work towards business needs Where as QA work towards product quality, amongst other things…

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Totally agree @mike_123 in my current role we are historically a business that has evolved into needing testing and it is now difficult to get the elbow room we deserve. One thing we do well is that there is a good relationship between BAs and the Stakeholders and they plan and manage UAT, just very informally. It has the basis of a formal iterative methodology, just need people to realise the task they are doing is UAT, etc

Yes, I agree with this statement. But then recruiters are going only off the titles and are unaware, or ignorant of the fact that, testers can perform, amongst other things, BA work!

People that don’t know what good testing is, don’t know what good BA is either.
But then, some might not care, and add on top for the same person: release management, project management, product coordination, sales, support, etc…
And by the low standards today for any software, those people could also be paid just a bit over a waiter’s monthly gain.

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