Posted by tac_admin, June 11, 2014

A Business Analyst’s Guide to Thinking as a Customer

<img src="image.gif" alt="An open notebook" />Thinking like a customer is one part of The Discovery Framework of the Agile Extension to the BABOK® Guide. In this post, I’m going to share the basics of it, so you can get a better idea of the subject to help you with your business analyst career.

To start this topic off right, it’s important to mention that The Discovery Framework deals with the whats and the whys of the product. An effective discovery…

Covering all three literally takes an entire book, so this blog post will be a short guide to the second part of The Discovery Framework: thinking like a customer.

The Customer is the Person who Gets Value

Thinking like a customer begins with a broad view of the customer’s goals. As you further your discovery, a customer’s goals become more refined and detailed. Your goal as a business analyst is to understand the specific needs of a customer, so you can make sure the product meets the correct business needs.

The way thinking as a customer fits into the agile process is as follows:

  • Feedback loops are put in place to continuously validate discoveries
  • Evolving needs are understood by the team that influence and define further work
  • Deliverables are sliced into small increments to provide the most incremental value for the duration of the project

Without completely understanding the customer, the feedback loops process falls flat. In the following four sections, I’ll show you how storyboarding helps you understand and think like a customer.

Story Decomposition

Story decomposition for business analysts starts with a high-level picture of the businesses’ goals. Once the goals are visible, they goals decompose into smaller components. These smaller sections provide increments of valuable functionality. The most common name for a small fragment is a minimum viable product, or MVP. The next and final part of story decomposition is to create user stories for each MVP created.

Story Elaboration

Story elaboration for business analysts is the ongoing refinement that is part of the development process. This process is usually reserved for advanced business analysts who are effective in facilitation and communication. Story elaboration is not for new business analysts who are inexperienced in providing only the minimum level of detail in a story.

Story Mapping

With story mapping, a visual and physical view of the sequence presents itself to the team. Story mapping is a tool to assist in creating an understanding of the product’s functionality, flow of usages, and to assist with prioritization of product delivery. Story mapping helps avoid the common problem of getting lost in the details.

User Story

The second to last phase of this analytical process is the user story. The user story is the statement of deliverable value for a specific stakeholder. One use of a user stories is a measurements for estimated work. A user story is short enough to fit on a 3×5 inch index card or a sticky note.


Storyboards are a visual summary of all the previous processes. Other names for a storyboard include:

  • Dialogue map
  • Dialog hierarchy
  • Navigation flow

Storyboards show how interactions with the system work, as the user flows through each elemental. The common way to use a storyboard is to prototype.

More About Agile

The Agile Extension of the BABOK guide provides information for business analyst within an agile environment. The Discovery Framework and user stories are just a few of the useful techniques in the framework. If you are looking to master the agile environment, and you want to learn about the waterfall environment, visit my IIBA-certified online course that teaches both methodologies by clicking here.

Photo Credit: Michael Dales

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