The Agile Data (AD) Method

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Agile Data Roles: Data Professionals on Agile Teams

This article overviews the Agile Data roles. It is organized into the following topics:

  1. What does it mean for a role to be agile?
  2. The roles of the Agile Data method
  3. Important concepts about roles
  4. Is your organization short a few roles?

1. What Does It Mean For a Role To Be Agile?

Someone who is in the role of “Agile X” works in a manner that is highly collaborative and evolutionary in nature. To work in an evolutionary manner you work iteratively and incrementally. Below, when I describe each Agile X role, I focus on the X part of the role. An Agile X does that work in an agile manner.

2. The Agile Data Roles

Figure 1 summarizes the roles that are pertinent to the Agile Data method. They are organized into two categories:

  1. Primary roles. These roles are the focus of the Agile Data method.
  2. Supporting roles. People in these roles collaborate with, and support the work of, people in the primary roles. These roles are adopted from other methods such as Scrum or Agile Modeling.


Figure 1. The Roles of the Agile Data Method.


Agile Data Roles

2.1 The Primary Agile Data Roles

The Agile Data Method defines four primary roles:

  1. Data analyst. An agile data analyst identifies how data can be used in order to answer questions and solve problems.
  2. Data architect. A data architect is someone who guides the development and support of the data-oriented aspects of something. “Something” may be a component,a solution, a product line, or even your entire enterprise.
  3. Data engineer. An agile data engineer is anyone who is actively involved with the creation and evolution of the data aspects of one or more software-based solutions. Sometimes called an Agile data engineer.
  4. Data scientist. An agile data scientist works closely with stakeholders to understand their needs and identifies how data can be used to address those needs. They explore data sources, develop algorithms and predictive models to extract and manipulate the data, and analyze the data and share their insights.


Figure 2. The Primary Agile Data Roles

Primary agile data roles

2.2 The Secondary Agile Data Roles

There are several supporting roles that are important to recognize:

  • Agile Data coach. An agile data coach shares their knowledge and expertise about agile data concepts and skills with others, guiding them on their learning and improvement journies.
  • Architecture owner. An architecture owner is responsible for facilitating the architectural modeling and evolution efforts. Architecture owners are often the most technically experienced person on a development team. This role is adopted from the Agile Modeling method.
  • Developer. A developer, also called a software developer, is anyone who is actively involved with the creation and evolution of a software-based solution.
  • Enterprise architect. An enterprise architect is anyone who is actively involved in the creation, evolution, and support/communication of your enterprise vision.
  • Operations engineer. An operations engineer, sometimes called an IT operations enginer or (mistakenly) a DevOps engineer, is anyone involved with designing, implementation, or the execution of an organization’s IT infrastructure.
  • Product Owner. A product owner represent the needs and desires of the stakeholder community to an agile/Scrum development team, being the first source of information about the problem domain for the team. This role is adopted from the Scrum method.
  • Scrum master. A Scrum master is a type of team lead. They are responsible for guiding and leading an agile/Scrum team. This role is adopted from the Scrum method.
  • Stakeholder. A stakeholder, also known as a customer or business user, is anyone who is materially impacted by the outcome of a solution. A stakeholder could be a direct user, indirect user, manager of users, senior manager, operations staff member, the “gold owner” who funds the team, support (help desk) staff member, auditors, your governance/oversight team, people that rely on whatever you are working on, or maintenance professionals potentially affected by the development and/or deployment of your initiative.

3. Important Concepts About Roles

Any single individual can hold more than one of these roles, and several people may be in the same role. An important concept to understand is that although the responsibilities of each role vary widely that any individual in a given role may not fulfill them all, or at least not focus on all of them. For example an application developer may choose to focus on Java development on a specific team even though they also have significant modeling and testing skills. Agile IT professionals are generalizing specialists, and when they fulfill a role they will often focus on one or more responsibilities of that role, perhaps because they have been asked to trouble shoot those efforts or perhaps because they want to gain deeper experience in an existing or new specialty.

4. Is Your Organization Short a Few Agile Data Roles?

Your organization may not have people in these roles right now. Perhaps you’re a very small organization with only a few developers or perhaps you’re a mid-size organization that hasn’t yet come to grips with the architectural and operational issues experienced by larger or longer-lived firms. Don’t worry, you will. You’re actually in an enviable position because you can do it right from the start. You might not have anyone dedicated to the role of enterprise architect, let alone a group of people, but the fact still remains that you will need to come to grips with the issues that enterprise architects deal with. Perhaps enterprise architecture is something that your senior developers, and even your junior developers, discuss when they’re building new systems but never take the time to put it on paper. That’s all right, the important thing is that you think about it.


5. Related Resources


Recommended Reading

Choose Your WoW! 2nd Edition
This book, Choose Your WoW! A Disciplined Agile Approach to Optimizing Your Way of Working (WoW) – Second Edition, is an indispensable guide for agile coaches and practitioners. It overviews key aspects of the Disciplined Agile® (DA™) tool kit. Hundreds of organizations around the world have already benefited from DA, which is the only comprehensive tool kit available for guidance on building high-performance agile teams and optimizing your WoW. As a hybrid of the leading agile, lean, and traditional approaches, DA provides hundreds of strategies to help you make better decisions within your agile teams, balancing self-organization with the realities and constraints of your unique enterprise context.


I also maintain an agile database books page which overviews many books you will find interesting.