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In the DSDM Atern project delivery framework roles fit into the following three categories:

  • Project Level
  • Solution Development Team, and
  • Other

The diagram below shows how an Atern team is structure:

enter image description here

For example, in the Solution Development Team we have the roles of the Business Ambassador and the Business Analyst(s).

I appreciate that the Business Ambassador's role is more focused on the day-to-day communication between the project and the business whereas the Business Analyst role facilitates the communication between the developers (technical roles) and other business roles.

There are many organisations that insist on assigning these roles to two different people. However, in smaller organisations where the resources are limited in all categories -i.e., there is no enough people to fulfil every business role; could the same person be assigned to both roles?

What are the risks or limitations of merging these two roles? Are there any (other) roles that lend themselves to being covered by the same people? Are there any that definitely shouldn't be covered by the same person?

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Actually, the Business Sponsor and the Business Visionary could be the same person, in some organisations.

DSDM states that a role can be shared between more than one person, or one person may have more than one role.

Example 1- you could have several people fulflling Business Advisor role, each with their own area of specialism.

Example 2 - on a small simple project, one person could fulfil the Project Manager and Team Leader role.

We would normally only expect a single Business Visionary (rather than several Visionaries, which could add confusion) - i.e. having one Visionary is "normal", but having more than one could happen in exceptional circumstances

We expect only one Business Sponsor. (I have never ever had a project with more than one Sponsor in 18 years of doing DSDM!!)

There is no rule that says a Business Analyst and a Business Ambassador cannot be the same person. It is simply that this is an unlikely combination, since a Business Ambassador, with all their business experience, is less likely to have the analysis skills. But a good analyst / programmer might well fulfil the Business Analyst role AND the Solution Developer role (in an organisation where there are no Business Analysts)

Hope this helps

  • I have hesitated between this and Zsolt's answers as both are really helpful and well elaborated. I have finally decided to accepted this one for your final conclusion about the BA and Ambassador relationship (business experience vs analytic skills). – M0N4K0 Jun 29 '12 at 10:02
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I'm not a DSDM expert, but when you don't have enough people on board, you can give multiple roles to a person, until these roles are not in contradiction. For example in Scrum, it is not advised to to be the Scrum Master and the Product Owner all at once.

However, according to this quote, the Analyst has more responsibility than the Ambassador (quoted from the DSDM framework 1.1):

the Business Analyst ensures that the business needs are properly analysed and are correctly reflected in the approach the team adopts in order to generate the envisioned solution.

This means that the Analyst oversees the Ambassador's work as well, so there is a reason why it is not advised to assign these roles to the same person.

What are the risks or limitations of merging these two roles?

You'll use an objective view on the quality of the requirements.

Is there any other way to merge Business Roles to allow people to start working accordingly?

Most probably there is a way, but based on my experience there is always an explanation on why frameworks are as they are now. If you change, you'll face issues you don't foresee. Nevertheless, setting roles shouldn't stop you from starting to work. Again, I'm not a DSDM expert, but maybe the Project Manager can take over some responsibilities from the Analyst...

  • Thanks a lot for your answer and reference to the DSDM Framework, great stuff. I love your final comment "setting roles shouldn't stop you from starting to work", unfortunately other team members do not share this opinion. – M0N4K0 Jun 29 '12 at 10:04
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I've taken a DSDM Atern course and I distinctly remember the instructor saying that you can combine roles. For example, he circled both Solution Developer(s) and Business Analyst(s) and said that this could translate into a traditional Product Manager.

However, I was told there are two roles that are never supposed to be shared: Business Sponsor and Business Visionary.

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    Can you elaborate on why at all? I know little about DSDM and am curious. – Ben Jun 25 '12 at 21:26
  • I think the two roles are a conflict of interest. The Sponsor is a very senior person (probably the CEO) who controls the purse strings, can force open closed doors and owns the business case for the project. The Visionary is also a senior-level person (e.g., CTO) who is responsible for interpreting the Business Case and making sure the project delivers what it is supposed to. To be honest I don't know why the two roles are mutually exclusive, the handbook doesn't really expand on this, but I presume some kind of distance is required to "see the forest from the trees"? – Ben K Jun 26 '12 at 16:59
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The reality is that in a larger organisation, the Visionary and the Sponsor are usually a different person, the Sponsor looking primarily at the finance and the Visionary looking at the future and strategy of the business. The Visionary knows where s/he wants the organisation to go but s/he needs to justify the finances (Business Case) to the Sponsor, who controls the purse strings.

But in smaller organisaions, it often happens that it is a single (typically senior) person who has both the business vision and the budget. e.g. one person weaing two hats.

Example : In one current organiation I work with, the company (medium size @ 300 people) has an entrepreneurial owner who owns the company outright and also has a strong vision of where he wants it to go. So on some projects he IS both Visionary and Sponsor. He can hardly have a conflict of interest aganist himself :-)

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