Business Analyst or a Project Manager? Which is which and where you need to draw the line between them?
Many of us, whether we are a Business Analyst or a Project Manager, have been involved in a project where the lines between the business analyst role and the project management role became less defined. This tends to happen more often on a project where there isn’t a clear understanding of the specific roles and responsibilities. People are often under pressure to deliver an outcome, and little thought is given to who should be responsible for which parts of the delivery. A project team functions much more efficiently when the roles are very clearly defined. So, let’s figure out who the business analyst is, what does he/she share with the project manager, and most importantly—at which point you need to separate the roles for good.
Why does it even matter whether these roles are defined on a project?
Before we get into the detailed responsibilities for each role, it is important to understand why a Business Analyst’s role or a Project Manager’s role, for that matter, should be clearly defined.
- Project productivity is probably to a most important reason why it is important to define the project roles clearly. When you are working on a small project with a short timeframe, it is easy to mix up the responsibilities of business analysts and project managers and still achieve a good result.
However, when you start looking at larger projects, you soon realize that without clearly-defined roles and responsibilities in the team you will never deliver a successful outcome. If you don’t have clear project roles and responsibilities in a larger-scale environment, you end up having people not knowing where to start or what they are responsible to deliver.
- Professionalism is the other main reason why it is important to define the role of the Business Analyst and Project Managers clearly. Once we look at the responsibilities listed below, you will see that each role has a very distinct and clear set of competencies and responsibilities and to mix this up will dilute both these professional roles into something undefined. Business analysts and project managers should primarily be focused on performing their respective roles.
As the attentive reader will notice, some of the points are the same, since BA and PM often perform the similar or even the same functions within a project. Sometimes this leads to disputes over whether it is worth separating these two roles altogether.
What does the project manager want from the analyst?
- Performing “analytical” activities on a project (The manager may not know all the potential activities, but he will want the analyst to perform them if appropriate)
- Tips and tricks for working with the market/environment requirements
- Estimates of the complexity or timeframes for the work
- Reporting, both interim and final
- Notifications if something goes wrong (for example, it fails to achieve goals by deadline or quality)
- Requests if something is missing to complete tasks
- Questions and clarifications if something isn’t clear
- Execution of tasks in due time and with the required quality
What does the analyst want from the project manager?
- Analysis and explanation of the results (feedback)
- Help if something goes wrong or if there is a lack of authority within a project
- Providing everything needed for project completion (conditions, information, resources, people, processes, tools, etc.)
- Notifications of changes in project/work conditions (for example, deadlines or volume of tasks)
- Task control
- Assignment deadlines tasks
- Distribution and clarification of tasks
- Getting info on organizational and administrative aspects and project infrastructure
Do I wear two hats at once? Combining the functions of analyst and manager into one person.
- The business analyst performs the role of the project manager.
Even if we do not consider the fact that the analyst will have to spend time on administrative tasks, apart from extracting, analyzing, documenting requirements, and managing them, this option is not optimal in many cases. The role of BA by its nature is inclined to detail any ambiguities, try to describe the requirements in as much detail as possible, and convey them to the developers. This, in turn, may adversely affect the timeframe of the project. Of course, an experienced BA knows when to stop. But experience does not appear from anywhere immediately as we proclaim the PM a BA. The customer, however, expects results now.
- The project manager performs the role of an analyst.
It is possible that in the Republic of Nowhere, having a clear priority to start or finish a project on time begins to sacrifice analytical activities on the project. This may negatively affect the results. After all, the goal of the project manager is to complete the project, balancing between the existing constraints (scope of work, resources, time, quality, and risks).
If you decide to search the Internet for articles on a topic like the topic of this article, you will certainly encounter debates about whether to separate the roles of a BA and PM—or whether one person can fulfill all the project needs at once. This happens partly because of the functions and duties of a BA and PM overlap and looks similar to the untrained eye. There are positive sides to combining these roles. The obvious advantages are lower costs for the company, faster coordination of tasks, faster decision-making. For the specialist in question, there is also the opportunity to develop and acquire new skills. Nevertheless, it is not very useful for the project in question. Nevertheless, it is important to diversify the roles and functions within the organizational structure.
Divide and conquer!
But is everything so smooth on the project when these roles are separated? Of course, there will always be difficulties. The only way to avoid drawbacks and problems is if there is no project whatsoever. We’ve singled out several options—and again, it all comes down to experience:
|Experienced analyst||Despite the seemingly winning option, there are certain risks. Sometimes “divide of the territory” comes with experienced staff. Since both the PM and BA interact with the same stakeholders, often working with the same documents, friction may arise. Especially when the PM does not consider it necessary to share all the information on the project. Or the analyst, guided by the same motives, hides any artifacts (documents, etc.).||An unlikely situation that still carries its risks for the project. Almost the opposite effect will be obtained if the PM is not able to adhere to the timing. One of the undesirable scenarios of events may be the unwillingness of the PMs to understand the analyst and agree to support him when discussing the project deadline with the interested parties.|
|Inexperienced analyst||The risk for the project can be considered the likelihood of pressure from the Republic of Nowhere to meet the agreed timeframe, budget, and resources. An inexperienced BA is sometimes simply unable to convince the project manager that it is necessary to spend more time on retrieving the requirements (and since the BA is inexperienced, it will take him/her much longer).||With a sigh, we wish good luck to the project and patience to the project team.|
A good solution for any of the above options can be a discussion and a clear division of responsibilities at the project initialization stage. Despite the ongoing debate about the feasibility of separating the roles of a business analyst and project manager, effective communication between them is no less important. BA should be flexible like no other, being at the junction of various communication groups. Flexible in dealing with stakeholders, flexible in the choice of methods of working with requirements.
Reasons why you need both
Business analysts bridge the divide between business and IT staff to ensure everyone is on the same page with the business needs that the final product should fulfill. Here are the reasons why you need both a business analyst and project manager.
- Validating requirements
Often large IT development projects begin with the acceptance of a bid based on a set of requirements. Who better than the PM who wrote those requirements, and an experienced analyst, to validate them considering the business needs of the enterprise, to find the right vendors or even help evaluate solutions in some cases?
- Maintaining requirements after vendor selection
The gap between the requirements phase and the start of the project is often several months or more. This means those valuable requirements may no longer be as representative of current business practices as they were when they were written. Organizations need someone who can adequately review those existing requirements and work with staff to determine the relevance and accuracy of those requirements.
- Translating complicated business processes during development
Every organization must detail their existing or new processes as the project progresses. Though the business staff are experts team members with no experience with the organization or by technical professionals can understand them.
- Data conversions and migrations
Most product owners understand exactly what data is supposed to exist. But don’t have the expertise to define how that data is supposed to get there or how to confirm that it is the correct data. The project manager can organize the tasks and review process. A business analyst can be essential to a project by working with staff in defining, mapping, converting, and validating the data in a new or updated application.
- Change management
Ensuring change is accepted is critical to the long-term success of a project. The PM’s job is to ensure the change adoption, with a “ground-level” understanding of the work from the staff perspective. However, if a project does not have the resources for a full-time change practitioner, a business analyst with the holistic view of the project can help staff understand how project changes will affect their work processes.