Effective requirements collection at the outset of the project is the key step that will ensure that the project manager can deliver what is actually expected. In this respect, the business analyst must become a key ally and advisor to the project manager. Most project managers are not trained business analysts, so taking advantage of the skill set that a business analyst can offer can greatly enhance the possibility of project success.
Seasoned project managers (PMs) know that in addition to controlling costs and sticking to the project schedule, managing the scope of projects is one of the toughest tasks in project management. The view of what defines project success has progressed beyond management of the triple constraints. Managing for stakeholder satisfaction has become of paramount importance to the project manager. How does a project manager ensure delivery of a project that meets stakeholder expectations? Managing expectations and shaping perceptions through effective communication is important, but effective requirements collection at the outset of the project is the key step that will ensure that the project manager can deliver what is actually expected. In this respect, the business analyst (BA) must become a key ally and advisor to the project manager. Most project managers are not trained business analysts, so taking advantage of the skill set that a business analyst can offer can greatly enhance the possibility of project success.
When the PM Becomes the BA
There are many times in projects where the project manager takes on the role of the de facto business analyst. Since there are so many overlapping areas that touch both PMI® defined project management methodology and IIBA® business analysis methodology, some people view the two roles as interchangeable. But these roles are not interchangeable. There are two distinct job roles for the BA and the PM. The project manager should be focused on the overall performance of the project; business analysts seek to understand the current state of the organization and recommend solutions that will take that organization to a desired future state.
In a functional or weak-matrix organization, this overlapping of responsibilities is more likely to happen. When the project manager's role takes a backseat to operational responsibilities, managing a project can be tough. When that same PM is expected to also do the business analysis for the project, it becomes even tougher. In many cases where there is no dedicated BA for the project, the solution has already been defined and the project may just be about implementation of that solution. Normally, in functional or weak matrix organizations, the projects tend to be smaller than in strong matrix or projectized organizations. Since the projects are smaller, the project teams tend to be smaller, which makes it easier for the PM to carry out the BA functions.
What are the positives of the project manager being the business analyst on a project? If the PM is trained in BA skills, it can add to the synchronicity of the project by allowing the PM to do the essential BA functions. If he or she is not, it can lead to real problems. According to the CHAOS Report published by the Standish Group, in 2012, over 50% of projects failed or were challenged due to poor requirements development. So how can the BA and PM work together to achieve success?
Stakeholder Identification and Analysis
One of the primary areas where the BA and PM need to align is in stakeholder identification and analysis. Within projects, the project manager is concerned with satisfying key stakeholders, shaping their perceptions of the project, and managing their expectations. Usually, key stakeholders (or those that need to be managed closely), will be identified through an assessment of each stakeholders influence (ability to affect organizational priorities) and impact (active participation critical to project success) in relation to the project. Influence and impact are often assigned a score from one to five, multiplied together, and the product is the stakeholder's importance score. The higher the score, the more closely the PM needs to manage that stakeholder. Those with high importance scores are deemed to be key stakeholders.
For the BA, it is important to consider all stakeholders and develop a plan to elicit their needs so that requirements are not missed. Practically speaking, it is much more beneficial for the BA to consider a more inclusive list of stakeholders in the discovery process than it is for the PM to manage to a highly inclusive list of stakeholders. BAs need to be concerned with both the business stakeholders who have a need for a certain product, service, or result, and technical stakeholders who will design and build the product, service, or result. Whereas the PM is primarily concerned with satisfying stakeholders needs through stakeholder management and communication, the BA is focused on making sure all stakeholders are engaged in the requirements elicitation process.