Why PMs Need BAs for Project Success

The Standish Group says three of the biggest factors that lead to failed or challenged projects are:

  1. Lack of user input
  2. Incomplete requirements
  3. Changing requirements

We should attack these threats with a vengeance. How can we do this? We add skilled requirements analyst such as business analysts (BAs) to our teams.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com

When Project Managers Need Business Analysts

The role of the project manager (PM) is to achieve the project’s goals or objectives. Who performs the business analysis tasks for the projects? That depends.

For small projects, the project manager may assume many roles including but not be limited to:

  • Project manager
  • Requirements analyst
  • Tester
  • Facilitator and scribe
  • Trainer
  • Chief bottle washer (just kidding)

For larger projects, PMs must find ways to complete project tasks through others. They must not fall into the trap of doing everything themselves. Wise PMs recruit team members with the necessary skills and talents.

Business analysts (BAs) bring a wide range of business analysis skills including requirements engineering skills: 1) elicitation, 2) analysis, 3) documentation, and 4) validation.

Notice how these skills directly relate to the top reasons for failed or challenged projects:

  1. BAs help to ensure appropriate user and stakeholder input into the requirements process.
  2. BAs drive an efficient process to define and validate requirements reducing the potential for partial requirements.
  3. BAs help improve understanding upfront and reduces requirement changes later when it is more expensive.

Without a solid requirements analyst, the PM will have increased difficulty in achieving the project’s objectives. Poor requirements lead to rework, adverse impacts to schedule, and negative impacts to cost.

How I Have Benefited From BAs

I have benefited immensely from the BA’s expertise in the following ways:

  • Defining high-level business requirements (i.e., goals or objectives)
  • Defining user-level requirements (i.e., mapping of business processes)
  • Defining detailed software requirements (i.e., functional and non-functional requirements)
  • Defining requirements traceability
  • Defining business rules
  • Business modeling (e.g., prototypes, context diagrams, user stories)
  • Managing requirements backlog
  • Testing or providing assistance to the Quality Assurance team
  • Estimating return on investment for projects
  • Determining the return on investment after the project

Word to the Wise

Introducing BAs into your project culture may be a significant change. Often the PM or an IT developer performs the requirements analyst role. Be sure to define and delimit the roles of your team members.

It is also helpful to clarify the reporting relationship between the PM and BA. Will the BA report to the PM? Will the BA and the PM have a peer-to-peer relationship?

Whatever you decide, map out the roles and reporting relationship in a RASI or RASIC diagram or a responsibility chart. This greatly reduces the potential for conflict.

Consider one last point when introducing BAs to your culture – determine the pace of change. My bias is a gradual change while educating stakeholders on reasons for the change. If you surprise your stakeholders with unexpected change, they will often turn on you. Be careful when moving the cheese.

Boosting Your BA Skills

For some projects, the PM may have to perform the BA role. However, many project managers lack business analysis skills. Fortunately, there are ways to boost your skills.

Check out the growing field of business analysis. The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) offers the CBAP (Certified Business Analysis Professional) certification. The Project Management Institute (PMI) has also created the new PMI-PBA (Professional in Business Analysis) certification to equip project managers with stronger business analysis skills.

Which is better? Both are excellent. The CBAP is more broad than the PMI-PBA and includes strategic and enterprise business analysis activities. The PMI-PBA focuses on requirements management in the context of projects and programs. Here is a more in-depth comparison of the two certifications.

Questions: What other benefits have you derived from the PM and BA relationship? What difficulties have you encountered?

Editors Note: This article was originally published in April, 2013 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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