Why Project Managers Need Business Analysts for Project Success

project managers need business analystsThe Standish Group says three of the biggest factors that lead to failed and 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 analysts to our teams.

When Do Project Managers Need a Business Analyst?

The role of the project manager 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, project managers must find ways to complete project tasks through others. They must not fall into the trap of doing everything themselves. Wise project managers recruit team members with the necessary skills and talents.

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

The project manager will have increased difficulty in achieving the project’s objectives when requirements are not properly defined and understood. Poor requirements lead to rework, adverse impacts to schedule, and negative impacts to cost.

Benefits of Business Analysis

I have benefited immensely from the business analyst’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

Introducing the Business Analyst to Your Organization

Introducing business analysis into your project culture may be a significant change. Be sure to define and delimit the roles of your team members.

It is also helpful to clarify the reporting relationship between the project manager and the business analyst. Will the business analyst report to the project manager? Will the business analyst and the project manager 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 business analysts to your culture—determine the pace of change. I favor 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 Business Analysis Skills

For some projects, the project manager may have to perform the business analysis 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 broader 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.

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