It’s no secret that business analysis and project management roles tend to blend together in their work on IT and business change efforts. We also find that business analysts naturally take on project management responsibilities and project managers naturally take on business analyst responsibilities, especially in cases where one of these roles is absent or weak within an organization.
In response to an earlier post I published here about “How not to choke your business analyst” a reader rightly commented that I made the assumption that PMs understand the business analyst role. I’d like to address that question directly, as well as provide a few clues for project managers to discover that they might also be business analysts.
What is a business analyst?
According to IIBA:
“A business analyst works as a liaison among stakeholders in order to elicit, analyze, communicate and validate requirements for changes to business processes, policies and information systems. The business analyst understands business problems and opportunities in the context of the requirements and recommends solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals.”
Most commonly, the business analyst role includes a significant subset of the following areas of responsibility:
- Planning the requirements approach for a project;
- Enterprise analysis (pre-project analysis including a business case or business value statements)
- Eliciting requirements from stakeholders;
- Analyzing and specifying requirements;
- Validating the requirements are complete and correct;
- Managing requirements through traceability;
- Communicating the requirements to the implementation team;
- Organizational change management for accepting the solution.
This is a long list of potential responsibilities. Not all business analysts fulfill all elements of the business analyst role. I suspect as a project manager you’ve likely been asked to take on bits and pieces of this role at some point in your career.
The relationship between business analysis and project management roles
Even when distinct, our roles are invariably intertwined. As Steve Blais offers the following statement to clarify the distinction between business analysts and project managers in a blog post titled “The Janus Relationship”:
“The business analyst is determining what must be done to successfully solve the business problem brought forth by the business community. The project manager is determining how to efficiently solve the problem in a timely fashion. Acting in the role of doorkeeper, the project manager protects the project team from attention draining interruptions and the business analyst filters changes, issues and problems that emanate from the business community. Those issues that the business analyst does not filter out are then filtered by the project manager based on schedule, budget and feasibility. “
In a perfect world, the project management and business analysis responsibilities are held by two individuals who collaborate together but also balance each other out. But in the real world, distinctions between these two roles are blurred and many of us find ourselves taking on additional responsibilities outside our core role.
I’m a project manager….but also a business analyst?
Even if your title is “project manager” and you associate yourself with the project management discipline, you might be doing some business analysis if:
- You find yourself having multiple discussions about scope with stakeholders.
- You find yourself identifying stakeholders or subject matter experts to ensure all perspectives are appropriately represented in the project’s requirements.
- You review project documentation from the business and have a long list of questions to flesh out the details in a concrete way. You help the business discover answers to these questions.
- You initiate or participate in questions about business value and help stakeholders participate in discussions about how to prioritize their requirements.
- You ask “why” to ensure that your projects deliver a real business value and solve a real business problem.
- You create project documentation about the “what” of the project, including requirements or specifications.
- You participate in helping the business stakeholders prepare to integrate the new solution into their work. This could involve user acceptance testing, business process mapping, or training.
This is not an exhaustive list, but I hope it provides a sense of the types of activities business analysts tend to hold in their various job roles. In essence, the business analyst is focused on solving a business problem and the business analyst does this through developing requirements. Business analysis, like project management, is part art and part science. There are many tools and practices that can be used to become a better business analyst, but there is also an art of communicating with the right people and about the right topics at the right times to ensure your project can be successful.
If you are interested in learning more, I’m releasing my second eBook The Promotable Business Analyst on July 8. Sign-up for the early bird list and download “3 Career Habits of Successful Business Analysts”.
Image by ryantron. via Flickr