Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Why Business Analysis goes closely with Project Management

After I wrote the previous piece on SA and BA, something that came to my mind was, why don't I discuss about the BA and PM relationship!! These two are close roles and worth discussing the similarities.

It’s very common where the same person plays the role of PM and BA in the same project and it's a known fact that the BA path is a fairly quick path to the PM track if someone ever wants to. Not every BA likes this idea, as the PM role does not offer the full breadth of Business/IT experience that the BA role offers. There is a considerable difference between the management of it and being involved in really doing it. This again depends on the person and what they want to do in their life/career.

Why are they closely related? What are the overlaps and why is it easy for the same person to do both the jobs? These are the things I would like to discuss at a very high-level here.

Firstly, both are pretty non-technical, so in a heavy technical industry, playing roles that are more towards business/management, creates a relationship and easy access paths in between the two.

Secondly and most importantly I believe, is the involvement in Scope management. Scoping is a high responsibility of the BA, but the PM has a direct responsibility in it too, because at the end of the day, he has to manage the whole thing and work with whatever the agreed scope.

Business Analysis forms the base for the project as it gathers, analyses and documents the requirements. PM has to manage a project, which tries to deliver those requirements, so he needs to have a clear handle of those requirements. Basically, PM manages the deliverables defined by the BA. If forming requirements and scoping is done by the same person (a PM/BA), it would ease things a lot for a seamless overall management. If they are two persons, they have to work closely and the job areas are divided by a grey line and not clear-cut as black and white. In smaller projects, there is a good opportunity for a dual role-play.

On the other hand, if the PM does not have a good understanding of BA work, and how requirements analysis is done in order to form the basis for the project, he will lose control of the project at the earliest stage of the project, which will be quite hard to rectify. This justifies why experienced BAs are sought for PM roles (i.e.: because their BA understanding is going to be very valuable in a PM role.)

Another critical area is the Change Management process, which is very important for both roles equally, and responsibility is also generally shared. However, since it’s driven by the change of business requirements, the BA falls into the heart of the responsibility. Once the change is identified, documented and approved, the PM has to change the plans in order to cater for it, so the closeness of the two roles is obvious. Generally, both the PM and BA would be members of the change management group/committee/board setup for a large project together with the business representative(s), Client representative(s), QA/Testing rep(s) etc. whereas in smaller projects, change management would be more informal but still needs the agreement of all parties and the PM & BA will play critical roles.

I found the following article to be very interesting and the discussion is somewhat relevant here. http://www.allpm.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=1517&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0

And also http://www.allpm.com/ has chosen the same topic that we discuss here as the theme of the month for April.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_analyst - This one touches on the importance of having PM skills within a BA and the following quote shows the difference (or the similarity! depends on the way you look at it, I guess) between the two.
"Fundamentally, the PM manages project resources (people, money) and the BA manages the business stakeholders."
This statement on its own can be misleading without reading the whole thing or understanding the background. The PM is also involved in managing business stakeholders but business stakeholder management for the purposes of requirements/scope/system usage/system acceptance is the BA's responsibility.

Some of the soft skills that we highlight as crucial for a BA overlap with skills required for a good PM, to name a few, presentation, communication, interview and customer relationship building. However, things like diagrammatic modelling, requirement documentation (from the BA side) and human resource management, project plan (from the PM side) do not overlap in common situations.

The other side of this is the close association between Business Consultancy (BC) and Business Analysis. A senior BA plays a role of a consultant in some projects and organizations. This can be just a term difference, as some companies do not have consultants at all, therefore BAs do everything. Whereas, some opt to have consultants who will do BA work as well. Specially, consultation oriented companies do this more than the development centric ones. A Business Consultant definitely needs to be a good project manager, as in most instances he will be operating on his own, managing his work, client and the scope. So, senior BAs who do consultancy type of work would have the requirement of PM skills.

A practical proof of this is in job advertisements for either the BA or BC, as recruiters in most cases ask for PM expertise and in some cases for very senior level opportunities, even program management experience is sought.

It's really important to know project management concepts and principles as well as having some experience in them to do a sound BA job. On a personal note, this is the reason I went through a PM training a few months back and also am planning to do Prince2 Foundation exams in first week of May, and then become a practitioner of it hopefully by July this year.

Hope everyone would enjoy this long post (wonder whether it’s too long for a blog post!) and share their thoughts as well.


Craig said...

Hi Yasas

I agree with your assessments of the role. There is strong overlap between the BA and PM roles in a number of areas.

Some people like the author of the ALLPM article you mentioned have taken the opposite view that the roles are complimentary.

As a PM who was a BA first I use the BA skills in my PM jobs and see that it helps me be an effective pm. I may be biased but I think that the stakeholder focus f a BA really gets you working i the right places.

Yasas Vishuddhi Abeywickrama said...

You are right, stakeholder focus developed as a BA would be key when someone plays a PM role. There is a set of PMs who don't really understand the BA concept (Probably bcos it emerged much later in an IT project context), for them, this overlap we are talking about could well be 'biasness'! Apart from that, overlap is quite apperant and accepted. So, there is no harm in using that 'overlap' for project benefit where possible, at least in my opinion.