Business Analysis versus Project Management

There is an ongoing discussion on Business Analysis versus Project Management. Many companies seem to be unsure which part a business analyst should play in organizations and projects, and which tasks a project manager needs to fulfill. Who is responsible for what, where is the separation of the two areas helpful and where is it not?

Business Analysis versus Project Management

Business Analysis and Project Management – a Look Back

Business Analysis and the role of the business analyst have changed dramatically in the past years. The nineties saw a lot of business analysts with degrees in political economics or business economics, most of them working for banks. Their main responsibility was to make sure that a transaction was economically worthwhile. What are the success factors, how can we ensure success and how do we measure it? were some of the questions to be asked by business analysts. So what about today?

Nowadays, just like in the past, the business analyst needs the right instinct for a good deal. He consults the management, thinks outside the box, and discovers markets and chances. In addition, he interacts with stakeholders, elicits requirements and acts as an interface to customers. There is also significant overlap with the roles of a project manager, as well as with those of system analysts and requirements engineers.

The project manager, too, is of essential importance for company success, especially since project work has become the most popular form of cooperation in many companies. Line organizations may define a structural affiliation, the necessary interdisciplinary collaboration of experts from different field and departments still leads to project work in most cases.

A project manager not only is the first among equals, but also captain, navigator, motivator and universal communicator for numerous worlds. These worlds not only exist in company-internal galaxies, they can also be found at clients, suppliers and stakeholders.

As a result, both of them are vital for company success, which leads us to their respective responsibilities.

Different Responsibilities, Or Not?

It is difficult to define the duties and responsibilities for all projects, company types and industry sectors. A project manager may be responsible for the success of a project while the business analyst handles requirements analysis and requirements management in certain phases of the project. Alternatively, the business analyst may define the boundary conditions of a business opportunity while the project manager takes care of project realization.

How could an effective distribution of tasks look like? The key may be to let the business analyst focus on the product (“What”) and the project manager on the production process (“How”). Mind you: The “What” determines the “How”, resulting in a slightly broader spectrum for the business analyst. Which is actually no surprise since the project manager can only act once a project has come into existence.

The business analyst can begin his or her work even before the project has officially been initiated, e.g. by making strategic decisions for new project (projects to be realized by the project manager, see above).

The distinction between business analyst and project manager could look like this:

Business Analysis versus Project Management

The Reality of Business Analysis and Project Management

How does collaboration between the two look in real life? In theory, demarcation between business analysis and project management is defined in all details. The reality is that handling differs from project to project and from company to company.

In many cases, there exists a kind of hybrid between the two. This hybrid can produce very positive results when applied carefully. It may also cause harm, especially if only one person attempts to fill out both roles and the healthy conflict between a strategic and an operative approach does not come into play. Money may be saved short-term, but the individual project member will suffer under a heavy work load.

There is also a competition between the roles and mambers of the specifc area. Statements like I am a business analyst and I don’t need a project manager or I am a project manager and I don’t need a business analyst telling me what to do can be heard quite often. Many business analysts see themselves as requirements engineers and testers. For some even, business analysts seem absolutely essential for companies.

This may indeed hold true when it comes to the strategic orientation of companies, consulting of management and discovering markets and market potentials. The concrete realization of projects and the development of products and software require many more roles; companies should think twice before trying to adapt all these roles.

Conclusion

It makes sense to reflect upon the tasks and responsibilities in organizations, and the results may differ significantly. Different process models and methodologies such as PRINCE2 (with project managers responsible for the business case) or the V-Modell XT (with requirements analysts deep in a business analyst’s territory) all bring their individual structure and roles with them.

There is an even simpler reason: People are different from another. No two business analysts and to two project managers are the same. What they should bring to the project is a common understanding of their tasks.

Project members also have different experiences and skills. Defining task a, b and c for the business analyst and tasks d, e and f for the project manager doesn’t help if the business analysts just is not qualified or skilled enough to do c.

In this scenario a definition is nothing more than an initial situation that needs to be refined during the course of an enterprise, a project or a transaction. This will cause time and effort but at the same time helps to avoid misunderstandings, redundancy and missing results. The focus is back on the team, on fruitful cooperation and on real results.

Business analysis AND project management is the conclusion.

My name is Michael Schenkel – and I believe in tools, if they are useful. Tools that support users in their work, tools that provide a common working environment for all types of roles in a project.

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