Heated discussions about relationships between a project manager (PM) and a business analyst (BA) are often focused on their non-aligning sides rather than on their mutual efforts to ensure project success.
I tend to think about PMs and BAs working together in projects as two hands carrying a baby. Here is my view on the PM-BA tandem and how it comes together to make a project successful.
Off-shoring development and other IT services has been an increasingly popular trend over the past decade, with many of the Fortune 500s deciding to outsource their more technical services to emerging markets, where set up costs and pay scales were much lower. Although initially attractive, these seemingly lower costs are by no means “no strings attached” and many companies are finding the hidden costs incurred in the medium-to-long term far outweigh the initial savings. Cost is not the only factor to consider with regards to off-shoring development. Other important factors include cultural and experiential misalignment and time zone differences, which, especially when coupled with language barriers, can severely hamper communications.
Effective communication is perhaps the most critical factor in ensuring the success of a development project. Without being able to communicate their requirements to a development team, customers are almost guaranteed not to get what they had hoped for, which can lead to expensive pieces of software being entirely scrapped. The same is true for adjustments in scope or changes in requirements. As we all know, the business world is in a constant state of flux and if the development team is located thousands of kilometres away, in a different economic climate, with vastly different influencers, their ability to adapt is significantly undermined. Similarly, in an Agile Development and Scrum environment constant customer and user feedback is imperative to creating software that works. If the development team is not able to understand the feedback, they’re unlikely to implement the changes effectively. All of this leads to longer development cycles because the initial brief, changes in scope and requirements, and feedback on development stages are not effectively communicated, which ultimately means additional costs to the customer. It is possible to mitigate this, to some degree, by installing a local project manager on site to oversee the development. Although in most instances this is not a possibility for the customer.
Pictures are an important part of BA work. Whether you call it modeling or diagraming or mapping or drawing, the techniques BAs use to turn processes, relationships, ideas and tasks into pictures, remains a valuable technique for nearly every phase of project work.
From spontaneously sketching ideas on a whiteboard to solve a problem during a meeting, to high-level conceptual models to define scope, to full scale data diagrams to look at detailed data requirements; our work demands a visual approach. Words have their place of importance, but pictures bring value that text and dialogue simply can’t.
“Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.” –Walt Disney
And yet, while the importance of pictures seems obvious to many, some still do not use pictures and models as part of a regular approach to requirements. They discount the value of visuals or lack the skills and confidence to produce effective visuals.
Even BAs that passionately advocate the use of visuals disagree about why they are important and how they should be used.