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4 Steps to Improve the Relationship with Your Project Manager

Kupe_Blog_Dec21It seems like every year there is still talk about the project manager role and the business analysis role in the same sentence.  It started years ago with the questions “do business analysts grow up to be project managers?” Then, why a project needs both a Project Manager and a Business Analyst.  Now the PMBOK includes requirements activities which sparked the IIBA and PMI to write a joint paper about the overlap in the roles.  With the PM/BA topic still hot my colleague at B2T Training, Barbara Carkenord, and I put a slight twist on the subject.  Although many teams use one person as a PM and BA there are still a large number of teams that have separated the roles.  In both circumstances there are pros and challenges.  One of the challenges when there is a PM and BA is the potential for unclear responsibilities. We came up with an approach for a PM and BA partnership meeting. This meeting is done early in the initiation phase of a project to open the lines of communication and give the BA and PM greater chance for success.   Because the PM and BA interact with the same stakeholders it is very important for the PM and BA to be very clear on what roles each will play during a project.

Assess Yourself

To build a strong partnership you first need to know yourself.  What are your strengths and what tasks do you enjoy doing the most? What are your personal preferences? We always work harder and better on work that we enjoy.  There are aspects of each role that you may enjoy. For me I enjoy all aspects of project scoping.  I make it known to my PM that I can help or lead that activity for the project.  Prior to the meeting with your PM, have a clear picture of what you want to do and how you can best contribute to the project.

The Planning Meeting

When assigned to a project make a point to set up a planning meeting with your PM.  Here is a 4 step process you can follow to help guide the meeting.  

1. Get to know each other

If this is the first time you worked together or if it has been some time since your last project together discuss individual strengths and weaknesses. Learn s much as you can about your partner.  Do they work better in the morning or afternoon? Do they prefer working mostly as a team or are there certain tasks they would rather do on their own then review later.  Here are some specific items to discuss.

  1. Learn about each other’s work history (jobs, roles, projects).
  2. Share your passions, strengths, and areas of challenges.
  3. Talk about your feelings about the partnership. Discuss how you like to work with others.
  4. Tell your partner what tasks (both PM and BA work) you enjoy and excel at.

The key here is to be as open as possible. 

2. Discuss project characteristics

Use the project charter or similar document as your guide.  Discuss the project specifically. Share knowledge of stakeholders to think through the best ways to communicate during the project.  Make sure you both are clear on the project objectives and the key stakeholders. If you have a different understanding or the objectives are not clear, make sure this is resolved before the project gets too far along. You’ll also want to talk about the approach (plan driven or change driven) to be used for the project.

3. Discuss the requirements approach

Depending on the knowledge and background of the PM you are working with make sure you have agreement on your requirements approach.  Make sure you and your PM have the same understanding of the requirement types that need to be elicited, analyzed and communicated. Come to an agreement about what documentation may be required for the project.   

For elicitation discuss the techniques you may use.  If your stakeholders are at different locations, talk about the possibility of some face to face sessions.  Have the conversation about providing a travel budget.

4. How to best work together

With all this information about each other and the project it is time to decide who will do what on the project. I said this in so many words in a previous blog, My First Agile Project, but it is worth repeating again.  Titles and predefined tasks for that title matter less to me than getting the best person to accomplish a task.  Just because you are a BA does not mean you only do tasks outlined in the BABOK.

When you are first assigned to a project schedule a meeting with your Project Manager. Review the project charter before the meeting and develop a list of questions/suggestions for how the two of you can work together. If possible, this type of meeting should be had with all team members. 

Do you have meetings like this?  Please share your story in the comments.

Always working on relationships,


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