5 Reasons Business Analysts are Indispensable
In my opinion, a project without a business analyst is doomed to fail. I may be exaggerating a bit and probably even underrating my ability to fill both roles, but I was a bit spoiled in my last W2 project manager position. I had very skilled business analysts assigned to every project I was leading. I helped them with requirements and functional design documents, but they did the real work. They made it all make sense to the developers. The tech lead knew who to go to with questions in terms of requirements and scope. I could do it – but the BA already had the walking around knowledge so he was the go-to person on design issues for the tech lead if he was around.
So, in my opinion I consider business analysts to be indispensable if you want your IT project to go smoothly and be successful – which hopefully is your goal every time. What I’d like to outline now are my 5 reasons why I consider the BA to be indispensable on technical projects. I’ve played my hand on one above, but I’ll reiterate that one below.
The BA communicates with the project client. The project client has project needs to express, some technical, some not so technical. And some clients are very non-technical. But when the project client has a complex technical need it’s nice to have a skilled, technically competent business analyst on the delivery side to discuss the need, identify the REAL need and work through requirements with me on the project with the project client. Having this resource on the project greatly increases the odds that we will hit the mark on meeting the real client project need and the real client end user need at solution deployment time.
The BA is the technical liaison with the SMEs. The customer subject matter experts (SMEs) and end users can really benefit from having a skilled technical business analyst on the delivery project team. BAs can ensure that requirements are clear, concise and detailed. As I said, this can and usually does greatly increase the chance that the project really hits the mark in terms of meeting the right client need and the real customer requirements for the project. Plus, if there is a choice of technical solutions, the skilled BA helps ensure that the right one is picked. One more thing – the assistance that a skilled BA can bring to the project client at user acceptance testing (UAT) time is sometimes priceless given the fact that many an IT project customer is often ill-equipped to do a really good job testing the solution without it.
The BA connects with the technical lead. Having a skilled business analyst with technical knowledge on the team can provide that necessary link to the project team technical lead as you try to move from requirements and functional design document to the technical design and technical design document from which the solution is created. The knowledge the BA carries with them helps ensure key requirements get interpreted accurately and that the proper amount of time, planning and attention is given. The project manager is busy with other tasks and the BA can assist at this point, it really helps the PM perform well in the lead role they are performing.
The BA makes the project manager look good. A very competent business analyst makes the project manager look good. A busy project manager often has enough to do managing the project team and resources, creating project status reports, running the weekly project meetings, managing issues, risks and financials and – of course – managing the project schedule. Having a technically skilled business analyst on the engagement ensuring that the delivery goes smoothly and the communication with the technical team is handled properly can really make the project manager’s life much easier. And that helps make the project manager look good.
The BA runs interference on technical issues. I realize that technical issues rarely come up on technical projects (yeah… right), but when they do, having a skilled business analyst to assign those issues to and then let them research and find the solution can really help a project stay on track. The technical staff on the team will still be responsible for the coding and some of the testing of these issues as fixes are created, but the business analyst will be the individual overseeing the issue from beginning to end ensuring that it’s handled properly and properly resolved.
There’s one more thing I left out – the project status calls with the customer. As the project lead, the project manager is leading the formal weekly status call with the client. But when technical issues are discussed and technical questions come up it’s not always possible to have the tech lead on the call. Having the business analyst available to go into the proper technical detail on the solution but put it in terms that the project customer can understand with can go miles in ensuring that the project customer is satisfied. BAs can help the client feel comfortable with the competency of the entire project team in running down issues, managing and performing on the project and delivering and overall successful end solution to the sponsor and customer end users.
Don’t get me wrong. I like to play hands-on technical project manager from time-to-time and when it makes sense. I stay up on technology and I attend technical conferences like Interop, Black Hat, Agile, Better Software Development, DevOps, and CES International to name a few. But as the project manager – usually running multiple projects at one time and with PM administrative tasks to take care of – I am usually too limited in availability to get too involved in the hands-on technical solution and tasks. That’s why a good business analyst is so essential and really makes the project go around.
How do other project managers and business analysts feel about this? Do you generally get the entire load dumped on you or do you have skilled business analysts you can rely on to be that technical liaison and knowledge bearer on the project? What other things do skilled BAs bring to the table on technical projects?
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