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5 Reasons Why You Need a Business Analyst Before Project Kickoff

In a perfect project world, the cost of the project and the resources you use on it wouldn’t be an issue and the best resources could be available to the project 24/7 from the beginning. Oh, and they wouldn’t need sleep, and they would never get tired. In a perfect world – or at least some alternate universe.

But we don’t live in a perfect world and project resources do cost money – a lot of money. And, unfortunately, they actually do need sleep.

So in this imperfect world, we really don’t want the entire project team on board at kickoff time because there isn’t anything for all of them to do yet. They would likely end up charging time to the project budget that we don’t need. While we usually can’t get – or even want – the entire team assigned at kickoff, it can be extremely beneficial to have the business analyst assigned by that point. Why?

Related Article: A Business Analyst’s Best Friend: The Project Manager

Here are my 5 reasons why assigning a business analyst at kickoff will help the project, the project customer, and the project manager.

1. Technical questions DO come up in the kickoff session.

Some technical questions need to go back to the project team AFTER kickoff and then handled via other communication with the project customer and his end users or subject matter experts (SMEs). And those I will cover later in this article. But some nearly always come up during the kickoff session that can be handled – and should be handled for the sake of forward progress – during this critical meeting. The project manager may be able to handle those, but the business analyst should be able to handle those and between the two some key decisions can be made – with the project customer and any SMEs present that will keep the discussion flowing rather than halt progress and create yet another issue “to be handled later.”

2. Next steps involve requirements, and the business analyst will play an integral role in the definition and documentation of requirements.

Usually, the next steps after the project kickoff session involve some discovery, some business process review, some AS-IS and TO-BE planning, and definitely the detailed project requirements definition and documentation. A business analyst who has been present in the statement of work (SOW) review, the draft project schedule preparation, and the discussions that happen at the project kickoff session will be that much farther ahead when both sides sit down to document real, complex, detailed requirements that the tech team will build technical design documents from and develop the solution from.

3. Prep includes the project schedule, and the business analyst can definitely add much value to the drafting of the initial schedule.

As I’ve stated, the drafting of the project schedule will happen prior to the project kickoff session. This project schedule likely won’t be reviewed in detail during the kickoff session, but it will be in the customer’s hands during that session and the more detail that goes into the schedule and the more that it makes sense, the more confident the project customer will be in the delivery team’s ability to roll out a quality end solution. And that first impression is always big. While I am always in favor of having a project manager who can fight his way out of a technical paper bag on his own, the business analyst is usually his superior technically, so his input to the draft project schedule that goes to the customer and helps drive the kickoff session discussions can be extremely beneficial.

4. There will be take away questions – having the business analyst present negates the potential for misinterpretation and miscommunication as those questions go to the tech members of the project team.

I’m not saying the project manager can’t handle this. I’ve handled this many times. But I’ve also led enough technical projects to know that if I have a business analyst sitting beside me, they are also representing the tech team that hasn’t been assigned yet, and their brain is already thinking that way while I’m still focusing on organization and next steps. Having the business analyst present during kickoff lessens the possibility of any misinterpretation or miscommunication of those questions that need to be taken to the tech project team.

5. The business analyst can add more precision to the estimates that go into the draft project schedule.

The draft project schedule that is taken to the project kickoff session is really more than a draft schedule. It is the active, living, breathing schedule at that point and should only need some minor tweaking as the kickoff session comes to a close. That being the case, having the business analyst assigned and putting that together with the project manager means that effort estimates that go into that schedule will be that much more accurate. As a project manager, consultant, and former developer, I consider myself a very good estimator of project task effort – yes, even all the complex development tasks on technical projects. But the business analyst usually – at least on my projects – has served to be the liaison between the project manager and tech team and they are usually even just a bit better at providing detailed, fairly accurate estimates than I can. And more accuracy and realism is always good as you head into the kickoff session and beyond.

Summary / call for input

The bottom line is this. In my opinion kickoff sessions and the project, in general, just go better if the business analyst is assigned as quickly as possible. Unlike the tech team members who really can’t do much until design starts, the business analyst can prove to be an invaluable resource from Day One as the project manager goes through the administrative work and planning to get the project kickoff session in place and the project schedule assembled.

What about our readers? What are your thoughts on the business analysts assignment to the project team and the timing of that assignment? What is your organization’s policy or does it depend on the project? What is your preference?