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Bad Business Analysts, Project Managers, and Relationships

Larsons_Main_Feb8The “Bad” BA or PM. Is there such a thing, I wondered, when our editor asked for blogs on this subject? In giving it some thought it seemed to me that there may not be any bad business analysts (BAs) or project managers (PMs), but there certainly are some bad BA and PM practices. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites. As an aside, some of the worst BA/PM behavior occurs when the relationship between these two critical project roles struggles. In this blog I address bad BAs, bad PMs, and bad BA/PM relationships.

Bad Business Analysts

The “B-A-A-H-d BA”. That’s right. The BA who acts like a sheep. I’ve met many of them over the years. These are the BAs who lack courage. They do not see themselves as influencers, but rather as order-takers. They seem to forget that they are high-level management consultants who “recommend solutions that enable the organization to reach its goals.” (BABOK® Guide Version 2.0, Introduction, Section 1.2).

These b-a-a-a-h-d BAs:

  • Answer “you want it, you got it,” when given a solution. It may not occur to these BAs that when given a solution, it is necessary to find out what business problem is being solved or what business opportunity is being seized. These BAs may not know what questions to ask, or they might be afraid to ask the right questions. Either way, they tend to plow ahead with the requirements of the proposed solution without understanding the real business need. Not too long ago a client told me, “When the sponsor says they want something, who am I to question it?”
  • Bleat “Baaaah as they follow the pack. I have seen knowledgeable and experienced BAs go along with the business subject matter experts (SMEs) even when they are aware of business and technical impacts and dependencies. As above, they might not be comfortable asking questions or providing their insights and advice.

The “BAD idea BA” who thinks that all ideas presented are bad. We call these BAs initial rejecters. For these BAs, no idea has merit until it has been thoroughly analyzed. Do ideas need to be analyzed? Of course! Do risks need to be addressed? You betcha! But initial rejecters can be viewed as complainers who push back on all new ideas. Effective BAs, on the other hand, understand the importance of a positive, helpful, and non-combative attitude.

The “B-A-H-d Humbug BA” These are the BAs who listen politely to the business SMEs and then turn around and ignore them. I have actually heard one of them exclaim, “They don’t know what they want, so I’ll give them what I think is best for them.” Another equally well-intentioned BA once told me “I have a lot of experience and know what’s best for them. “

Bad Project Managers

When our editor asked for characteristics of a bad PM, I said to myself, “That’ll be easy. As a PM, I’ve made every mistake in the book.” Below is just a sampling of the mistakes I made as a BAD PM.

  1. Telling the business SMES “I’m sorry you can’t have that feature or function. It’s out of scope.”
  2. Asking a business SME at the beginning of a requirements workshop, “What are you doing here?”
  3. Not nailing down the project objectives during Initiating.
  4. Because of a tight deadline, telling the developers that they needed to focus on project tasks rather than answering questions of and being mentors to members of other development teams.
  5. Hoping that a team conflict would go away and thus taking too long to resolve it.
  6. Not recognizing that we were in analysis paralysis until the sponsor blew up in total frustration.
  7. Letting methodology get in the way of providing good customer service.
  8. Omitting lessons learned and/or not spending the time to review lessons learned from past projects.
  9. Not communicating the team’s accomplishments regularly to the powers that be so they could get the recognition they deserved.
  10. Not understanding the importance of team dynamics in project success.

Bad Business Analyst and Project Manager Relationships

There are some project professionals who when acting alone as a BA or as a PM are “good,” but get them together and the project becomes a battlefield. These are the PMs and BAs who can’t seem to work well together.  Here are some examples of “bad” BA/PM relationships. Most of these examples stem from each role not understanding the other, from not defining roles and responsibilities, and from not having an understanding of the work involved or the empathy for the difficulties of the other role.

  1. Both the PM and BA think it’s their job to define the business need and project objectives.
  2. PMs who think that the BA plays a subordinate role on the project. They don’t understand that for the project to succeed, it’s best for the relationship to be peer-to-peer.
  3. PMs who think that the BA’s job is nothing more than elicitation and documentation.
  4. PMs who think that it is their job to plan the business analysis work.
  5. PMs who micromanage the business analysis effort.
  6. BAs that confuse business analysis with project management.
  7. BAs who keep the PM out of the communication loop.
  8. BAs who promise new and changed features without discussing the project impacts with the PM.
  9. BAs that become aware of business risks and don’t notify the PM.

These are just a sampling of bad BAs, bad PMs, and bad relationships.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

Elizabeth Larson

Elizabeth Larson, has been the CEO for Watermark Learning as well as a consultant and advisor for Educate 360. She has over 35 years of experience in project management and business analysis. Elizabeth has co-authored five books and chapters published in four additional books, as well as articles that appear regularly in BA Times and Project Times. Elizabeth was a lead author/expert reviewer on all editions of the BABOK® Guide, as well as the several of the PMI standards. Elizabeth enjoys traveling, hiking, reading, and spending time with her 6 grandsons and 1 granddaughter.