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The Business Analyst’s Role in Project Closeout

I’ve written about project closeout before and the need to plan well in advance for a complete and, hopefully issue-free, project rollout and closure. Planning well does not guarantee success.

If you have dotted all of your “I”s, crossed all of your “T”s, the requirements for the project have been followed and incorporated into the end solution, and user acceptance testing went off successfully, then you should be about as good to go as you possibly can be.

That said, there are some things the project manager, business analyst and entire team should be planning to do and running through especially as the project is winding down.

These are, at a minimum (but not limited to):

  • Reviewing all project financials
  • Re-reviewing user acceptance test (UAT) results
  • Checking all project milestones
  • Making sure all training has been successfully completed
  • Conducting and documenting a lessons learned session
  • Making sure all appropriate deliverable, UAT, and project sign-offs / approvals are in place

Where does the business analyst fit in?

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We have a good list of some high-level project closeout checklist items to use to make sure the project work is complete, approved by the project client, and ready to be rolled out to the customer’s end user community. But what about the business analyst? They have intimate knowledge of the solution, the technical project team, the requirements, the customer and the customer’s end user community. They are that technical team and customer liaison and will be involved in everything associated with the project closeout planning, assurance, and rollout activities.

Let’s examine what roles in specific areas of project closeout activities that will logically be played by the business analyst on a technical project. As you read through these, please be thinking of ones not mentioned here – especially if you have experience with specific issues and concepts not mentioned – and be prepared to comment and share your own thoughts and experiences. For now, mine are:

Early planning for project closeout. This role should fall mainly to the project manager as it is a planning activity and will tie in heavily to the project schedule – which is under the primary charge of the project manager. But in terms of many of the detailed project tasks that must happen and what timing and effort will go into each, much of that input can and should come from the business analyst as their expertise and experience are vital to the proper estimation of the level of efforts for many of these tasks.

User acceptance testing. Here is an area where the business analyst will definitely shine and is crucial to project and client testing success. Don’t do the test cases and test scenarios for the project customer – that is a conflict of interest. But the project customer is nearly always weak in this area, and a poorly tested technical solution means the delivery team has a good chance of rolling out a final solution that doesn’t fully meet the customer’s end user community’s needs. That’s not good. So the good business analyst is critical to successful user acceptance testing. That individual can help the customer develop test cases and test scenarios, help walk them through UAT – figuratively holding their hand along the way as needed and help to gain that crucial UAT sign off / approval from the customer. Essentially, that becomes almost a sign off on the entire solution as the rollout is being prepared for because that is what they are testing. This one role is the key to success.

Milestone and deliverable review. Because the business analyst is involved to a high degree in all project milestones, and likely the production, review, delivery and sign off of all project deliverables, it makes great sense that this individual will be involved in the review and validation of completion and sign off of all project milestones and deliverables. This basically involves running through the project schedule and documentation file with the project manager – and maybe the full team – to ensure that all tasks were completed, all deliverables went to the customer and received signoff, and likely that all deliverables were paid for. Through my experience, however, the financial aspect is usually the sole responsibility of the project manager.

Conducting lessons learned. The lessons learned session is important to gaining insight into what pleased the project customer and what they perceived as not going as well as it should. While the project manager should facilitate this session, the business analyst will probably be the main commentator and communicator with the project customer team when specific tasks and activities of the project are discussed.

Rolling out the solution to the project client and end user community. Finally, the actual project implementation or rollout will be primarily led by the project manager and business analyst. The BA will mainly be a technical liaison – running down any issues, working the project technical team in issue resolution, and solution handoff. The business analyst did this during requirements, design and configuration of the project solution, and most assuredly they will be leading this effort on the ground during project implementation or rollout to the end user community.

Summary / call for input

I’ve said it many times, and I will say it again – some companies want to combine the project manager and business analyst role or the business analyst and tech lead role on technical projects. I think a good business analyst – performing the common duties of the business analyst – is too critical to the project’s success to be combined with any other role. Doing so only for very small projects or for very cash-strapped organizations may be an option, but it is not a good long-term plan on all projects. because the business analyst has usually played such a key role throughout the engagement, and as the project is winding down, their involvement in many aspects of that project close out is critical to the project’s overall successful ending. And, thus, customer and end user satisfaction, both of which are keys to success.

How about your thoughts? What do you consider to be key roles of the business analyst in the close out of the technical project – or any project for that matter? Please share your thoughts on this list and your additions and let’s discuss.