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What?! You Don’t Want to Be a Project Manager?

In my last blog post, Mr. Business Analyst, You’re Not a Good Fit!, I discussed three characteristics you should look for in a business analyst. It sparked great conversation and some of the comments inspired this blog post. I stated one of the characteristics hiring managers should look for in a BA is passion for the BA profession. A reader commented, in so many words, that if they feel a candidate is looking for a BA role to get their foot in the door so they can get a PM role later, they shy away from them. Another reader has a manager that wants her to take the PMP exam because it is more popular.

These comments reminded me of what I was up against earlier in my career. A company I worked for had a career path where a Sr. BA “grew up” to be a Junior PM. Many companies still have this approach, and I stand here today saying “this needs to change!” This is a clear indicator of the lack of understanding of the role and/or value an organization puts on the importance of business analysis. In this post I want to highlight the impact on an organization with this career path.

BAs Stop Being BAs

Once a BA is promoted to a senior level all the good stuff starts to happen. It’s like a properly aged wine. At this point, the BA has had enough experience to feel comfortable on most projects and can be a valuable mentor to junior BAs. Unfortunately the BA does not age as anticipated when their next promotion is to a project management role.

What do people do shortly after they get promoted? They look at the next level and see what they need to do in order to prove that they can do that job. If a Sr. BA’s next step is project manager, they will tend to focus more on PM related activities and not as much on the business analysis side. An impact is that organizations always have more junior level staff performing most of the business analysis work. This leads to less than stellar analysis, customers are not satisfied and projects are less successful. The impact is huge in terms of customer satisfaction. I have seen this happen, it’s ugly.

All BAs Do Not Want to Be PMs

Some BAs want to be PMs and I think that is wonderful. Personally, I love when my PM has business analysis experience. So, a target for BAs should be a PM role, just not the only one. If it is the only one, organizations end up only with people in that role that do not want to be PMs. By nature, people want to move up that ladder. They’ll do what is necessary to convince management that they want to be a PM, but they’ll be miserable.

This leads to less than stellar project management; customers are not satisfied and projects are less successful. Do you see the pattern? I did an informal survey two years ago and asked BAs with a PM only career path if they wanted to be a PM. Of the 30 I asked, six said yes. That’s just 20%…yikes! But, almost all of them would take the promotion because it meant more money and a notch up the ladder.

Other Options

That the PM route should not be the only career path, it is only fair I share my thoughts on otherr options. They’re not straight forward and, unfortunately, may give HR professionals heartburn. A big factor is the desires of the individual BA. With a BA skill set (problem solving, analytical thinking, facilitation, consensus building, focus on business value, relationship and team building, etc.) individuals can take one of multiple paths. For those that want to be in the IT space, a potential path can be Jr. BA, Sr. BA, BA Lead, BA Manager, Director, VP, CIO. Additionally within IT, BAs can move into a business architect position and/or strategic business analysis role where they look across the company to help determine the best projects to pursue to maximize business value. BAs can also move into the lines of business. As a BA you gain valuable information about the business goals, operations, and areas for improvement.

In the end, individuals with a BA skill set have more to offer than just becoming project managers. I also believe BAs with project management skills are better analysts. A future post will address that concept. Organizations need to offer BAs a variety of growth options to maximize their skills. Having a single path can lead to a less productive workforce and attrition. BAs who don’t want to be PMs will eventually leave.

To our continued growth,


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Jonathan “Kupe” Kupersmith is Director of Client Solutions, B2T Training and has over 12 years of business analysis experience. He has served as the lead Business Analyst and Project Manager on projects in various industries. He serves as a mentor for business analysis professionals and is a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) through the IIBA and is BA Certified through B2T Training. Kupe is a connector and has a goal in life to meet everyone! Contact Kupe at [email protected].