I've helped the Business Analyst do their job on many of my projects and the BA is usually the one that I work most closely with on the projects that I manage. But I've never had sole responsibility for the business analyst function on a project. And I truly believe that my project management success rate can be directly tied to working with some great, experienced Business Analysts on some of my most technical and complex projects. There is no substitute, in my opinion. I will sing their praises from the rooftops.
Why does everyone need a Business Analyst on their project? That may be a bit of an overstatement...there are those smaller and less complex projects where a Project Manager or Business aAnalyst can likely cover both roles. But for longer term, higher profile and more technically complex projects, I strongly suggest that both roles are absolutely necessary. I am going to present my own five-point argument here as to why that is the case. I welcome your thoughts and input and discussion to either support or refute this concept.
Here are my five reasons why every (most?) projects - at least complex, technical ones - need a Business Analyst:
1. The Project Manager needs to focus on the project management tasks.
There are enough administrative tasks on most projects to justify a full-time Project Manager, in my opinion. This is especially true for longer, more complex technical projects. In recent years, I can't imagine not having a Business Analyst assigned to most of the projects I've run as they have often tended to be at least 6-12 months long and worth around $1 million with fairly complex technical solutions, interfaces, and implementations. Asking a Project Manager to cover both roles is asking too much because managing a project like that – depending on the customer's needs and complexity of the project - can be a full-time job.
2. The Tech Lead needs a good liaison heading into design work on the project.
On most technical projects of any degree of complexity, the project can benefit greatly from having that good liaison between the administrative and customer side of the project and the technical development side. Having the BA in place to help translate those business requirements into functional requirements with and for the Tech Lead on the project is of tremendous value and helps keep that planning portion of the project under control in terms of time and dollars. It can often definitely be money well spent on the Business Analyst position. If it isn't spent on that position on complex, technical projects, then it likely will be spent on a longer planning and design portion of the project.
3. The Customer needs a technical interface to create complete, detailed requirements.
Customers rarely come to the project table with detailed requirements and if they think that's what they have then those requirements need to be questioned heavily. To get to usable, detailed, complete requirements is no small effort and the Business Analyst provides the best means of getting the project to the point of that detailed requirements definition. On most complex tech projects, it's going to be impossible for the Project Manager to be the sole facilitator of that process.
4. A Business Analyst provides key assistance with user acceptance testing (UAT).
User acceptance testing is critical to the project's success. So much so that the UAT signoff is almost like a signoff on the entire project. But so many UATs can and do go poorly as many project clients lack the time, experience, and expertise to dutifully prepare for and conduct proper user acceptance testing. While the delivery organization can't do the testing for them, a good, experienced BA – sometimes along with the Tech Lead's and/or Project Manager's help – can show them how to prepare properly and conduct UAT by assisting the customer with test cases and test scenarios. This way both sides can be certain that the solution has been fully and properly tested prior to signoff and that the end solution is nearly certain of meeting the customer's end user needs upon rollout.
5. Business analysts provide critical oversight at project implementation time.
Is the project complete? Is it really ready for roll-out? Probably, but have you gone through a project checklist to ensure that is the case? Have you reviewed the project schedule to ensure all tasks are complete, that all sign-offs and approvals have been obtained along the way, and all documentation is there to prove it? The Business Analyst – if you have one - has been involved in many of the key deliverables and heavily involved in requirements, functional design, reviews, user acceptance testing, and other testing as the solution moves toward implementation. When the time does come for go-live, the Business Analyst can likely be the best interface with the project client – working closely with the Project Manager and the tech team to ensure the solution is rolled out smoothly to the customer and end users, that training needs have been identified and addressed and that the proper handoff to support has been achieved.
Summary / call for input
I'm a better Project Manager with a Business Analyst on board for the project. Likewise, my projects are better equipped for success when I'm not splitting myself too thin as both the Project Manager and Business Analyst. I realize that it is a luxury to accommodate both roles on the project as it can be a matter of budget, complexity and customer agreement. Both roles need to be funded. I still stand by the notion that every project is better off if you can have both roles filled separately, even if the Business Analyst or Project Manager role is very limited in terms of hours, dollars, and involvement. Better to have a few hours here and there as needed as opposed to none. So, if you can't price both in full time, then price one in part time and strategically use those hours wisely where they are most needed – like early planning and design and then again around user acceptance testing where business analyst involvement can really help that often customer-challenged phase of the project go much more smoothly.
Readers – what are your thoughts? How necessary do you see both roles as being on the projects in your organization? How often does on or the other role cover both position on a project? Please share and discuss.