Tuesday, 17 January 2012 09:30

Would You Hire a Project Manager or a Business Analyst?

Written by George Bridges, Greg Geracie, Frank Kowalkowski, Neal McWhorter and Steven Starke
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PaneldiscussionThis was one of several questions posed to a cross-functional panel of industry experts encompassing the product management, project management, and business analysis professions at Project Summit and Business Analyst World Chicago. The resulting dialog shed light on several topics that underlie current practices.

The panelists were George Bridges (GB), Director of Business Analysis at the International Institute of Learning, Greg Geracie (GG), President of Actuation Consulting, Frank Kowalkowski (FK), President of Knowledge Consultants, and Neal McWhorter (NM), President of Strategic Value Partners. The panel discussion was moderated by noted project management author Steven Starke.

Moderator (Steven Starke): Greg, let’s begin with you. If you had to choose between adding a project manager or a business analyst, which would you choose and why?

GG - As a product management professional and a frequent project sponsor, I tend to take a broader view of this decision. A good analogy might be an orchestra. Within the orchestra the business analyst would be a violinist creating wonderful music. However, the project manager would be the conductor. The business analyst is an important individual contributor while the project manager is in a leadership role within the context of the project team.

So, I’d lean toward selecting a project manager because project managers can ensure that whatever value is created by the team gets to market. The business analyst role can create a lot of value, but if the value never gets to market it’s like the proverbial tree falling in the woods – no one is around to hear it.

Moderator: George, which would you choose?

GB - I‘d choose the business analyst. This is a shift in the way I’ve traditionally thought about this issue. I’ve always believed that the project manager could manage the project and make sure they have subject matter experts and all the resources they need to complete the project. However, after listening to Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s presentation “Management’s Five Deadly Diseases,” my concept of the business analyst has changed.

I now believe that business analysis skills and assets reside in the analyst’s knowledge of the business. They need to be conversant about the business at every level of the organization, and this includes formal and informal communication with the executive management team. This is not to say that the project manager is not conversant; but the business analyst should know the strategic business objectives of the company. Business analysts with this knowledge create value for the organization and can justify those decisions to senior management. These are the main reasons I’d choose a business analyst.

FK – Steve, I’d like to add to George’s comments. I’d start with a business analyst because the first issue the team would face is problem solving. Once you get to a solution or a set of solutions, the project manager role comes into full play for effective planning and a cost/benefit analysis of alternatives. If the limit is one full-time person, I might consider having a contract business analyst followed by a contract project manager. Alternatively, one could hire the business analyst full time and add a contract project manager because they’re more readily available than a contract business analyst.

NM - As someone who has spent years helping organization build up their business analysis capabilities, I'm sorry to say that I’d have to choose a project manager. The rationale is pretty simple. With a project manager I have a pretty clear value proposition. I'm looking for an individual who knows how to identify and track issues and risks, can track resources and work dependencies to schedule effectively, and who can monitor time, cost, and quality to quickly identify when a project isn’t where it’s expected to be.

With a business analyst, I really don't know what I'm getting. I might end up with someone who is little more than a scribe or someone who takes charge of delivering a holistic business solution. The skills and techniques could range from an expert facilitator to a subject matter expert to a process analyst to someone who is little more than a technical writer. While any particular individual could bring a valuable skill-set, the current grab-bag-like assortment of business analysts really makes it difficult to believe that the role means much as it stands right now.

Business analysts have the potential to deliver great value but right now they’re a pig in a poke.

Moderator: So it seems our panel is evenly split between adding a business analyst or a project manager. Since that’s the case, let’s find out what each of you perceive as the value of a business analyst.

NM - This question gets right to the root of the problem with the business analyst's role. In many organizations, this role is considered that of a "translator," "facilitator," or "requirements document creator." None of these terms has a direct link to business value. So the business analyst's role is a hard sell. In some organizations Agile is a direct attack on the business analyst role because this kind of intermediary role is seen as overhead or – even worse –as a drag.

If I were a business analysis practice lead, I would be really working hard to define the specific business value that my group delivered and align my people to that. I think the best place to start is to focus on three roles for the business analyst: designing the technology-focused aspect of a product, creating technology-based capabilities that enable new products or significant changes to operational processes, and optimizing operational processes.

Unfortunately I don’t see a lot of organizations aligning their business analysis practices to this kind of value proposition.

GB –The business analyst should understand the business need, business capabilities, and range of available options and provide a robust justification for the proposed solutions. For me, there are several elements that define the business analyst’s value. First, they help define, manage, and control the scope of the product or solution. Second, as a dedicated resource, they communicate the urgency, value, benefit, and risk of the proposed solution. Third, they clearly elicit, analyze, document, and manage the project’s requirements. They also define the problem, get buy-in from stakeholders and the project team, and define and communicate the business solution.

GG – Like George, I believe the true value of a business analyst is their ability to correctly research business problems and develop solutions that address needs. When appropriately aligned with organizational goals, business analysts can create a tremendous amount of value. However, I think their full value gets diluted when they’re solely focused on internal initiatives. I believe business analysts could be aligned with product managers very effectively. This would further expand the scope of a business analyst’s responsibility outside of the organization and further increase the value of the role.

Moderator: Let’s move on to the project management role. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts about the value of a project manager. Who would like to go first?  

FK – I’ll go first. This one is pretty clear cut from my perspective. Project managers play the governance role of an asset steward. They’re responsible for keeping resource usage on track for a given initiative of the enterprise. As such, they take a proposed solution, develop the cost/benefit (or other type of value analysis), prepare a plan, monitor adherence to plan, take care of deviations, and minimize the impact of problems during implementation.

NM - I’d agree with the others and just add that the project manager can have a relatively wide range of value. There's the traditional time, cost, and delivery tracking that is part of any project. But there's a lot more to this role than simply tracking progress. A project manager adds real value when they can fully embrace their initiative’s goals. When this happens the project manager can help direct issue resolution towards outcomes that make well thought out trade-offs and prevent a project from being delayed and from straying from its objectives.

Moderator: George, what’s your take?

GB - The value of the project manager to the organization is their ability to effectively manage the competing demands of time, cost, scope, resources, risk, and quality. These six competing demands — along with customer satisfaction — are the basis for managing the success of any project. The project manager has to manage the inevitable tradeoffs associated with these competing demands throughout the project. Project managers coordinate all of the contributors to the project to deliver value to internal and external stakeholders.

PART 2 -

Moderator:  Now that we’ve framed how each of you perceives the value of project management, what is the biggest issue with the project management role today? Greg, how about going first?

GG – Sure, Steve. I think the greatest issue project managers face today is the possibility of being viewed as overhead. I’ve never felt this way, but I know that this is a risk in some organizations. This is particularly true of project managers that don’t effectively link the goals of the project to the company’s business objectives. Project managers really need to focus on correctly defining this linkage and ensuring that their projects demonstrate value to the organization.

Tied to this issue is the fact that too many projects don’t actually add value, are never cancelled, and sputter on consuming valuable resources when everyone involved in the project knows it’s a wild goose chase. It’s one of the most difficult aspects of a project manager’s job in my opinion – akin to telling the emperor that he has no clothes as the saying goes. But frankly, project managers must find creative ways to tackle these types of challenges.

Moderator: Frank, I take it you want to go next?

FK – Absolutely. I think the biggest issue relates to the type of problems project managers deal with. They’re more skilled at implementing a solution than solving business problems. This often depends on the industry. I’m actively involved with a lot of construction projects, and the project management role in these efforts is critical; construction projects require program offices with many project managers. In this setting, the central issues are consistency of project manager performance, skill level, and experience level. Many of the project managers that I see in that industry are Project Management Institute (PMI) certified.

In the computer applications systems space, I think project managers lack a good feel for the reality of gathering requirements and what’s needed to successfully manage product development projects. The technology field is less mature than the construction industry, and the skill level you’re managing is much higher than you typically find on a large construction project. So the issue is one of dealing with educated professionals.

NM - I’d add to Frank’s comments and say that the biggest issue for project managers today is that they are often little more than a project's bookkeeper. For a project manager to create some larger value to organizations, they have to play a larger role in evaluating issues and risks. The project manager must evaluate issues for impact and resolve them, if possible. If this isn't possible, the project manager must create a decision framework for quick resolution. If the issue is outside of the control of the project, then it's a risk and the project manager needs to quickly identify and escalate this while they begin to develop risk mitigation plans. This is much more proactive role than most project managers are taking today.

Moderator: Let’s circle back to the business analyst. What’s the biggest issue with the role of the business analyst today?

GB - The biggest issue with this role is that it’s perceived as a new profession and isn’t as understood as it should be. The generally accepted practices are new to everyone and most of the enterprises see this role overlapping with the project manager and the system analyst. Business analysts are often not given enough time and resources to effectively do their job. The biggest challenge is simply gaining acceptance and anchoring the role effectively in the organization. Business analysts need the space to do their jobs effectively so they can contribute solutions that will meet company objectives and strategies.

GG - Although the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) has done a good job of defining the skill set a business analyst needs, I think the biggest problem is that the role and responsibilities vary so widely among organizations. The act of business analysis is a component of almost any job inside an organization and I believe the roles of a business analyst should be more segmented. Thoughtful segmentation would give more clarity to all involved — from practitioners to hiring managers.

FK – Greg and I view this question similarly. I see the biggest issue as the definition of the role. The term business analyst is very general. There are many types of analysis, analysts, and analytics. The word analysis defines the domain or subject area that is of interest — like process analysis or financial ratio analysis. An analyst is the person who does the analysis — like the process analyst. And analytics are the algorithms you need to draw a conclusion from the analysis — like calculations. Our organization has listed more than 50 types of analysis that a business analyst might do and maybe 75 or 100 types of analysis. You can put the words analysis, analyst, or analytics after any one of the possible subject areas.

I also see another issue related to modeling. Many of today’s problems require different types of modeling such as decision structures, feedback models, dynamic models, management, and discipline models. I find that business analysts are good at interviewing and drawing diagrams, but not as effective at analyzing the problem. I think this reflects the current emphasis on business analysts doing application systems requirements and not really focusing on solving business problems.

Moderator: I’d like to conclude by asking each of you to look into the future. What does your crystal ball tell you about the business analysis or project management professions?

GG - I’m seeing greater emphasis on clarifying the role of business analysts. From the product management perspective, I can envision more emphasis on the product manager and business analyst relationship. I’ve always been a bit puzzled by the business analyst and project manager relationship, although I understand how it evolved. I think the common thread of creating value is a more natural linkage between the business analyst and the product manager, and I can envision a future where this becomes a preferred career path for a subset of the business analyst community.

GB - I see more project managers adding the business analyst skill set to their professional development by taking certification courses and training in business analysis. Some project managers may take on business analysis as a full-time profession. The same is true for senior business analysts. They may seek project management certification and take on project management full time. The roles will become more clearly defined and professionals will flock to the role that best meets their personal, professional, and organizational needs.

Some project managers will set aside their project management skills to learn the business and begin working in executive positions and provide business analysis to the organization. I see business analysis establishing their own department, where they’re not tied to IT or a particular business function. They will establish a business analyst Center of Excellence and offer independent objective solutions to the organization.

FK - The future business analyst must be much more versatile in applying problem-solving skills and techniques to the business. If they don’t, another discipline – like auditing – will take over the task. Auditing is already doing operational analysis because automation has decreased their role. And auditing can justify taking over the role because they have risk analysis experience related to process execution. So I see risk ahead for business analysts.

The future of project management may be a little brighter as the skills and methods seem to be better defined and I don’t see any other discipline interested in taking over.

NM – For the business analysis profession, I think the key will be whether it creates a single definition of business analysis. Business analysts must show a more direct relationship to value, or they face increasing marginalization.

Instead of the big tent approach to business analysis, I think it makes a lot more sense to break the role into different designer functions: process, product, business rule, content, etc. Successful organizations will find that moving the business analyst toward design roles that are aligned with concrete business value will yield real benefits. Organizations that don't follow this path will likely view the business analyst role as overhead.

Don't forget to leave your comments below.

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0 # Ishmael 2012-01-17 04:36
Hi, Thanks a million for the article. It is a great read as I am trying to be as proactive as possible in regards to the major BA trends ahead in 2012. Would it be possible however to read more on the behaviour realm? as an experienced BA ( 12Y) I frankyl think, having witnessed this from m own experience, that the uniqueness of the BA resides in their ability to handle the business in the whole meaning of the term. By behaviour, I mean the body language, the smoothness, the finess and the artistic impression when comes the time for change management. It really makes a difference when you see a BA easing the pain and calling for calm among the user cominty, selling change for cooperation. The BA's work is much appreciated when they are given time and space to perform their duties. The added value dwells in the creative side of the profession. One can state that knowledge is out there to be acquired. True! But in staying creative and keeping focus on innovation, the value proposition comes in as an easy sell. Thanks
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+3 # Joe 2012-01-17 04:56
I hate to think of it terms of one or the other. PM's manage projects to completions. BA's manage the relationship with the business. They make a great team.
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-1 # George Bridges 2012-01-17 05:06
This is a very excellent suggestion and I agree that the behavior side is very important in the field of Business Analysis. A good to great BA must have good communication skills, good negotiation skills and just plain outstanding people skills. The behavior side must include both team building and leadership skills. Creativity is somewhat more difficult to grasp and apply, however, if we add creativity with continuous improvement, we can add value to our organization. Thanks for the feedback.
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+2 # Colin 2012-01-17 05:15
What a strange opening question. It cannot be answered without having a clear understanding of what the new employee is expected to achieve. You need to know what problems the organisation / team is experiencing, what are they trying to achieve, what deliverables are required .... etc. etc. To take the analogy of the orchestra in the first answer – you could not answer the question without knowing whether you need a musician to actually play an instrument or a conductor to co-ordinate the musicians. There is no point in employing the best conductor in the world if what you actually need is someone to play the violin.
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0 # Vicki James, PMP, CBAP 2012-01-17 05:20
Excellent article! Thank you so much. The answer to the question is going to very project by project depending on the type of project and skills available within the resources available on the team. There is a discussion on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/groupAnswers?viewQuestionAndAnswers=&discussionID=89358678&gid=3748527&commentID=64633135&trk=view_disc&ut=3nP084p75SrB41 that I provided a long response to along the same lines. I will be posting this article there as well. I agreed with so many points on the roles and challenges affecting both positions, but my favorite comes from Frank, "...current emphasis on business analysts doing application systems requirements and not really focusing on solving business problems." BAs will continue to struggle to get recognized as a profession until they are recognized for driving business value. I hear a lot of PM talk these days about PMs role changing to adding business value over controlling project scope, schedule, and budget. PMI also added Writing the Requirements to the PMBOK 4th Edition. It is beginning to feel like a competition. We should be working together to advance the delivery of projects through mutual respect and cooperation. The distinctions stated here is a great step towards that cooperation. V icki See my blog at www.project-pro.us @vickipps
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0 # Keith Privette 2012-01-17 05:21
The only thing I would add is if the project, product, implementation is midsize to large you can not have the same individual doing both roles. You need to hire 2 people to play & properly function within each discipline.
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0 # George Bridges 2012-01-17 05:23
Hi Joe, The question was posed because with some projects you may face some tight budgetary and resource constraints. Some projects may only need one leader, so who should it be?
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+1 # Bob Veris 2012-01-17 05:38
Small project, BA. More substantial project, PM. Ideally, both as warranted.
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0 # Bob Veris 2012-01-17 05:40
Smaller project, BA. Larger (more complicated) projects, PM Ideally, both as warranted assuming compatibility.
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0 # Kevin W 2012-01-17 05:53
I must say that I have a hard time reconciling what I read on various sites sometimes and what I am experiencing in 'my world' - the world of software development. Here in my corner of the universe, the role of BA is becoming ever more valued, and it seems to me that the opportunities for BA's are only going to grow in numbers as businesses expect more and more from their development teams without giving them any more time to actually learn the business aspects of the solutions they are expected to develop. That is where we as BA's come in : we are expected to take the time to actually learn the business case for a solution, given the time (budgeted for it) to actually do it, and have the technical knowledge to be able to translate a possible solution into terms that developers can code to. Another point I have brought up in other posts is this - most developers I know do not want to talk to business users. And in all honesty - and I say this as a developer of over 6 years myself - most of them tend to have a certain 'view' of users that can make it difficult to squeeze the information necessary for a good requirement out of them. Again, that is where the BA's come in : we have the communication skills and ambition for talking to users that developers may not have - not to mention patience. The same argument could be made against guidance counselors at schools. I mean, there are teachers who teach classes, and students who take classes - why do there need to be people between them? Aren't they just a waste of money? What do they do? Guidance counselors have a clear view of the purpose of school (the business) and the classes (projects), and they can explain to the students (developers/sta keholders) why it is in their best interest to take those classes (take on or complete the projects) in a way that a teacher might not be able to. This might not be the best analogy, but one I think everyone can hopefully relate to. And I think that if you were to go to any school anywhere and suggest that they can do away with guidance counselors, they would tell you they cannot. Am I suggesting that software development projects are as complex as teenage minds? I don't know if I would go quite that far.... Kevin W
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-1 # George Bridges 2012-01-17 06:08
Colin, Good point, but like Columbo and perhaps Sherlock Holmes, the strange questions, may get you to a better understanding of the problem. They could also lead to the solution to the problem. What do you think?
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0 # George Bridges 2012-01-17 06:12
Kevin, I am so glad you brought up the developers side and their role. The more we talked with BA's in organizations, we find different level of interactions of the BA with the developers. The important point you make is that someone has to spend time with the business to get develop the requirements and communicate them properly to the technical people who are building the solution. Your analogy of a BA to a school counselor is a good one. Thanks
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+1 # Greg Geracie 2012-01-17 06:14
(In response to Colin's comment a bit earlier) Hi Colin, As panelists we were asked to pick one role or the other and then defend it. This generally makes for a good panel as the various participants then discuss the nuances of their different points of view. Since it was a "hypothetical" company/situati on one had to make choice without a large degree of context. However, the resulting discussion was quite lively - and I think most will agree interesting - as the various perspectives played out in the conversation. The single aspect of the dialog I found most interesting was how infrequently these three principles - product manager, project managers, and business analysts - actually sit around a table and talk about their varying perspectives. In my opinion, organizations would be much more efficient at creating value if there were more dialog and alignment.
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0 # Mike Murphy 2012-01-17 06:30
For a software project, without details about the project team, experience, knowledge of the business, project vision, organizational maturity, etc, I'd suggest the best answer would come from looking at what aspect, PM or BA, best correlates to project success. The place to go to get information about project success for software dev is SEI. SEI, analyzing thousands of software projects, show that CMMI maturity level 2 brings best ROI for process change. Project Management and Project Monitor and Control are two key process areas in Level 2. Requirements Management (the tracking and managing the requirements), is also part of Level 2. Requirements Development (the techniques and process for defining requirements, i.e what the BA does), is part of Level 3. That would suggest that if a company is in chaos (and if just now hiring PM or BA, it would be logical that company is in chaos), then hiring a PM would be best first move. In the absence of any other information, I'd go with the data from SEI rather than a 'gut feeling'. And before anyone goes off on CMMI and process heavy and the like, know that the implementation of CMMI guidance is prone to same ills and mistakes and failures as any other project. CMMI doesn't have to be heavy, but often is due to zealots who really don't understand it. If organizational maturity is Level 2 already, then go with the BA first.
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+1 # Colin 2012-01-17 08:15
Hi Greg & George, The question was successful in starting a discussion .It lead to a thought provoking article, which contained some interesting points from different perspectives. However, I still find it a strange question, especially in the context of a BA forum – it was effectively asking for a solution without any analysis or requirements.
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0 # Leslie 2012-01-17 08:24
I understand that the unusual opening provoked some interesting discussion, but I can't help feeling that the discussion that resulted, missed out on any sensible answer. The actual question was ' If you had to choose between adding a project manager or a business analyst, which would you choose and why?' Adding a project manager or BA to what? My first reaction is to add to 'My list of skills'. If I had a choice of listing 1 or other on my resume, I'd probably put BA because I find it more interesting. Ad ding PM or BA to a construction site? probably go for a PM. Adding a BA or PM to my list of facebook friends? Probably BA because more likely to be interested in their comments, but then, maybe not. Or as GC mentioned, Adding a BA or a PM to an orchestra? Which is the better conductor and which is the better violinist? I don't know. Was there any information given prior to the question being asked? Like is this a new project? Then having a PM manage 0 team members might be considered money not well spent. Adding a BA to a project that is already in its maintenance phase, not much going to happen it the BA changes the requirements now. So, BA up front, PM added once the project is underway and we know which direction we are heading. That's my answer (sorry it took so long to get here). Otherwi se, I agreed with FKs answers for the most part. The benefit that a BA brings to an organization is poorly understood. Every project has analysis of the problem, but it is not necessarily a defined activity, nor do many organizations recognise there there is a particular skillset in performing this activity. I hope to see an increase in understanding of the importance of having BA skills within the project, but this also means promoting BAs as more than just requirements gatherers and document writers. Not enough emphasis is put on the 'analysis' side of the BA role, and this is where the real benefit can be added to an organization. Oh and PMs are useful too ;-)
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0 # Abdul Haseeb Awan 2012-01-17 09:28
Excellent Article. I liked the terms used to explain it. I personally think that Project Manager is more important when it comes to adding value to the project. BA analyse while PM delivers
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+1 # Ville 2012-04-11 06:56
Good Article, but just to add, its really hard to even try to discuss in a box which role would be preffered as the question was very general "which role would you choose" when the functions are clearly different. Nevertheless there is one point I would like to bring across and that is -

The BA can function without the PM in most situations and BAs are expected in some situation to have some PM skills BUT on the other hand the PM cannot function without the BA or some one doing some sort of Analysis to deliver a solution (who is more than likely the BA or the PM being a BA lol) .
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0 # Abdoulaye Bah 2012-01-17 09:33
Great article! Both play a siginificant role in the success of a project.
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0 # Steven Starke 2012-01-17 10:29
Great point Leslie. When we dissect this question a bit, we see it being asked in more ways than one. I think we all forget about the situations that exist in startup and mid-size companies where capital budgets are low and resource expectations are high. Companies are inherently making choices and decisions like this whether they realize it or not by only staffing one role. We also, to some degree, ask this same question when we ask one individual to play both roles (BA and PM). Typically, the individual is more proficient in one role than the other. Organizations making this decision think that they are getting the best of both worlds and somehow cheating the system by only having to pay for one person. When in fact, it's not the case and the individual has to make tradeoffs on their own time and quality of work... potentially causing implications to the project.
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0 # George Bridges 2012-01-17 20:58
(in response to Steven and Leslie comments) As a PM in IT and IS groups, I have operated in both roles. My title was program manager in one position, but because of my knowledge of project management and my systems background, my role was PM and BA. In the software and systems development the systems analyst emerged as the team member to interact with the business to help understand the problem and to help to develop the requirements for the technical team to build the solution. So if we expand this discussion we should include the role of the systems analyst as well. Project Management, Business Analyst, Systems Analyst, Product Manager are all titles. What we have to really understand is the role of each, how they work together and how they compliment each other to add value to the enterprise. "S trange Question" ......... maybe? However, the question has stimulated some good discussions.
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+1 # Vikash 2012-01-17 21:43
PM or BA, the important aspect is who understands both business as well as IT, in my view to effectively handle a project it is imperative that a person needs to know both, neither can work in isolation. The BA is basically who understands both (near to business and the developers) but is unaware of the cost/profit. P M is aware of the cost/profit and is the one who ensures that all components are delivered on time, but basically misses the relationship between business and the developers. Wi thout a BA and with only a PM, all will go well if we have business who understand IT and IT who understand business, but again this is never the case. Without a PM and only with a BA, small or fixed cost projects would work fine, but could be an issue for large projects and if there are multiple parties involved. eith er we have a person who knows both or to have both PM and BA working in tandem for a successful delivery.
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+1 # Kevin W 2012-01-17 23:27
George - I agree completely with your statement "the question has stimulated some good discussions." I think that often times we forget that the best questions are not those that lead to immediate - often incorrect or incomplete - answers, but those that lead us to more probing and insightful questions that help us to more clearly define what it is we are actually looking for. Vikash, you stated perfectly my thoughts about the differences between the 2 positions and did a great job of describing the specific impacts of each on a project and how they differ.
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+1 # Don 2012-01-17 23:40
The initial question is as meaningless as asking "If you had to choose between buying a car or a truck which would you choose?" without knowing whether you need to take 6 kids to a soccer game or move a piano. Which makes all the responses by the panel of so-called experts just as, if not more meaningless. You should all be ashamed of yourselves for not saying the most basic of statements "It depends". As Abraham Maslow theorized. "If all you have is a hammer, you see every problem as a nail!"
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0 # Bennett Mendes 2012-01-18 00:19
Anyone who answers the question with PM or BA is putting themselves into a precarious position. Never answer the question until you know all of the details and context. The question is posed not to get an answer but to generate much tangential information and debate. One of the variables to consider is that the best person to hire is the person who brings a new set of skills to the organization. So, if you have leaders, but no analytical thinkers, then go for the analyst and vice-versa - in an attempt to ensure that the total be greater than the sum of it's parts.
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0 # Mike M. 2012-01-18 02:45
From my experience, many organizations are unclear about the value a Business Analyst can bring to a project, and as a result the Business Analyst becomes relegated to de facto note-taker. This is especially true in a consulting arrangement, if the Business Analyst comes across as a know-it-all or not listening to the client, then creativity can be stifled, and without building trust, minimal analysis can be performed to effect meaningful change within the organization.
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0 # George Bridges 2012-01-18 02:54
(in response to Mike M.) In the case of the PM and the BA; if not careful, they could become the de facto note-taker. For the PM, they take notes of the project requirements and the BA takes notes of the solution requirements. What is interesting is that they should not elicit the requirement, but instead, ask the right questions and do the appropriate analysis to analyze the define the requirements. Why are many organizations unclear of the value of the Business Analyst?
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0 # Neal McWhorter 2012-01-18 03:17
I think there is little doubt that the question as it was posed really had no answer unless there was a lot more context to work with. But it stimulated a lot of conversation about what the role of a BA was vs a PM and the relative value proposition. I'm a big supporter of the BA role but I find that what it means is often so amorphous that it doesn't help me to hear someone be described as being a BA. I think most of the BA roles that the BABOK provides guidance for really would be better thought of as product designers. That's also a role that the business operations people can really understand the value of. I think that moving the BA role towards that model would be a major step forward for most organizations and BA within them. That leaves the automation piece as a true technology engineering role. For most organizations the product design role is a key capability while the technology design role is a supporting capability that would ideally be sourced to an organization with deep experience with technology engineering experience that sees that capability as core.
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0 # Bennett Mendes 2012-01-18 07:37
@ George : " What we have to really understand is the role of each, how they work together and how they compliment each other to add value to the enterprise. " When you say ' compliment ', did you mean they pat each other on the back, exchange thanks - which in itself makes for an excellent relationship. O r did you mean ' complement ' which mean they balance each other well. Sorry couldn't resist :-)
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0 # George Bridges 2012-01-18 08:10
@Bennett Wow! and woW! backward. Perhaps they should do both. Thanks!
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-1 # George Bridges 2012-01-18 08:14
@ Bennett, I meant 'complement'. Sorry, typo. Thanks for the catch.
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0 # Oshunj 2012-01-18 11:51
great article and discussion! PMs objective is to manage the project along with risks and scope in order to DELIVER a product. Not necessarily the right, or best, or sustainable product. Of course its assumed, bit In my experience managing people, risks, timeline, scope, issues, etc, in general, does not leave much time to analyze, identify, and communicate the business needo (problem/opport unity vs symptom) or cool new widget, as well as the appropriate solution to address it(solving the right problem in the right way using the right technologies.). The PM is often put in the situation to deliver something, more like anything, on time, especially in software where errors and inefficient process is accepted, without anyone able to address the above tasks. How many projects are delivered onetime, on budget, and addressing the requirements that were approved the day before implementation? Successful project announced, bonuses & promotions generously given out......only to realize, months later..., the wrong problem was identified, the wrong solution, or the wrong functionality delivered? Non the less onetime, on budget, and arguably meeting stated "requirements". I'd like to think the value the BA provides is that focus on balancing business need/organizati onal value/technical realities to help deliver THE RIGHT product. Maybe I'm just dreaming though...
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0 # George Bridges 2012-01-18 22:45
(in response to Oshunij) I to share you concerns and agree with your comments. The comments you make are in line with the results of the famous Standish Group Chaos Report. Visit this link for more info: http://theagileexecutive.com/2010/01/11/standish-group-chaos-reports-revisited/ Thank you Oshunij
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0 # Ishmael 2012-01-18 22:54
Hi Vikash, My critique as to knowing the cost benefits analysis. from my humble perspective, The BA is the first to have a take on the cost benefits analysis of the project/product /application etc. The BA happens by definition to be the player th forst crunche the numbers, prior to the ROI feasibility gate. There is though a factor that radically influences the involvment of the BA in the process. That is: suppose you are hired as BA in a project but unfortunately you are onboarding only at a later stage than feasibility, in this case I agree with you opinion, the project manager has a broader opinion than the BA on the numbers and metrics of the project...thank s...Ishmael
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0 # Ishmael 2012-01-18 23:11
Errata on my latest comment as a reply to Vikash: ''...to be the player th forst crunche the numbers...'' in stead it should read: ''...to be one of the first players if not the first to crunche the numbers...'' th anks for understanding I shmael
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0 # Dave Fletcher 2012-01-19 19:14
I think the two roles can be described thus: A BA analyses the key objects the business works with, and the changes of state they have to go through in order to add value. They design and propose the minimum set of processes to achieve these changes of state, and the management information needed to kept track of everything. They may suggest alternatives for both. They do all this continuously, as the business changes, which means they need to maintain a set of up-to date models. They publish their conclusions. Senior management chooses between alternatives. Project managers organise their implementation. It puzzles me why there is any confusion.
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0 # George Bridges 2012-01-19 21:04
@Dave - In summary and on paper we tend to agree. In practice, there are a lot of factors that determine the role of the PM and the BA. In some organizations what you described as the role of the BA is what they would describe as the role of a "Product Manager". I agree with you, so what companies need to do is to clearly define the roles of each and get an agreement on the details of each role.
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0 # semo 2012-01-20 02:36
Depends on the project demands and the individuals. We'd like to think in terms of PMs and BAs as if they are interchangeable commodities, but they're not.
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+1 # Duane Banks 2012-01-22 03:14
I would lean toward hiring the BA, assuming the following... 1 . There is an equal need for both the PM and the BA 2. The PM and BA candidates are good, mature practititioners of their respective roles. 3. The PM and BA candidates have no experience in the other's role. My rationale for choosing the BA is that the BA is no less a leader than the PM or any other management role (even though this particular BA candidate lacks management experience). As such, the BA along the project sponsor (or project champion) can assume project management duties. This is not the ideal. Certainly, the project is at risk without a dedicated PM. Arguably, neither role is more important than the other. However, I believe the BA role to be more comprehensive than that of the PM. Given basic training, mature BAs can easily migrate to a PM role. Can the same be said for a mature PM? Can a PM (along with the project sponsor) develop requirements, after being provided basic training? And regarding the orchestra example, does the role of the BA really correlate to that of the violinist? The developer role seems a better correlation. In fact, I see the BA as having a role outside of the actual performance, adding value by assisting the conductor before and after perfomances.
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0 # Duane Banks 2012-01-22 03:20
Just to clarify, by "develop requirements," I'm referring to all "levels" of requirements, starting with the business objectives and decomposing down to the appropriate detail per the solution team's needs.
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0 # Duane Banks 2012-01-22 03:47
Neal, aren't product designers as SMEs? If so, then I disagree with, "most of the BA roles that the BABOK provides guidance for really would be better thought of as product designers." As George said, "the business analyst should know the strategic business objectives of the company." Moreover, the business analyst provides the additional value of business/IT liaison, navigating equally well in both domains.
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0 # Ian Partridge 2012-01-22 04:14
Great, thought-provoki ng question. If I may, can I challenge you to address the question again in the context of working on an agile project and on the basis that both the BA and PM can fulfill the scrum master role? I'm glad many comments above have raised the consideration to skills and experience', as this is a huge factor. I must say I'd be totally aghast if anyone is getting by as BA by being 'little more than a scribe' that NM mentioned though pleased to read on about his emphasis for BAs to need to add business value; 'documenter of requirements' certainly does sound a drag if not communicated or sold in a positive way. I think most project professionals know the importance of understood requirements, though we all have a responsibility to make sure; the value is clear to the business, the effective techniques to do this (e.g. Agile), there is not an expectation of reams of paper and death-by- documentation. I personally think the mis-perception, or assumption, of what a BA and PM does, or doesn't do, is a major part of the problem and BAs can be envious of the role title PM. I think people like a simple 'understanding' and quickly make up their minds that a PM is obviously needed and solely responsible for managing the project and the resources and skills within it - and without a PM the project will not be delivered. Yet BA does not give an instant description of the huge magnitude of what a BA can do, and especially all of the types of things analysts can be at different organisations. I've commented quite enough, and thank you if you've been able to bear with me. I will have do my sell on what a BA is, can do, and how they add value another time. :-)
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0 # George Bridges 2012-01-22 19:31
Thanks Duane and Ian on the latest comments made regarding the article. We may not all agree in the end; however, this is what learning is about. It is about looking at a topic or subject from many different viewpoints. I recall having the discussion about BA's in Brazil with a group of project managers at a project management conference.. Some project managers asked why should they consider going into the field of Business Analysis. because in their culture the word "Management" in a title carries more value and prestige than the word "Analyst" in the market place. Do you see the role of BA being a lesser role than the role of a PM, a equal role or a higher role?
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0 # Duane Banks 2012-01-22 23:22
George, regarding the notion by many that management carries more value and prestige, I personally value leadership over management. To anwser your question, a particular BA role could be either of the three--lessor, equal, or higher. The BA role (Sr BA) is higher--that is, in a lead capacity--durin g Initiation, as a project manager may have not even been assigned yet. The Sr BA role is strategic (as you said above), whereas te PM role is project-oriente d. Upon assignment, I would think that the PM would look to the BA to get up-to-speed on the objectives and the proposed solution. I see the BA role as beequal during Planning, as the PM and BA should negotiate and share in the creation of Planning artifacts. The BA role is lessor--that is, in a subordinate capacity--durin g Construction. The solutions team needs ony one voice.
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0 # George Bridges 2012-01-23 01:27
Thanks Duane. It is interesting that some people see leadership and management as the same. So, how are you defining leadership. Also what is interesting is how you have described the value of the two team members during the life of a project. In some organizations, BA role is new and the BA group is formed as part of the PMO office. Some organization structures place the BA's as a team member of a project, reporting to a PM. I'm am not saying this is the best, but is a scenario that is often seen in industry today.
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0 # Duane Banks 2012-01-23 13:25
George, leadership is a skill or capability; management is a role. A leader is one who works to ensure the fulfillment of their own responsibilitie s while connecting with team members who they trust will do the same (or at least are willing to do the same). Good teams—teams that consistently accomplish their goals—are likely to have more leaders than not. I would argue that every member of an orchestra is a leader. But even a team with all leaders such as an orchestra need a manager—the conductor. A manager is essentially one who works to ensure the team’s pursuit of a common goal. In the case of such a team as an orchestra, you can bet that the manager is also a leader. The same can be said for successful IT teams. Lesser teams, though, lack leaders, in particular in the role of manager. So, I believe that managers are not necessarily leaders. I say this because to become a manager, one only needs to be appointed. Leaders, on the other hand, are not appointed. They simply emerge from the ranks based on their capability.
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0 # George Bridges 2012-01-24 21:54
Duane, Thanks for the feedback on leadership and management.
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0 # Realist 2012-02-14 13:07
BAs will rule the world.
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0 # james 2012-03-07 15:34
I prefer to be a Project Manager. In this you need to be wired to take responsibility. And take control of the outcome,taking control of resources.
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0 # Ville 2012-04-11 06:57
should have added here -

Good Article, but just to add (even at this late stage as I am just reading this): Its really hard to even try to discuss in a box which role would be preffered as the question was very general "which role would you choose" when the functions are clearly different. Nevertheless there is one point I would like to bring across and that is -

The BA can function without the PM in most situations and BAs are expected in some situation to have some PM skills. BUT on the other hand the PM cannot function without the BA or someone doing some sort of Analysis to deliver a solution (who is more than likely the BA or the PM being a BA lol) .
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0 # Luc 2012-08-28 11:18
Author or Publisher.
Architect or Site Manager.
BA or PM.
Part of the problem is that the term 'BA' is incomplete. I'd prefer "Business-syste ms Analyst" where 'Business-syste m' includes both automated and manual parts of the business function, and not necessarily confined to the current project or to the software components being developed in the business. If that is the case and I had to choose only one... it would be the Business-system s Analyst, especially if the project requirements are not well understood or are complex. In which case the Project Sponsor or Project Board will need to compensate for the lack of a PM and gain feedback on progress from the BA and programming lead. Where the project requirements are very well understood and the project is small then we probably don't need either one, but would need a more experienced programmer with good data-modelling and UX skills. But one without the other is generally a compromise.
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0 # Gagandeep Singh 2013-11-27 23:45

Can anyone please provide me some industry (any) Facts and Figures which justify below points:

1) A project succeeded with one person performing the PM and BA role; and
2) A project failed with one person performing the PM and BA role

Any inputs would be immensely invaluable for my research work.

Many thanks,
Gagandeep Singh
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0 # dan 2014-08-07 06:03
BA is more important.

If the BA is very organized and a bit vocal than the PM and able to make developers do their jobs. The PM's job will be very easy.

If the BA is not very organized and misanalyzed something by accident, he will make the PM's job miserable.. because PM cannot deliver the solution without software developers doing things properly and have to somehow give an answer (i don't know..pointing fingers or really the reason what happened) to upper management.

So tell me.. who is more important.. of course the BA. The BA knows the systems and already does some of PM's task.
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0 # Keyur 2014-10-18 06:15
this article intended me to think on my career.... Thanks for posting!!

Being a Business Analyst or A Project Manager, we all know what roles these guys have to play and they are more in common.

I found both are flexible to handle the respective situations depending on the experience and their personal skills.

Still I have just started with my career yet to go a long.... I will waiting for complex situations.

And I am sorry but i didnt found any conclusion to prefer among a BA or PM, because it would be hard to decide and go with one...

As if an organisation is willing to expand their business they will need BA's to communicate and fetch new opportunities to build relationships whilst PMs will be maintaining these relationship once the introduction is done. Its just a matter that How well and long you can entertain the other parties.....

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