Thursday, 23 February 2017

Project Managers Vs Business Analysts

More often than not, Project Managers and Business Analysts work together closely on projects. Predominantly, the Project Manager sets the overall direction, solves roadblocks and handles planning issues. On the contrary, the Business Analyst explores in detail the business problem, maps processes and discovers requirements.

In case the Business Analyst fails, the Project Manager will sweat to succeed. It’s the difference between a project plan that states “build a tunnel” and “build a tunnel with 6 lanes, 1000 pedestrians and 2000 cars an hour.” Clear requirements are crucial in delivering a valuable project.

If we take the presumption that the Project Manager plays a role in clearing obstacles and supporting the team, how can the Project Manager better support their Business Analyst? The answer is to look out for these obstacles/hurdles.

1. The Incorrect Approach to Requirements Development –

How many times have Business Analysts been told to “Go collect the requirements from stakeholders”? And how often did the project team get frustrated by results that lack depth/detail?

“What the stakeholders tell you (at the beginning or primarily) may not be the real requirements. Couple of years ago, we had a stakeholder who asked the team to archive data. The word ‘archive’ means different things to different people. Well, it turns out that the stakeholder’s true requirement was ‘I only want to see the most recent dealings/transactions.’ The solution was a display and configuration approach rather than building an entire archive. That’s why it is important to ask good questions in discovering requirements.

The above example shows the importance of critical thinking in requirements. Surface-level requirements may simply be too vague or miss possibilities. Support your Business Analyst’s efforts to challenge superficial requirements/requests from stakeholders.

2. Insufficient Tools –

Scarce tools makes all the difference for a successful Business Analyst. Sadly, some Project Managers fail to realize this point. This results in wastage of valuable time and on top of that, deliverable which are hard-to-use are created. Such actions slow down the rest of the project.

Diagramming and modelling tools are important for a Business Analyst to be successful, some BA’s tend to use the Microsoft Office suite and Visio with good results. A requirements management application is helpful, but it is considered “a nice to have.”

What if your Business Analyst doesn’t have the tools or training they need to be successful? Working with poor tools means that the Project Manager will have to spend additional time interpreting deliverable from the analyst. Secondly, the Business Analyst will have to struggle to revise and adapt their models as more feedback comes in.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Using an industry leading tool such as Microsoft Visio or a mind mapping tool goes a long way toward addressing this barrier. If you expect to work heavily with requirements documents, make sure you have the same application so that you can interact with the files easily.

3. Business Analyst Lacks Tactical Goal

Put yourself in the shoes of a Business Analyst who is asked to “gather requirements” from 10 stakeholders. In that circumstance, you schedule a week of meetings, ask questions and take plenty of notes. By the end of the week, you sit down with a large amount of data and the objective to organize this data into a meaningful document. As you review the materials, you notice that stakeholders may have contradictory or incompatible requirements. Without clarity on the project’s ultimate goals, it will be difficult to synthesize requirements.

The solution to this barrier lies in giving the Business Analyst guidance on the project’s strategic goal. For example, if the project is ultimately designed to create capacity for future expansion, then that goal will drive optimization decisions. The business analyst can also use this principle to organize and classify requirements by priority. This strategic view will also help the analyst think at a higher level and support their career growth.

4. Misunderstanding the Business Analyst’s Value

Most Project Managers feel overwhelmed with their workload. Given that reality, it should come as no surprise when they seek support from anyone they can find. “Unfortunately, we have seen some Project Managers treat Business Analysts as note takers or administrators. That’s not their role. Where does this misunderstanding come from?

The most significant barrier to BA’s becoming successful exists in organizations where there is no recognition of the role or the organization does not value Business Analysis. BA’s need to be involved in pre-project activities as well as in post-project activities to continue to monitor the solution on an ongoing basis to ensure the intended business value continues to be delivered.

Sometimes this barrier comes from misunderstanding a key word “documentation”. When “civilians” hear that Business Analysts work on documentation, they presume it means any and all types of documentation. While that may be true in some cases, that approach misuses the analyst’s talents and skills. Instead, the Business Analyst’s skills are best suited for high-value tasks such as documenting end-to-end processes (remember: few people in a large organization will actually know the entire process).

Bridging the partnership between Project Manager/Business Analyst

Compared to a couple of years ago, Business Analysis has come a long way in recognition and appreciation. The Project Management Institute now offers the PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA) ® credential. As of October 2016, there are hundreds of people who have listed the certification on their qualifications. Further, the Institute is currently developing a Business Analysis standard that will build on earlier work including the Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide.

Projects are more successful and run more efficiently when the PM and BA are partners and collaborate. Both roles are critical to the success of the project - therefore, it is imperative that both roles are tightly aligned and support one another. In some areas, stakeholder management risks, planning and collaboration is important to ensure work is not duplicated or conflicting.

Ultimately, an effective Business Analyst helps you to define scope and achieve customer satisfaction. A Business Analyst can make the difference between happy stakeholders and frustrated stakeholders who did not get their needs addressed.

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