When Vince Scarlata came to UC Berkeley Extension to complete the Certificate in Project Management and Professional Sequence in Project Human Resource Management, he had been working as a business analyst for 22 years. But changes at work required him to also take on project management responsibilities—hence, taking the certificates at Extension.
When he graduated (with distinction) in 2013, his role at work shifted completely to a senior business systems analyst and a technical project manager. "Prior to completing the certificates, I was doing purely business analyst work and some quality-control testing," he recalls. "Now the majority of my role is technical project management with probably a quarter of it being business analysis.”
Scarlata is a rarity. It’s not often that you’ll find one person working as both business analyst and project manager. More often than not—especially at larger companies and on multi-stakeholder projects—a project will have a business analyst and a project manager. In an ideal world, these two roles support each other and the rest of the project’s team. However, getting the two to work together harmoniously is not always straightforward, and tasks can be duplicated or forgotten. So, how can the two roles coalesce to ensure that a project is delivered on time, within scope and on budget?
First, Let’s Get Some Definitions Out of the Way
Typically, a business analyst is responsible for:
- preparing a business case
- eliciting and analyzing requirements
- writing business requirements documents
- advocating for stakeholders
- managing portfolios
- performing competitive analysis
Business analysts tend to be customer- and stakeholder-focused, introverted and detail-oriented. They are mainly concerned with the end product and ensuring it meets the requirements and demands of the project's key stakeholders.
In contrast, project managers tend to be extroverted, outward-focused and trained on the big picture. They are responsible for initiating, planning, executing and wrapping up a project. Their duties usually include:
- managing the budget
- creating the formal project plan and communications
- controlling the scope of the project
- managing the project schedule
- gathering requirements and developing training materials
- guarding against scope creep
Where Does the Blur Happen?
The duties of business analysts and project managers overlap in several important areas. Both must be able to understand and describe user needs; define all aspects of a project’s scope and size; and conceptualize the resources, skill sets and structure needed for project plans. Among these overlapping responsibilities, four main areas of potential conflicts generally persist throughout a project lifecycle: project scope management, project communications management, project risk management and project requirements management. A survey of business analysts conducted by the Project Management Institute (PMI) listed good communication, trust, mutual respect and rapport, and frequent conversations as the most significant factors in keeping the relationship between business analysts and project managers running smoothly.
Four main areas of potential conflicts generally persist throughout a project lifecycle: project scope management, project communications management, project risk management and project requirements management.
Creating a Partnership
Because the business analyst and project manager relationship does not occur in a vacuum, the support of the organization is also important. At some firms, the business analyst reports to a project manager, but this perceived hierarchy may not accurately reflect the division of responsibilities. It may be more useful to think of the two as peers. It can also be helpful for project managers to think of business analysts as leaders in their own right.
Creating a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) for each project can prove to be one of the most important tools to clarify task ownership, requirements and expectations. Create a RAM with a team using the Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed (RACI) model. Title should not necessarily determine who carries out which tasks: Business analyst tasks need not necessarily be carried out by the business analyst, nor project management tasks by the project manager.
It may be more useful to think of the two as peers.
Business analysts and project managers should sit down with each other at the start of a project to learn about each other’s work history, strengths and weaknesses, and passions and strengths. An initial meeting should also go over tasks and responsibilities, ideally with the participation of the rest of the team. Formal check-ins should continue over the life of the project—if not weekly, at least monthly, along with frequent informal check-ins. Think stand-up meetings. Co-location, or sitting within earshot of each other in the office, can also go a long way.
Both the project manager and the business analyst may address stakeholders; however, this can cause confusion and stakeholder check-ins should generally be redirected to the business analyst rather than the project manager. Similarly, if the stakeholder wants to discuss project time frames, the conversation should be directed to the project manager.
Finally, Agile-style iterating can improve the outcome of this oft-confused relationship. Checking in about the progress of the project as a whole, about reinforcing what’s working and removing what isn’t, can help a project run more smoothly.
- Business Analysis Excellence, “What Are the Differences Between a Project Manager and a Business Analyst?”
- ACCU, “On Management: The Business Analyst’s Role”
- Business Analyst Learnings, “The Project Manager and Business Analyst Collaboration”
- LinkedIn, “Does the Combination of a Business Analyst (BA) and Project Management (PM) Pack a Great One-Two Punch?”