PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
Do Project Managers Need Business Analysts (BA)? Well, it depends! It depends on your application area—aerospace versus information technology versus construction, and so on. It depends on the size of the project—in smaller projects, the project manager must be a renaissance person. One person who is able to do almost everything else, in addition to managing the project.
What raises this question is a Business Analysis Skills Evaluation (BASE) self-assessment that our friends at BA Experts developed. First, a disclosure. I have known and worked with Tom Hathaway, principal at BA Experts, for over 30 years. Tom was an early adopter of the IIBA®, International Institute of Business Analysis body of knowledge and framework.
It is no wonder that he embraced the IIBA initiative: He’s done business systems analysis training, coaching, and consulting, since the early 1980s. And, as well, he continues his work in accelerated analysis facilitation, methodology development, and project management. But this is the back-story; let us tell a little bit more about our experience and discoveries when we took the BASE assessment.
Getting to First BASE
Tom knows of my interests in learning and development, and with self-assessment tools, and with their subject, business analysis. He notified me when their BASE self-assessment went live on their website. So I went to their website. See their introduction and link to BASE. I clicked that blue Get me to first BASE! button, registered (it requires your name and email address), and completed the self assessment.
I don’t consider myself to be a business analyst. I did serve as a business systems analyst in the early 1970s, as many information technology practitioners did. Then I “moved on” to project management. But the BASE self-assessment was surprisingly easy for me. In the six knowledge areas of Business Analysis (as organized in IIBA’s BABOK® Guide), I found myself comfortable in all of them. I did so well in the self-assessment that the results indicated that I was ready to take the Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®) exam. Of course, we understand that some people are more generous in self-assessments than professional assessors would be.
I did have several surprises. The first was the proportion of skills in the self-assessment that dealt with project management: As many as half of them! That is clearly one reason why I did so well in the self-assessment. My second surprise was how familiar I was with the business analysis content. Perhaps I should not have been that surprised: All my project methodologies have always included business analysis and business process improvement themes. Together, of course, with organizational change management and business benefit realization emphases.
I wonder about today’s recent project managers, who are unaware of the rich set of skills of the business analyst. How well can they relate to the business context, if they have never done business process analysis? For example, while I have done requirements elicitation for over 40 years, this skill is only recently accepted as needed by PMs. And in only a few project management standards.
In the meantime, understanding requirements management has been a competitive advantage of the best project managers. These are the high-performing ones I have worked with, trained, and coached. More evidence: a project’s quality of requirement is one of the key risk assessment questions in every savvy risk assessment.
Back to the Question
To go back to the question in the title of this article, do project managers need business analysts? Given my comments about the impact of the project application area, I think the answer is a resounding YES. And you can, where appropriate, add this set of skills to your team in several ways, including:
- Add one or more Business Analysts to your team, where appropriate.
- Invest the time for you to learn more about Business Analysis. It will complement your PM prowess.
There is an alternative to project managers learning a bit more about business analysis. I mentioned above, that while reviewing the BASE self-assessment, I was surprised, and pleased about the extent that the BABOK Guide covers quite a few key project management skills. So if you are a master of our Project Management practices, you are already well-equipped—you have the BA skills, too. But if you are a new practitioner, who just focuses on the easy-to-test technical aspects of the discipline, you have more work to do.
Thus raising a new question: Do Business Analysts Need Project Managers?