Do Project Managers Need Business Analysts?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.

Do Project Managers Need Business Analysts? 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 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 have developed. First, a disclosure. I have known and worked with Tom Hathaway, principal at BA Experts, for over 25 years. Tom was among the early adopters of the IIBA®, International Institute of Business Analysis body of knowledge and curriculum framework.

It is no wonder that they embraced the IIBA initiative: They had been doing business systems analysis training, coaching, consulting, accelerated analysis facilitation, and methodology development since the early 1980s, as well as working in 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
Because they know of my interests in learning and development, and with self-assessment tools, and with their subject, business analysis, Tom 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 (back then we called it data processing) 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. In fact, 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.

Several Surprises
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 with organizational change management and business benefit realization emphases.

But I wonder about today’s more recent project managers, some of whom have not been exposed to 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 (although for the first 20 years we did not call it that), this skill has only recently been accepted as needed by project managers—in a few project management standards.

In the meantime, understanding requirements management has been a competitive advantage of most of the high-performing project managers I have worked with, trained, and coached—and it 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? Notwithstanding our series of “it depends” statements, especially where the project application area is concerned, 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:

  1. Add one or more Business Analysts to your team, where appropriate.
  2. Invest the time for you to learn more about Business Analysis. It will complement your PM prowess.

An Alternative
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. Put that together with an observation that many of today’s newer project managers just focus on the easy-to-test technical aspects of the discipline, ignoring most of the success-generating aspects of the masters of our practice.

Thus raising a new question: Do Business Analysts Need Project Managers?

Your Comments?