Email cleanup – Why Does a Project need a Project Manager and a Business Analyst?

Got this in my official email – A well-written article describing the very different roles a BA and a PM play:


The best way to guarantee success of any type of project is to have a strong, experienced Project Manager and a strong, experienced Business Analyst. These two individuals, working together from the beginning of the project, set the stage for success by accurately planning and clearly defining the expected outcomes. Both roles are necessary because they are each responsible for a different set of tasks and they each possess a set of skills that complement each other. The two roles are closely tied, but exactly what are the similarities and differences, and why does a project need both? In many organizations, one individual is being asked to play both roles. This article discusses the importance of assigning different individuals to each role to ensure project success.

Why Does a Project Need a PM and a BA?

Having both a Project Manager (PM) and a Business Analyst (BA) is critical to a project’s success. Each role provides specialized capabilities that make the difference between whether a project succeeds or struggles. PMs and BAs each have unique skills and knowledge areas that, when used together, produce a high quality product. They both want the project to be successful and want to satisfy their customer – the Executive Sponsor. They both understand the ultimate goal of the project – to meet the project objectives. They each work on their own tasks within the project to achieve these objectives. There are some areas of a project where the PM and BA work together or serve as a back-up for each other. There are many other areas where the two individuals diverge and do very different types of tasks.

The PM is responsible for ensuring that the product is delivered to the customer on time and within budget. The BA is responsible for ensuring that the product is built according to the requirements and is built correctly. This difference in focus is the reason that having both roles on the team is critical. The product will be built correctly, according to requirements, on time and within budget!

Working Together

So how do the PM and BA work together to make the project a success? Fundamentally, the PM manages project resources (people, money) and the BA manages the business stakeholders. The BA reports to the PM on his or her progress on the tasks in the work breakdown structure (WBS) in relation to requirements. Usually at the beginning of the project the PM and BA work very closely together and often work on the same tasks. Later as the project gets going, they each focus on their particular responsibilities and talk frequently to share their progress. Excellent PMs and BAs will work hand-in-hand to make the most of each other’s strengths. It is the healthy tension between the PM and the BA-the PM pushing to move forward and the BA cautiously wanting to gather just one more detail before going forward-that makes the combination so successful. They are inter-dependent because their goals are in conflict.

At the beginning of the project there are areas of overlapping responsibilities such as project scope definition, development of the project statement of purpose, project objectives and identification of business risks. A strong PM will utilize the analysis skills of the BA to make sure that the scope is feasible and well defined.

The Project Manager

  • Is usually the first person assigned to the project.
  • Is responsible for planning the project and ensuring the team follows the plan.
  • Manages changes, handles problems and keeps the project moving.
  • Manages people, money and risk.
  • Is the chief communicator of good or bad news to the Business Sponsors and IT Management.
The Business Analyst

  • Is usually assigned to the project after it has started.
  • Is responsible for bridging the gap between the business area and IT.
  • Learns the business inside and out.
  • Essentially serves as the architect of effective business systems.
  • Is viewed inconsistently across the industry in regard to job title, definition and responsibilities.

As requirements are gathered, analyzed and documented by the BA, the PM is closely involved, reviewing the requirements and adjusting the plan as necessary. The PM also reviews the decisions made when the BA and technical architect design the solution. Typically the PM reviews all project deliverables at a high level looking for project adjustments and issues. The BA reviews all project deliverables that are related to requirements, solution design and testing; looking in detail to make sure that the business needs are being addressed.

During the project both the BA and the PM will maintain a relationship with their “customers” The BA is the advocate for the business area and the PM will report project status and work to resolve issues. Both roles also have an ongoing dialogue with the technical team members: the BA working with the technical architects to design a solution, the PM watching the progress of the team and adjusting the plan as decisions are made.

When One Person Performs Both Roles

There are many projects where one person is assigned to act as both the PM and the BA. This is common and probably appropriate on small projects or when the organization is short staffed. Unfortunately, it is also common in organizations where there is a lack of understanding of the BA role and where the expectation is that business analysis is just another task a PM performs.

For the individual playing this dual role, the challenge is to be aware of the conflicting focus and to try to act in one role at a time. You may find you are having disagreements with yourself, and it may be helpful to have a fellow PM or BA listen to your internal debate to try and help you make decisions. Be aware that you probably have a preference for one role or the other and you may find yourself neglecting the tasks of the role that you enjoy the least. If you prefer doing PM work, you may miss requirements. If you prefer doing BA work, you may allow the schedule to slip or forget to direct your team members. This situation is further complicated if you are also assigned to other project responsibilities (i.e., you are also the technical architect) or assigned to work on other projects. Your project schedule, budget and product quality may be affected. Be sure to plan for adequate time needed to do both jobs effectively.

If you find yourself in this situation frequently in your organization, use your excellent communication skills to heighten awareness regarding the conflicting roles to your managers. Make management and your project team aware of your conflicting responsibilities and challenges associated with them. Seek help in managing the schedule and help to gather and document the requirements. If possible, try to minimize involvement on other concurrent projects. We cannot always have the ideal situation so make the best of what you have and communicate the issues as clearly as possible.

Dynamic Duos

When assigning PMs and BAs to a project, executive management should be aware of the importance of this dynamic duo. Their success depends on their respective experience, knowledge and skill sets. The results will vary depending on the individuals selected.

If a strong PM is assigned to work with a weak (inexperienced, unskilled or insecure) BA, the requirements gathering and analysis tasks may be rushed and important requirements may be missed. The PM will be pushing for the project to progress and the BA will not be strong enough to convince the PM that complete, accurate requirements are critical to project success. This may result in rework late in the project when the missing requirements are identified.

“Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to a broad range of activities in order to meet the requirements of a particular project. Project management is comprised of five Project Management Process Groups – Initiating Processes, Planning Processes, Executing Processes, Monitoring and Controlling Processes, and Closing Processes – as well as nine Knowledge Areas.These nine Knowledge Areas center on management expertise in Project Integration Management, Project Scope Management, Project Time Management, Project Cost Management, Project Quality Management, Project Human Resources Management, Project Communications Management, Project Risk Management and Project Procurement Management.” A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), – Third Edition

Rework may result in schedule and budget overruns.

In the opposite situation, if a weak PM is assigned to work with a strong BA, too much time may be spent in requirements gathering and the project will fall behind schedule. BAs want to get every single detail, 100% correct before moving forward and if the PM lets the BA try to accomplish this virtually impossible task, the schedule will be jeopardized. Also, if the PM does not strictly enforce the change control procedure, BAs may allow business people to add more and more requirements resulting in “scope creep” and project delays.

Obviously, the worse case situation is a project with a weak PM and a weak BA. No matter how involved the subject matter experts are, and how good the technical team is, this project is guaranteed to fail without strong leadership and clear requirements.

Therefore, the best case situation is a project with a strong PM and a strong BA. Assuming the rest of the project team is competent, this project will be well run and the end product will be of the highest quality. There is a great balance between thorough requirements gathering and project progress. The project will be on schedule and meet the expectations of the Executive Sponsor.

How to Achieve Specialized PM and BA Roles

Professional organizations like the IIBA and PMI are working to promote the career progression of PM and BA roles. Companies should recognize the importance of each role by giving them appropriate job titles, job descriptions, evaluation criteria and making sure that individuals in each role have the appropriate skill set. Training and cross training is important because a successful BA understands what the PM does and an excellent PM understands the role of the BA.

In summary, all projects need business analysis and project management skills. The PM and BA roles intersect and support each other. Some of the skills required by these two individuals are similar but many are different. Cooperation results in project success.

“Business Analysts are responsible for identifying business needs.The Business Analyst is responsible for requirements development and requirements management. Specifically, the Business Analyst elicits, analyzes, validates and documents business, organizational and/or operational requirements. Solutions are not predetermined by the Business Analyst, but are driven solely by the requirements of the business. Solutions often include a systems development component, but may also consist of process improvement or organizational change.The Business Analyst is a key facilitator within an organization, acting as a bridge between the client, stakeholders and the solution team. Business analysis is distinct from financial analysis, project management, quality assurance, organizational development, testing, training and documentation development.”