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Business Analysis and Project Management – Roles and Inter-relationship

In the world of Change Management where does business analysis end and project management begin? What are the role and relationship issues, the problems and advantages of role separation? And how do we train the Business Analyst to fulfil role expectations?

 

Published in “Project Manager Today”, March 2001

Author: David Lyneham-Brown

In the world of Change Management where does business analysis end and project management begin? What are the role and relationship issues, the problems and advantages of role separation? And how do we train the Business Analyst to fulfil role expectations?


Where Are We?
A growing belief in many organisations that externally managed change initiatives bring too few significant or lasting benefits is being matched by an increasing awareness of the value of developing strong internal business analysis and project management skills. But are all organisations well equipped to deliver the solutions they need?

It is a confusing picture. Some organisations have project managers and no business analysts; others have analysts but lack effective implementation expertise. Some organisations have analysts and managers who interact and co-operate effectively – others do not!

There is no template for the structure of this relationship that suits all organisations – nor should there be. But in acknowledging the uniqueness of individual partnerships it is apparent that success in the wider field of change management depends on business analysis and project management working together with increasing effectiveness.

The Role of the Business Analyst

Business Analysts are rarely understood for the value they bring to the processes of business change. And yet the core of business analysis, the project based approach to business problem solving, is a key skill in our era of rapid change and innovation.

The business analyst is a vital element in, and lubricant of, the engine of change delivery. Having fully understood the needs of the change sponsor, the analysis process is often the key to reconciling the needs and fears of all other stakeholders in the process. Real dangers exist if the business analysis role is ignored and a project is too focused on its narrow needs and boundaries, ignoring the rest of the business and those stakeholders.

A key role of the business analyst is the identification and reconciliation of the practical and ‘people’ problems that can bedevil and delay the best planned of projects. The move towards balancing the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills in delivering business change initiatives is becoming increasingly important as organisations strive towards world-class standards in change project delivery.

In Conflict or in Partnership?

It is easy for the casual observer to see the two roles potentially in conflict, with business analysts trampling onto the ground of the project managers and the latter ignoring or sublimating the role of the analyst. The reality should be anything but – both roles share the ultimate objective of adding value into business operations and can do so by working in partnership.

Otherwise, business analysis without effective project management will remain just a high quality source of good ideas – project management, without its solutions being grounded in incisive business analysis, runs the risk of implementing poor quality proposals for change.

Analysts who do not fully understand the business needs of the organisation yet for whom they develop new processes are as dangerous as the project manager who implements poorly designed changes that bring more new problems with them than they sought originally to solve. The project initiation process is of vital importance to the business analyst. Sometimes the project terms of reference prove deficient and further clarification has to be sought before effective data gathering and analysis can begin. Throughout the analysis and development stage both roles are concerned with developing and sustaining relationships with project stakeholders. Although the project manager will oversee the implementation process the analyst must consider implementation issues when designing and proposing solutions.

Business Analysis – Precursor of High Quality Project Management

If project management is about implementation then business analysis is about ensuring the quality of that which is to be implemented. When reviewing current or planned processes the analyst should always question the value of the actual or planned output.

“ In the final analysis it is pointless seeking to improve the productivity of that which is valueless. The first stage in serious productivity improvement is the identification and elimination of worthless activities.”

A classic example of this is management and staff information. Ever more information is often talked of as a vital aid to management. But, is the manager helped, or in practice, further confused? More information has been equated with improved decision-making and action? But, are those decisions/ actions improved, or do they become more difficult to make?

Many staff view change in a negative manner, and yet through the business analyst-led process it is possible to achieve motivation along-side productivity improvement. The motivational techniques available to help overcome resistance to change include effective two-way communication and staff participation throughout the analysis, design and development stages.

Additional means to encourage staff involvement and counter to the perceived negatives of change include:

  • improved working conditions
  • clearly explained operating procedures alongside flexibility of working routines
  • their perception of quality of product or service being provided
  • participation in decision making
  • effective training in new process and procedures
  • provision of accurate, value-adding information to empower individuals and teams

Where does Business Analysis End and Project Management Begin?

Many organisations are uncertain with respect to role definition. Some see business analysis and project management as complimentary but distinctive disciplines. Other see the roles as different but do not articulate clear distinctions between them.

Some business change professionals, having taken this route themselves, see business analysis as an excellent (almost crucial) grounding , perceiving business analysis as the engine room of project management. They identify the following aspects of business analyst experience as helping to prepare the analyst for a project management role:

  • Knowledge of end to end business cycles
  • Ability to work a various levels of detail
  • Requirement to manage relationships without line authority
  • Problem solving and facilitation skills
  • Involvement in aspects of project management, such as elements of the business case.

Despite similar fundamental skill requirements management tend to see the project manager operating at a different level. However, expediency dictates that senior business analysts may often get to run smaller projects. This is often an extension of them managing their own workload (and perhaps that of a small team).

Many of the skills and competencies required for the two disciplines are common but the competence expectation of the roles would be different in terms of levels, emphasis and application. In project management leadership is a key core competence, aligned with steering and oiling the organisational wheels to ensure momentum and direction is maintained, with anything up to 70% of their time being spent dealing with communication and the politics of change.

Research and experience have identified the following distinguishing role characteristics:

Competency

Role Execution Examples:

Business Analysis

Project Management

Leadership

Works constructively with team

Coaches others

Motivation of team

Gives direction and is role model leader

Takes responsibility

Problem Solving

Gathers and presents business and process options

Establishes facts

Determines root causes

Clearing roadblocks

Confronting issues

Plans effort and facilitates problem solving techniques

Decision Making

Analyses impact of decisions

Analyses trends and make improvement recommendations

Manages approval & sign off

Resource Management

Priorities and Schedule conflicts

Critical Thinking

Converts data into information

Change control

Scope Management

Schedule Planning

Strategic Perspectives

Sees strategy at product and process level

Detailed knowledge within industry

Sees organisation strategy and knows project integration issues

Wide knowledge of industry but not detailed

Influencing

Managing expectations

Builds rapport with team and customers

Managing expectations

Variance management

Influences major events and adapts style to gain ‘buy in’

Communication & Interpersonal

Key report writing skills

Relating to team & customers

Stakeholder communication

Verbal presentations

High level status reporting

Time Management

Work package prioritisation

Deliver on time

Schedule Management

Setting priorities

On one issue views are often shared - good business analysts do not necessarily make good project managers, and vice versa. Whether it is temperament, experience and/ or political awareness that shape suitability, business analysts need to beware being forced down a career path that isn't right for them. There is nothing immutable in the "logical next career move" being project management for all business analysts.

It seems probable that as we refine the recruitment and selection processes for business analysts while improving the training and development programmes for them, their ability to make the transition to the project management role will, for some, become more logical and easier.

In summary, project management is concerned with the overall planning and communication activities which deliver complete packages of change, whereas the business analysis function is more concerned with the investigation and identification of detailed solutions that deliver business improvement. One senior change professional observed that when recruiting for a project manager in the area of Information Technology, he ranks previous experience of business analysis above experience in most other disciplines.

 

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Business Change Professionals - Competency Assessment Tools


The BPTGroup, working in partnership with SkillsEdge, the Talent Management Company, have developed the Business Analysis Capability Assessment Tool which staff can complete on-line.


Access at: www.skillsedge.com/bca.asp.


You will find the project management tool also of value at: www.skillsedge.com/pca.asp.


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