Sunday, 17 August 2008 19:00

A First Look under the Hood of the BA/PM Position Family

Written by Robert K. Wysocki
In the previous article I defined the BA/PM Landscape. That set forth the high-level model of the six positions in the BA/PM Position Family. In this article I'll set forth the high-level definition of each of those six positions. This will lay a foundation for a more detailed definition of the six positions, a discussion of the skills profile of all six positions and then the details of a BA/PM Professional Development Program. As was the case with the previous article this is my opinion and has not been discussed with any of my business analyst or project manager colleagues.

The responses to the first four articles have been overwhelming. They have been both positive and negative. Being a change management advocate I am pleased with your reactions. My hope is that we can continue the exchange. As always, I welcome opposing positions and the opportunity to engage in public discussions. Your substantive comments are valuable. Criticism is fine and is expected but in the spirit of agile project management so are suggestions for improvement.

I realize that I have taken a controversial position and I do so intentionally. At least I have your attention whether you agree with my position or not.

Professional Development of the BA/PM

In the previous article I offered a first pass at defining the BA/PM position family. Figure1, below, displays the career path for the BA/PM generic position titles. At the Staff Level there are two positions: Team Member followed by Task Manager. Once the staff person has acquired the experience and skills that qualifies them as a professional, they move into the Professional Level as an Associate Manager followed by Senior Manager. At this point there are two separate paths to the Executive Level. The Program Manager position is much like a consultant to the Professional Level positions. The Director position is a people management position. This is a look from a different perspective at the information that was presented in Figure1 of the previous article. With the career path defined, it makes sense to now define the positions themselves.

UnderHood1.png

Figure 1: The BA/PM Position Family

Position Descriptions

First let me clarify my use of the word project. I use it in a very general sense. It refers to business analysis efforts as well as projects not encompassing business analysis activities. At this level the position descriptions need to simultaneously embrace both the project manager and the business analyst. That has put some strain on the choice of language and I beg your patience with that. In time and with the help of BA Times and Project Times readers and others we will converge on the solution.  

Team Member

This is an entry level position into either a project management or business analysis effort.

Key Indicators

  • Relevant two or four year specialized education at entry.
  • May have relevant but limited part time, cooperative education or internship experience. 
  • May have previous experience in a trainee level position outside the BA/PM position family. 
  • Limited experience (12-18 months) in a related position.

Essential Characteristics 

  • Operates within a structured and routinely supervised environment. 
  • After initial training, uses methods, procedures and standards applicable to assigned tasks with less frequent need for direct supervision. 
  • Demonstrates rational and organized approach to tasks. 
  • Has developed sufficient oral and written communication skills for effective dialogue with colleagues and superiors. 
  • Is able to absorb and apply new technical information rapidly when it is systematically presented. 
  • Within a short time horizon, is able to plan, schedule and monitor own work.

Task Manager

This is the upper level staff position for those who are familiar with the scope of their tasks. Task managers do not have responsibility for projects. Their responsibility extends to tasks within a project. They may have team members assigned to these tasks and may receive guidance and supervision from the task manager. It is distinguished from the team member position by the depth and complexity of the technical knowledge base covered, and the extent to which supervision is required. This position implies a high degree of accountability for self-controlled work. It may include a guidance role for the less experienced team members assigned to their task.

Key Indicators 

  • Fully trained Team Member. 
  • Relevant experience in a related position (2-4 years).

Essential Characteristics 

  • Depending on the scope and complexity of the work, operates within a largely unsupervised environment but within a clear accountability framework. 
  • Is familiar with, uses effectively, and can select appropriately from applicable methods, procedures and standards. 
  • Is able to function effectively and productively, and meet time and quality targets across tasks within scope, using available tools, methodologies and/or equipment with reference to others only by exception. 
  • Can assume team leader responsibilities for the work of less skilled professionals. 
  • Demonstrates both formal and informal communications ability; orally and in writing, when dealing with all colleagues and clients. 
  • Is able to rapidly absorb new technical information as required. 
  • Demonstrates a systematic, disciplined and analytical approach to problem solving. 
  • Has a good appreciation of the wider field outside his/her own specialization and has developed a good broad understanding of computer systems and techniques. 
  • Understands how the specific role relates to the relevant are of employment, to its clients and to the employing business as a whole.

Associate Manager

This is the lower of two levels in the professional category. It will normally be achieved after clear evidence is available of full competence in a specialized role. At this level, full technical accountability for work done and decisions made is expected. The ability to give technical or team leadership will have been demonstrated as well as a high degree of technical versatility and broad industry knowledge. Will often manage major parts of projects and be responsible to the project manager or have project management responsibility for simple projects.

Key Indicators 

  • 12-18 months experience as a task manager. 
  • Recognized as a professional by their peers. 
  • Is capable of successfully managing simple projects.
  • Does not have direct management responsibility for staff.

Essential Characteristics 

  • Takes responsibility either for substantial technical decision-making or for teams of staff. If the latter, demonstrates the basic qualities associated with team leadership and project management. 
  • Is thoroughly familiar with the available tools, methods, procedures and/or equipment associated with specialization. Possesses adequate technical depth to make correct choices from alternatives in all areas. 
  • Is able to apply selected tools and techniques in such a way as to meet set targets of cost, time, quality and performance. 
  • Is able to communicate effectively, both formally and informally, with all those with whom working interfaces arise, whether they are colleagues, clients or customers. 
  • Shows initiative and makes time available to ensure general competencies are up to date and in line with the development of the individual. 
  • Possesses a clear understanding of the relationship of any specialized role to the context in which the work is carried out. More generally, this understanding applies to the employer’s business and the needs of those who will use the end product.

Senior Manager

This is the upper of two levels in the professional category. It will normally be achieved after 2-4 years experience as an associate manager and clear evidence is available of full competence in a specialized role. At this level, full technical accountability for work done and decisions made is expected. The ability to give technical or team leadership will have been demonstrated, as well as a high degree of technical versatility and broad industry knowledge. Will manage complex projects and often be responsible for managing the activities of associate managers who function as sub-project managers.

Key Indicators

  • 2-4 years experience in an associate manager position. 
  • Recognized as a professional by their peers. 
  • Is capable of successfully managing complex projects. 
  • Will often have direct management responsibility for project staff.

Essential Characteristics 

  • Has demonstrated a basic understanding of the consulting role and has acted in such capacity as requested. 
  • Demonstrates mastery of the qualities associated with team leadership and project management. 
  • Is thoroughly familiar with the available tools, methods, procedures and/or equipment associated with specialization. Possesses adequate technical depth to make correct choices from alternatives in all these areas. 
  • Is able to apply selected tools and techniques in such a way as to meet set targets of cost, time, quality and performance. 
  • Is able to communicate effectively both formally and informally with all those with whom working interfaces arise whether they are colleagues, clients or customers. 
  • Shows initiative and makes time available to ensure general competencies are up to date and in line with the development of the individual. 
  • Possesses a clear understanding of the relationship of any specialized role to the context in which the work is carried out. More generally, this understanding applies to the employer’s business and the needs of those who will use the end product.

Program Manager

This position represents the level associated with the mature, relevantly experienced and fully capable professional. Such a person is fully accountable for work quality as a technical specialist. He/she possesses the background knowledge and experience to make informed and responsible decisions, which are both technically sound and take the needs of the organization fully into account. They will be expected to advise and coach professional level staff and are respected for their ability to do that.

Key Indicators 

  • No or very limited consulting experience at entry. 
  • Has previous experience offering informal advice and support to less qualified professionals. 
  • Has some peer recognition in a defined area of expertise. 
  • Usually works under the direction of a more senior consultant.

Essential Characteristics 

  • Has defined responsibility for all technical decision-making within the scope of specialization. In so doing is expected to recognize and take appropriate action with respect to any safety-related applications within scope. 
  • Shows mature qualities of leadership in meeting targets of time, cost, quality and performance within projects of substantial value to his/her employer. 
  • Communicates effectively, both orally and in writing, with subordinates, colleagues, clients and customers at all levels of seniority. 
  • Shows mature understanding of the relationship of his/her specialization and/or project responsibilities to the undertaking as a whole. Is able to propose solutions within the scope of his/her expertise. 
  • Shows initiative and makes time available to ensure general competencies are kept up to date in line with industry developments.

Director

This is the most senior management level position in the BA/PM Position Family It is the level occupied by the most senior manager of a business function or unit in organizations where operating effectiveness (and possibly survival) is heavily dependent on the function or unit and where large numbers of practitioners are deployed. A wide and deep practical knowledge base is called for, accompanied by mature management qualities.

Key Indicators 

  • Director of a critical business unit or function in a large organization. 
  • Frequently will have visibility and direct contact at the board level. 
  • Advises and leads the organization in strategic initiatives within their area of responsibility.

Essential Characteristics 

  • Has defined responsibility and authority for decision-making or an advisory function having a direct bearing on the work of a business unit or major function. In carrying out these responsibilities, recognizes and ensures that all appropriate actions are taken with respect to any safety-related applications within scope. 
  • Has a technical background of sufficient depth and breadth to be able to recognize and successfully exploit opportunities for effective development or usage of their area of expertise, and lead and manage fully experienced reporting managers. 
  • Demonstrates a high level of presentation skills applicable to all levels of audience. 
  • Plays a senior role in formulating strategy and policy. 
  • Has specific management responsibility for a specialized activity, which normally includes full budgetary and policy implementation authority for a significant overall function, or a significant segment of a larger unit.

Putting It All Together

Obviously this is a work in progress. I have participated in the development of similar structures for the IT professional but not for the BA/PM professional (or PM/BA if you prefer). Much remains to be done. I welcome a partner from the BA side to work with me in this challenging and valuable pursuit. It is my hope that I have launched this effort in a direction that ultimately will make sense across the entire BA and PM professional landscape. I would certainly like to hear your thoughts on the BA/PM professional or PM/BA professional, if you prefer. I’m sure we could have a lively discussion. I promise to respond personally to every email and to incorporate your thoughts in succeeding articles. You may reach me directly at rkw@eiicorp.com.


Robert K. Wysocki, Ph.D., has over 40 years experience as a project management consultant and trainer, information systems manager, systems and management consultant, author, training developer and provider. He has written fourteen books on project management and information systems management. One of his books, Effective Project Management: Traditional, Adaptive, Extreme,3rd Edition, has been a best seller and is recommended by the Project Management Institute for the library of every project manager. He has over 30 publications in professional and trade journals and has made more than 100 presentations at professional and trade conferences and meetings. He has developed more than 20 project management courses and trained over 10,000 project managers.
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