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Married with Children Volume 3: The Happy Family

As established in Volumes 1 & 2 of our “Married with Children” series on communication tips and tricks to a positive Project Manager/Business Analysis relationship, nothing can positively or negatively affect a project team more than the PM/BA relationship.

In The Dating Game we concentrated on the first date, or the PM/BA Kickoff Meeting, where the foundational structure of the PM/BA team is laid. Then we continued with The Newlywed Game and establishing a regular PM/BA One-On-One where we may groom our relationship over the project life-cycle.

In this volume, The Happy Family, we’re going to discuss those major relationship “Do’s” you should follow to become and remain an effective PM/BA team that can help your project team weather any storm.

So, you’ve met, fell in love, or at the very least, learned about each other enough to work together toward a united goal. You’ve had a few kids, or rather a project team of sponsors, programmers, analysts, SMEs and so on. You’re having regular family meetings, but as a couple you have to communicate with each other through the daily grind, not just when time allows. You each have your own jobs, or project roles, but at the end of the day, you both come together for dinner every night, right? Here’s some major communication do’s or best practices to follow if you’re to remain a healthy PM / BA team:

1. Manage the Project and Product Scope

Every parental unit understands what jobs they “own” in the house, right? One pays the bills and approves the budget. The other figures out what the kids want for lunch and get them off to school. Do you know your role in your project house? As a PM you’ll need to remind yourself from time to time that you are in charge of the project scope. For the BA, you have the product scope.

Friction in a PM/BA team usually stems from one or the other treading too heavily into the other’s responsible areas. That’s not to say that you don’t both paddle to the other side of the pool from time to time, but at the end of the day you should have control of your area of responsibility. Responsibilities you hopefully discussed and set during your kickoff or one-on-one meetings earlier in your relationship.

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2. Communicate Change

If anything affects either side of the project or product house, the other has got to hear about it as soon as possible. The sooner you engage in change control, the easier it is to mitigate, even if it means doing nothing. The important thing is that you are both aware so you can adjust as needed.

3. Check in with the Sponsor – One Voice

Now here’s one thing that enough PMs and BAs do not do, and it’s becoming more of an issue as technology continues to replace human to human interaction. Check in with your sponsor. This is not a status report, they can read those anytime. This is an honest to goodness conversation. And don’t have it together. A sponsor will often have a different level of comfort and communication style with the PM than the BA, especially in environments where the BAs are sourced from the business or the PMs and BAs are part of their own independent centers of excellence. You want to have a casual conversation, lunch or just a quick drive by their desk on a semi-regular basis to ensure you maintain rapport, build trust and understand underlying motivations of the project sponsor. Ask simple questions or leading statements such as “How do you feel the project is going so far?” or “Just checking in to make sure what I’m doing is still aligned with your goals for the project.” Take what you learn that could have a potential impact to the project and share it w/ each other. Then talk about your thoughts and findings in your PM/BA Status Meeting! You want try to communicate to the project team with one voice whenever possible – and that voice should be aligned with the project sponsor and most importantly aligned with each other at all times.

4. Maintain Peer-to-Peer Thinking

This last one isn’t something you typically tackle together, but you’re both responsible for it. There is no one person that leads a project to success. It’s a team effort, and remembering that and keeping it in your mind with all your interactions is vital to a healthy partnership. The PM is not more important or better than the BA and vice versa. The PM is not the BA’s manager or boss. The BA is not the sole voice of the business. Keep your scope in mind and your intentions pure, and you’ll be able to successfully wade through the waters together.

Following this simple but often overlooked list of PM/BA Do’s will add another level of trust in your relationship, and keep your project family feeling secure in the fact that they have a strong leadership team at the helm.

Look out for the final installment of the Married with Children series, The Broken Home – PM/BA Relationship Don’ts, coming soon.

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