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Author: Elizabeth Larson

Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, CSM, PMI-PBA is a consultant and advisor for Watermark Learning/Project Management Academy, and has over 35 years of experience in project management and business analysis. Elizabeth’s speaking history includes keynotes and presentations for national and international conferences on five continents. Elizabeth has co-authored five books and chapters published in four additional books, as well as articles that appear regularly in BA Times and Project Times. Elizabeth was a lead author/expert reviewer on all editions of the BABOK® Guide, as well as several of the PMI standards. Elizabeth enjoys traveling, hiking, reading, theater, and spending time with her 6 grandsons and 1 granddaughter.

Avoiding Conflict between the PM and BA. Part 2.

Planning Business Analysis Work

When I first read the BABOK® Guide, my initial reaction was, “What are they thinking?!” With my PM hat perched squarely on my head, my reaction was “but… but this is PM work!” In my mind I imagined all kinds of conflict occurring as the BA took on more and more of the PM role. After all, as a PM I had done such traditional project management tasks as creating work breakdown structures, activity lists, estimating, scheduling, and now a body of knowledge was saying that the BA was supposed to do this work? I could see heads butting already.

When I joined the BABOK committee about a year later and raised these concerns, I was asked an insightful question: “Elizabeth,” one of the committee members asked, “as a PM did you come up with all the deliverables, tasks, and estimates for everyone on the project?” Ah, BAs sure do ask good questions! I remembered that as a PM I had gone to many team members, in particular technical SMEs, the developers, our full-time business SME on the project, and others to get their deliverables, tasks, estimates, and availability. But it had never occurred to me to involve the BA. With that one question the light bulb came on. The image of locked horns disappeared. In its place I saw a PM (me) with the weight of too much project planning on her shoulders suddenly stand up straight and unencumbered. How much easier my life as a PM would have been if for the business analysis work, I had taken the information from the BA and rolled it into the overall project. What a relief it would have been to get the business analysis input from the person who knew the most about business analysis!

With the light bulb came a few related insights:

  1. Planning doesn’t mean doing all the work yourself, so PMs don’t have to complete all the planning processes listed in the PMBOK® Guide themselves. PMs need to ensure that all the work appropriate to the project is done, but that does not mean that the work in Section 5.1, Collect Requirements, for example, must be completed by the PM.
  2. BAs are closer to the business analysis effort, so input from BAs is apt to be more complete and correct. When competent BAs are on the project, PMs do not need to micromanage business analysis. There’s enough for PMs to do, so getting out of the way during business analysis will likely reduce the PM’s stress. PMs, so focused on delivering on time and within budget, need to realize that PMs and BAs working collaboratively get more done, so the project has a better chance of completing sooner.
  3. On large projects, both the PM and BA have full-time work doing project management and business analysis respectively. If either is saddled with doing the work of the other, both will be overburdened, increasing everyone’s pressure and stress levels. Under such circumstances, resolving the inevitable territorial conflict will be that much more difficult and take that much more time, delaying the project even further.

So my advice, PMs, is to let the BAs do business analysis work, which includes business analysis planning. My advice, BAs, if confronted with a PM who wants to plan for the entire project, is to keep asking those insightful questions!

Avoiding Conflict between the PM and BA. Part 1

At a recent conference I sat next to a project manager who observed, “My organization hired a new consulting company to do business analysis work. They’ve completely taken over. Now they do a lot of the work that I used to do, such as meeting with the sponsor to uncover the business problems, determining what we’re going to do on the project…I can’t believe it! I feel like I’m being treated like a second-class citizen!”

While this complaint pointed out some organizational issues, it also got me thinking about the role of the PM and the BA in the early stages of a project. The two bodies of knowledge, the BABOK® Guide 2.0 and PMBOK® Guide – Fourth Edition, each allude to work being done at the beginning of the project , so it is not surprising that conflict between these two roles can arise.

It’s easy for me to say that spelling out roles and responsibilities helps avoid this conflict. Using a responsibility assignment matrix, such as a RACI, is helpful, but it may not be enough. Looking back it seems to me that as both a BA and a PM, I never spent a lot of time dwelling on this issue. When I was a BA I didn’t have a project manager, so in a sense I was able to avoid conflict. When I became a PM, I was extremely fortunate to work with strong BAs who took the initiative to define their own roles. Below I have listed what worked for us and why. Next month I’ll delve more into the pitfalls and some examples of less successful projects.

We worked on a project which had both business and technical complexity. We were introducing many new business processes as well as new technology. The project affected many business units within the organization, and the risk was high. Below are a few of the factors that I believe contributed to a smooth relationship between the BA and me (PM), and ultimately to a very successful project:

  • We each worked with our strengths. As a PM, mine was focusing on delivering the product (new software) when we had promised it, within the approved budget, and with frequent communication with the sponsor. As a BA, hers was an incredible ability to understand the real business need-why the project was being undertaken, what was happening currently, and what we needed to recommend to the sponsor, which was different from what the sponsor had requested. Without her, I would have accepted the solution originally requested by the sponsor, a solution which would not have solved their business problem.
  • We kept the good of the organization in front of us at all times. There simply was no grab for territory, because it wasn’t about us. It was about delivering a product that worked–on time and within budget. One of the team members observed that she felt like we were giving birth. The good news was, though, that we didn’t have to suffer through teenage years!
  • I was focused on the date and budget, so my natural tendency was to want to do the project quickly rather than correctly. Fortunately I had the good sense to listen to the BA and slow down when I needed to, which was usually at her insistence. Was this easy for me? Not at all! Am I glad I did? You betcha!
  • I completely trusted the BA. But the whole topic of trust is the topic for different blog on another day.