Business Analysis in Project Management
When I started managing projects as a full time project manager, the profession and understanding of project management in Kenya was still in it’s infancy. People thought of project managers as sort of policemen who made sure everyone did the right thing at the right time. If not, they’d slap fingers. But since then the understanding of the profession has matured and grown to what it is today: a responsible management role. I have also seen the introduction of business analysis both as a profession and a tool to make better business decisions. However business analysis is still often misunderstood.
As project managers you might even find yourself in a position to have to bring business analysis reports to your superiors. In order to be able to make more informed decisions, it is very important for every project manager to understand business analysis. This is exactly why I started reading up on it. The business analyst profession is again a wide field. There are professional bodies and the profession is well defined. However it is still widely misunderstood. Business Analyst should be allowed to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Project Managers and make decisions whether to proceed with a project or not. They have the knowledge and ability to make such decisions. All too often, however, the Senior Management reserves themselves the right to decide. It would be much more efficient if Senior Management would be more ready to take advise and input from project managers and business analysts to make informed decisions.
So what is Business Analysis?
The International Institute of Business Analysis has defined business analysis as follows:
"Business analysis is the practice of enabling change in an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders"
In other words the Business Analyst by his actions, decisions and recommendations should be having an impact on financial decisions the company makes and at the same time keep the Stakeholders happy. It is defined that the Business Analyst also engages the Stakeholders continuously. In order for this not to end up being a conflict of sorts with the Project Manager engaging the Stakeholders, a company that has both Business Analysts and Project Managers needs to define clearly how and where each is involved and what the engagement will look like. Here is how it has been defined by M. Maritato
Maritato, M. (2012). Project management and business analysis: the dynamic duo. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2012—EMEA, Marsailles, France. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
I have also seen the role of business analysis displayed in the following way, in a progressive timeline from left to right:
In our increasingly hybrid project environment I would however think it will be looking more like this:
As changes and iterations occur, the business analyst will be playing a very important role in analyzing the business benefits, ROI etc of iterations and additional requirements. Firmly entrenched into integrated change control. The project manager and the business analyst will best be working hand in hand for project success.
From the different articles I have read you can summarize that a business analyst examines the current state, defines the future state, examines risks and puts together a change / project management program. He attaches a monetary figure to the program and determines a return of investment (ROI). All this should initially happen during the project initiation and be documented in the Business Case and / or Project Charter. These documents will then form the beginnings of the project managers risk analysis, requirements documentation, stakeholder analysis and the 3 project baselines. Then during project executions, when major changes and / or iterations occur the project manager would be calling on the business analyst as subject matter expert to give his input if the change can be included in the project or not and if it makes financial sense. If roles are clearly laid out and the lead role in the relevant phase of the projects is clear, the Stakeholders will not be confused. The business analyst would hand over the project to the project manager during the client kick-off meeting and ensure that all stakeholders understand that the project manager is in charge.
However we do not live in a perfect world and the boundaries are often blurred. In the software world it actually seems to be quite common that project managers assume that the business analyst will manager all other stakeholders and the PM will only manage his team. As project managers we should ensure that the blurred boundaries are clarified and confusion is reduced. At the same time we should learn from business analysts as they do their analysis. We need to understand the tools & techniques they use, so that we can utilize them in projects where there is no business analyst involved.