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Business Analyst vs Project Manager

I seem to run into this question a lot recently  “What’s the ideal relationship between a Business Analyst and Project Manager role?” so I thought I’d address it here.

First off, some people do fill both the BA and PM roles. I understand that but also think it’s far from ideal. Different skills are required for each job, so if someone plays both the BA and PM role, then it’s important to ensure they have the skillset for both job functions. Beyond that, I know in some organizations, the BA has been seen as subordinate to the PM. I very much disagree with that organizational structure. They are peers. They are often in totally different organizations even. Either way, both roles really demand the respect of the other.

There is a bit of overlap in the types of activities these roles do. For example, BAs should do some planning – specifically around requirements work. They should put together the details of the plan that says what activities they will perform and how long those take. Similarly PMs sometimes have to use some elicitation skills to understand things about the project and facilitation skills to lead collaborative discussions.

In order to have a successful and respectful relationship, I recommend the BA and PM both understand the roles and responsibilities of one another. Similarly know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and work with those.

Here are a few more related questions I’ve gotten:

Does a PM need to have domain knowledge if there is a BA? Yes actually. I feel it is important that the PM understands what’s going on in a project, not just is moving tasks around in a plan. If they don’t understand it, they will lose credibility with their team quickly.

Who should be engaged first on a project – BA or PM? Both at the beginning! The PM is a bit more obvious. But the BA is sometimes overlooked up front. The BA needs to come in early to help elicit business objectives to understand if the project even should start/continue.

What made my best PM relationship work? She was hard working, smart, we had a mutual respect for one another’s strengths in our roles, and we communicated well in all forms.


4 Responses to Business Analyst vs Project Manager

  1. Bill Nazzaro January 13, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    I disagree with the answer on engagement. I think the BA should be involved before there is even a decision to move the project forward. The PM will be there at the start of the project, but a BA should be involved in the go/no-go decision.

  2. Joy Beatty January 13, 2015 at 10:25 pm #

    Thanks for the comment Bill. I actually agree completely with your point. I didn’t mean to exclude that possibility.

  3. Muhammad Shuaibu January 15, 2015 at 9:50 pm #

    Engaging BA and PM at the same time may not be necessary. I think the BA need to come up with recommendations and allow the executive management to decide on the most appropriate solution before a project can be commissioned. Up and until then, I do not see the rationale behind engaging a PM.

  4. Naveen Krishnan January 16, 2015 at 2:39 am #

    Good article and is timely since there is a bit doubt flying around there ( especially with Agile and “Scrum Master” role in it )

    My personal take on this is : –
    PM and BA both are peers. PM is in charge of project cost and timeline, BA incharge of quality of the solution ( please don’t confuse this with testing)

    It is a bit of a simplistic view, and I do agree that PM is at accountable of the quantity of product too … But I like to believe that BA should truly be responsible for the quality ( that is make sure that, we are making the right thing, at the right time )

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