Blind spot elimination

staying in the right lane in the project manager/business analyst race



An increasing number of project managers are having trouble staying in their “lane” and performing only their given job functions. Project managers are moving into the path that was once typically reserved for business analysts, and vice versa. Although project managers don't always know about the intricacies in “building” the project, business analysts aren't as well versed in managing a project as they are in analyzing it. When the wrong people are assigned incorrect tasks, project risk increases dramatically. Furthermore, scheduling and cost spin out of control, exponentially diminishing the quality of the deliverable.

Although this dynamic has been constant for some time, a new level of awareness about project roles and responsibilities is becoming increasingly evident. As a result of trends such as outsourcing and resource constraints, business leaders are more willing to acknowledge this “lane change” as an organizational problem now than they were in the past. According to Scott Claus, managing director of McLean, VA-based consultant group BearingPoint, business analysts can improve the chances of successful off-shoring initiatives by ensuring that work packages are sent offshore correctly. “If [banks] are going to invest in offshore and they expect to see results, they need to make sure to get the BA involved in the complete life cycle of off-shoring,” says Claus (Feig, 2007). With the complete involvement of the business analysts, the lines of the project manager and business analyst role must be clearly understood by all involved on the project, with a key focus on the symbiotic nature of their relationship.

This paper will help project managers and business analysts alike understand where to paint the line on their respective responsibilities, the symbiotic nature of their relationships, and how to best work together on areas of overlap. It will identify the types of risk associated with assigning a project manager to a business analyst task, and vice versa, and will offer recommendations on resource management when determining which type of professional is best suited to assume which type of task. Finally, it will emphasize the main areas of contention and how harmony can be achieved among all parties.

Definitions of the Two Roles

Project Managers

Various types of managers exist because they fill various types of needs. For example, the finance manager ensures that adequate funds are available to keep the organization viable, the marketing manager specializes in distributing a product or service, and the production manager specializes in converting resource inputs to outputs.

Project managers have many of the same responsibilities as those stated above. They plan, schedule, motivate, and control. But project managers are unique because they manage temporary, nonrepetitive activities, and frequently act independently of the formal organization.

The following are some unique functions of project managers:

  • Project managers are expected to marshal resources to complete a defined project on time, on budget, and within specifications.
  • Project managers are the direct link to the customer and must fulfill the customer's expectations while staying within the project specifications.
  • Project managers direct, coordinate, and integrate the project team, which is often made up of part-time participants loyal to their functional departments.
  • Project managers are responsible for performance (frequently with too little authority). They must ensure that appropriate trade-offs are made between the time, cost, and performance requirements of the project.
  • At the same time, unlike their functional counterparts, project managers generally possess only a small proportion of the technical knowledge to make decisions. Instead, they must orchestrate the completion of the project by inducing the right people, at the right time, to address the right issues and to make the right decision.
    (Gray & Larson, 2002, pp.7-8)

In general, the project manager is responsible for the overall success of the project. He or she is the person assigned to manage a specific project and is expected to meet the approved objectives of a project, including project scope, budget, and schedule. The project manager provides vision, direction, and encouragement and ensures that the project is necessary and well defined. In project planning, the project manager takes the lead to determine the schedules, resources, and budgets necessary to accomplish the project goals. When the project plan has been approved, the project manager leads the team through implementation. This includes monitoring and reporting on progress, controlling changes to the project plan, and managing risk and resolving problems as they arise. When all project deliverables have been completed and all objectives are met, the project manager closes out the project. This should include a closeout report documenting lessons learned and areas for improvement. Gathering customer feedback and a final review with the sponsor should also be included in the closeout. This does not mean that the project manager physically does all of this, but he or she must make sure it happens.

The project manager has overall responsibility for planning, organizing, leading, decision making, communication, execution, and closeout for the project.

Business Analysts

According to the International Institute of Business Analysis’ A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge®, “Business analysis is the set of tasks, knowledge and techniques required to identify business needs and determine solutions to business problems. Solutions often include a systems development component, but may also consist of process improvement or organizational change.” It goes on to say, “Business analysis is distinct from financial analysis, project management, quality assurance, organizational development, testing, and training and documentation development. However, depending on an organization, an individual business analyst may perform some or all of these related functions” (International Institute of Business Analysis [IIBA], 2006, p.8).

“A business analyst works as a liaison among stakeholders in order to elicit, analyze, communicate and validate requirements for changes to business processes, policies and information systems,” according to the IIBA. “The business analyst understands business problems and opportunities in the context of the requirements and recommends solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals” (2006, p.9).

In general, it is the responsibility of the business analyst to ensure that the requirements set forth by the business are captured and correctly documented before the solution is developed and implemented. Just as the project manager is accountable for the success of the project, the business analyst is accountable for the requirements being captured and documented. The analyst is also accountable if the solution meets the documented requirements, but does not adequately represent the requirements of the customer.

During the initial phase of the project, business analysts may work with stakeholders of the project to formulate and communicate the business vision, to envision initial requirements, and to scope the project. The goal at this point is to get the project focused by decomposing the initial high-level vision into something realistic. Business analysts may also help identify potential areas of automation and assist in reengineering any underlying business processes.

Eliciting and documenting requirements are a major role of business analysts. They work with customers to translate customer requirements into something that developers can understand. Likewise, they translate the resulting questions that developers have into something the customer can understand. They often explain to the customer what developers are doing and why they need to do it.

Business analysts work with clients to validate requirements and analysis models utilizing techniques such as reviews and walk-throughs. They also frequently assist in writing user acceptance test cases and will be the liaison between the client and the testing organization during user acceptance testing.

Dependencies for Success

The project manager is responsible for ensuring that the project is completed on time and within budget. The business analyst is responsible for ensuring that the product is built according to specifications (requirements) and works correctly. Both want to satisfy the customer and both want the project to be a success. Yet they perform specialized functions that could be viewed as being on opposite sides of the spectrum. The project manager focuses on the big picture—the entire project---while the business analyst focuses on specifics. The project manager wants to make sure the project stays on schedule, while the business analyst wants to make sure that none of the details are missed before moving on.

So how do the two create their work synergies? It's all about process. The process of successful project execution relies on the business analyst providing the correct inputs to the project that the project manager uses to manage the entire delivery of the project. In short, the business analyst provides the input (via requirements) that the project manager uses to manage the “triple constraint” of a project. Together, along with other project team functions, they are able to deliver the solution that makes sense and meets the goals of the organization.

Exhibit 1 below identifies how each role is different yet similar. Both roles must have a clear focus on what the objective is for a project (Nee, 2008).

Roles and Responsibilities of Project Managers and Business Analysts

Exhibit 1--Roles and Responsibilities of Project Managers and Business Analysts

At the beginning of the project, the business analyst works with the project manager to develop the project scope and project objectives and to identify risks. The project manager is usually taking the lead during the planning phase of the project. However, as the project moves into the requirements/analysis phase, the business analyst generally takes the lead, drawing the project manager back in to review the requirements before moving into the design phase. They both are in charge of change control---the project manager at the project scope level and the business analyst at the requirements level. They both have work breakdown structure (WBS) items to manage and control. They both are actively managing the risks of the project. Finally, they both have a body of knowledge that defines the competencies for each role.

To understand the relationship of the two roles, we first need to understand and level-set what each role offers to the project that are similar in nature. The following are the top five areas of project work in which the project manager and the business analyst are dependent upon each other for successful delivery.

1. Work Breakdown Structure Deliverables (Project vs. Product)

The project manager and the business analyst must work closely together to clearly define the project and product scope. The project manager identifies the WBS deliverables while the business analyst identifies the product WBS deliverables (e.g., requirements gathering, organization, documentation, validation, acceptance/approval). The product scope from the business analyst is the project scope from which the project manager manages the project.

2. Identify Risks Associated with the Project WBS

Risk identification is not just the responsibility of the project manager; business analysts must incorporate the risks involved with their efforts and log that into a risk register. This will give the business analyst leverage when it comes down to scheduling the milestone dates.

3. Planning---Project Schedule Development (Project vs. Analysis Work Plan)

Planning is the most critical element of project dependency and project success. A Requirements Work Plan (RWP) is the first project deliverable for a business analyst. The RWP is an input to the project manager's overall project delivery schedule. This crucial element is needed to accurately depict the project completion date. More than likely, the RWP is the first place that the project manager and business analyst begin negotiating because it states the requirements-gathering approach, schedule, resources, and communications plan, as well as the associated risk register for the project manager and business analyst to manage.

4. Combining Schedules (Estimates and Dependencies)

Typically, in a shared scheduling process, the bottom-up estimates do not match the project manager's top-down estimates. Having a completed requirements gathering risk register will give the business analyst the leverage necessary to negotiate the appropriate time needed during the scheduling process. An important deliverable that business analysts must use and refer to in their negotiations is the risk register. If the estimates and/or deliverables are reduced, what are the impacts and risks that are created and how do we manage them? It is vital that everyone understands the analysis risk and buys into them. This is laying the ground work for requirements excellence---having time to do a thorough analysis and ensure verifiable, justifiable, and traceable requirements.

5. Scope Management (via Requirements Management)

As the project begins to be executed, there is usually some contention on whom should manage the scope. By default, it lands on the project manager; however, it's a shared responsibility of the project manager and business analyst. The business analyst must manage the requirements that are gathered. Those requirements that are gathered feed into the overall project scope, which falls under the purview of the project manager. It is not a sole role responsibility but, rather, a joint one. Having the business analyst mind the requirements in turn assists the project manager in the overall scope management of the project.

In summary, project success requires both the project manager and business analyst to ensure that:

  • All projects are concerned with the creation of specified deliverables
  • All requirements are tied to one or more specified deliverables
  • All specified deliverables are tied to the overall scope of the project

Adhering to the “triple constraint” and “triple requirements deliverables” ensures project success.

Overlaps of Roles as a High Level of Functionality

Generally, business analysts and project managers must both have a good set of people skills, technical skill, and business skills, including:

  • Strong verbal and written communication skills
  • Active listening skills
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Relationship building skills---with team members, clients, and vendors
  • Negotiating skills
  • The ability to understand the required processes to get the work done (SDLC)

Although there are many skills that overlap between the two roles, the differences are quite significant.

While the project manager is focused on the “big picture”---the project---the business analyst is focused on the details, requirements, and the product. The project manager manages the project resources while the business analyst manages the business stakeholders (Carkenord, 2006). Yet, how many times have project managers been tasked with gathering requirements and other business analysis functions? There are several reasons why the project manager or business analyst may play both roles. For example, the project may be small and one person could handle both roles. Or, there may be a limited number of resources available, so the project manager, in order to get the project completed on time, fulfills the role of the business analyst also. In these two scenarios, it may be perfectly reasonable to assign one person to act as both the project manager and the business analyst. Unfortunately, there may also be organizations that just do not understand the significant differences of the two disciplines and think that both roles should be done by the project manager.

The danger in one person handling both roles is not being able to distinguish between the two. Favoring one role over the other, which would be natural, could cause important pieces of the project to be left out. Knowing when to “change hats” becomes critical to doing the job well.

Recommendations on Resource Management and Project Task Assignments

Both the business analyst and project manager roles are necessary. The unique knowledge areas that each possess are necessary for the success of the project. Every organization needs to understand the distinct contributions that both disciplines bring to the project that make it successful. The Project Management Institute (PMI®) has established a baseline for the project management profession, known as A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (the PMBOK® Guide)---Third edition. Likewise, the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA™) created the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK®) for the business analysis profession. Both the PMBOK® Guide and the BABOK® outline the set of tasks, knowledge, and techniques required for each discipline (IIBA, 2006). Both PMI® and the IIBA™ promote the career progression of the project manager and business analyst roles. Organizations should recognize the importance of both roles and strive to make sure that both are developed with the appropriate skill set.

The best situation on a project is to have an experienced project manager and an experienced business analyst. But that is not always possible. Therefore understanding the skills required to succeed in each discipline will help to identify the best person for each role. Cooperation between the two roles leads to project success.

Carkenord, B. (2006). Why does a project need a project manager and a business analyst? Retrieved June 6, 2006 from

Feig, N. (2007, January 1). The rise of the business analyst and other emerging IT roles. Bank Systems & Technology [Electronic Version]. Retrieved June 23, 2008 from

Gray, C., & Larson, E. (2002). Project management: The complete guide for every manager. New York: McGraw-Hill.

International Institute of Business Analysis. (2006). A guide to the business analysis body of knowledge (BABOK®) (Release 1.6). Retrieved June 6, 2008 from

Nee, N. (2008, May). Project management and business analysis: Dependencies for success. ESI Horizons 9(5) [Electronic Version]. Retrieved June 6, 2008 from

Project Management Institute. (2004). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK® guide)---Third ed. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

Certified Business Analysis Professional, CBAP and the CBAP logo are certification marks owned by the International Institute of Business Analysis.

IIBA is a trademark owned by the International Institute of Business Analysis.
BABOK and Business Analysis Body of Knowledge are registered trademarks owned by the International Institute of Business Analysis.

© 2008, Kathy Morison and Nancy Nee
Originally published as part of 2008 PMI® Global Congress Proceedings – Denver, Colorado, USA



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