Project Management Basics – Chapter 7 – The Business Analyst
“To think or not to think? That is the new question.” Nadina Boun, The Thinking Man, Paralysis by Analysis
“The only people who see the whole picture are the ones who step outside the frame.” Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
A project has a start, a finish, and a unique outcome. The project manager normally helps to write the Charter, and that document sanctions the project and allows the organization to expend resources. The project manager then develops and executes against the project management plan (waterfall) or uses iterative incremental delivery (agile) until the requirements are met. The deliverables are accepted and the project is over.
Start, finish and unique outcome. That is what concerns the project manager. What about what came before the project and what is the impact after the project is deployed?
That is where the Business Analyst (BA) steps in. The BA is focused on the product, not the project, and the BA role begins pre-project and continues well past project delivery. Here is what PMI® has to say about the BA role:
“Business Analysis is the set of activities performed to identify business needs and recommend relevant solutions; and to elicit, document and manage requirements.”
– Project Management Institute, Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide – First Edition, Project Management Institute Inc., 2015, Page 184.
“Business Analysis is the set of activities performed to support delivery of solutions that align to business objectives and provide continuous value to the organization.”
– Project Management Institute, The PMI Guide to Business Analysis – First Edition, Project Management Institute Inc., 2017, Page 389.
The BA identifies business needs and recommends solutions, and in doing so develops the business case that becomes the basis of the project. Because the BA has a deep understanding of the business needs and business benefits, they are uniquely positioned to assist with requirements elicitation and management. As the project plan is executed (either agile or waterfall) the BA ensures that the deliverable continues to be strategically aligned and that the benefits are realized as planned.
Benefits are often realized after the project is deployed. For example, you may have a project to modernize a customer service phone system with the stated goal of “decreasing customer handle time by 20%”. There is no way the project manager can determine if the benefit will be realized while the project is being executed! That occurs after the project is delivered, and the project manager is likely on to the next project. The BA determines if the benefits were met, and in doing so gains a deeper understanding of how to link requirements to benefits.
Many organizations miss this vital aspect of project management. If your organization isn't analyzing if the post project benefits were realized, you should start to do so.
This is also why one of PMI's fastest growing certifications is the PMI-PBA.
Predictive, Iterative, Incremental, and Agile. What is the difference? I'll discuss that next.
I am aware of an organization that recently asked certain of their senior leaders to go into the office one day a week in an effort to get things back to normal. This is fascinating because the organization still has an order in place requiring all employees who can work from home to do so. Most offices are empty. So how does directing senior leaders to drive into empty buildings get things back to normal? Was this discussed with the impacted employees? Nope. Have there been any metrics supporting this? Nope. Is it a universal requirement for all employees at that level? Nope. I had assumed that the organization would take a moment to analyze lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, but I guess it is going to be back to business as usual. Such a missed opportunity.