Notes from the Greater Atlanta IIBA Chapter Meeting – 5th Annual Premier Panel Discussion on October 23, 2012 at 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM

Event Summary

Delineation between PM and BA Roles – Within functional technology roles, there is always a cross pollination of tasks and responsibilities. As modern day projects trend toward shorter release cycles, the need for PMs and BAs to wear each other’s hats has increased, since the fundamental nature of these role have common elements.

Vincent Mayers, MDI Group Atlanta Managing Director, moderated a panel discussion on the subject of how PM and BA roles are evolving, combining and where delineations exist. The panelists were:

Jonathan Babcock – Genuine Parts Company
Torrey Kirby – CredAbility
Barbara A. Carkenord – RMC Project Management
Vicki Flyer Hudson – High Road Global Services

– Discussion Topics and Summary –

There can be significant confusion among practitioners and experts concerning the interaction between the PM and BA on a software project. What causes such confusion?

Confusion is caused when Mission Rules (pre-planning) and expectations such as the goal of the requirements and the key issues to be solved are not clearly defined. Not only does there need to be clarification on what defines the success of the project, but PMs and BAs need to establish their expectations for working together—viewing their relationship as a partnership—to achieve successful results. Another issue that can cause confusion is when terminology is not understood, so it is essential to set definitions ahead of time, especially when individuals are working with an international team.

How do you get the team engaged?

The “us versus them” attitude in an onshore/offshore team can cause deficiency, so it’s important to establish a unified team mentality where all members apply best practices as though everyone was working in the same office. Understanding the motivation that drives roles is also essential for team engagement. The PM wants to complete the project as timely as possible, but the BA might find it necessary to prolong completion by adding to the requirements of a project based on overall business needs.

Any functional role in a full project lifecycle requires project management skills. Therefore, can the BA perform the role of the PM and vice versa?

Each person must have a working understanding of the functions of the other’s role in order to collaborate successfully. The BA must understand the role of the PM (critical path, managing risks, etc.) and vice versa; otherwise, they could hinder each other and the project rather than help.

The software project manager is traditionally responsible for planning and managing the project and ensuring that the software product is delivered to key stakeholders; the business analyst is traditionally concerned about features which satisfy the needs of the stakeholders. In what areas can conflict arise when the BA and PM roles are performed by a single individual?

  • Scoping—the PM is responsible for project scope, and the BA is responsible for solutions scope.
  • Requirements—some PMs think collecting requirements is their role, but actually this falls under the BA’s responsibility.
  • Risks—the PM manages the project risks and the potential impact on the project, and the BA manages business risks that can have a long term affect on the business itself.
  • Communication to stakeholders—the BA can better manage delivering small quantitative amounts of information, and the PM drives communication around the overall lifecycle of the project.

What do you think the role of the BA vs. the PM is in an agile environment as opposed to waterfall projects?

Agile brings a cross-functional team together to work through the project, leading to overall cohesion. The PM ends up learning more about the business, and the BA learns more about the technology, which leads to growth opportunities for both.

In Conclusion…

Basic analysis skills will always be crucial to business needs, so the BA should focus more on competencies rather than title and be able to adjust as needed. BAs can challenge stakeholders, build relationships, help prioritize, and deliver tough messages. Having these skills gives BAs significant value in the job market because they can go into any environment and help a company meet its goals.