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Do you need a project manager and a business analyst?

A few weeks ago, I spoke with Chris Larsen, principal analyst for consultancy firm IT Evolution, about the next step after project management. Organizations of all shapes and sizes are considering not just a strong project manager to lead their efforts, but also a business analyst to guide the content of those efforts.

Larsen said that, as of late, organizations have been focusing more on project managers than on business analysts because the business analyst role is less well known and only vaguely understood. But as projects continue to fail in IT, there is a shift happening. “The CIO is looking for something to more adequately satisfy customers,” he said. “Business analyst roles are popping up.”

What does the business analyst do that the project manager can’t do? Why are even smaller IT shops considering both skill sets? Larsen said that while the end result for both is technically the same — project success — they each take a different route to get there.

Project managers focus on all of the management efforts involved in completing a project — communications management, resource management, financial management, schedule management — “all of the different aspects involved in project execution,” Larsen said. Business analysts, on the other hand, focus on the content of the project — gathering requirements, understanding the business needs and expectations and translating them into a language both IT and the business will understand.

Larsen suggests looking at why past projects failed to see if better business analysis is necessary. If the project was completed on time and on budget, but the business customers are not completely satisfied with the results, “there was too much separation between the business and IT,” Larsen said. “The business analyst is somewhat of a liaison between IT and the business. If the business requirements were not gathered and documented, the project will be a failure.”

What’s going on in your organization? Is there room in your IT department for a project manager and a business analyst?

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