Business Analyst · Software Development

Business Analyst or Project Manager – Two Distinctive Roles

Business Analyst or Project Manager -two distinctive roles; they are not the same!


Many organizations are struggling with how to define the roles of Project Manager and Business Analyst.  The discipline of Business Analysis is still developing and is not yet as well defined as Project Management.  This lack of clarity makes it difficult to distinguish one role from the other making organizations question whether both are necessary.  Though there are commonalities, these are distinct roles, each with its own skills, mindsets and responsibilities.  Furthermore, on all projects – whether there is an assumed Information Technology (IT) component to the solution or not – both roles are necessary.

Conflicts arise between the roles because each has a different purpose; the success of a

project is partially dependent upon maximizing the conflict between these two roles in a

constructive way.  In order to help organizations do so, this paper will present:

  • Definitions of the Business Analyst and Project Manager roles
  • An explanation of why the roles are fundamentally in conflict
  • A high-level approach to maximizing the constructive conflict between the roles

Every organization and each project is operating within a unique context, though, making it impossible to specify a solution to fit them all.  This paper will instead give managers of Business Analysts and Project Managers and the Business Analysts and Project Managers themselves the knowledge to make educated decisions about how the two roles should work together.

Defining the Roles

The purposes of the Business Analyst and Project Manager roles are consistent across environments.  However, the responsibilities and skills of the roles may vary. Common role definitions are presented below but their applicability should be assessed for each situation.

Business Analyst

The purposes of the Business Analyst (BA) are to help the business understand its needs and to specify the requirements that will lead to the optimal solution to deliver the intended results.  The BA’s focus should be on the sought after business results, not just requirements documents, business models or testing plans.  The BA works with business staff and solution developers as a business problem solver.    This requires the ability to analyze a business area to identify problems and/or opportunities.  For IT projects, the role includes serving as a liaison between the technical and business worlds in order to define solution characteristics (e.g. ability to support multiple users), but not the actual solution, as well as advocating for the business when technical decisions are made.

As a project progresses, the BA has different responsibilities.  Before a formal project has been established (and a Project Manager assigned), the BA may be involved in clarifying the business need.  By doing enough definition and analysis to qualify and/or establish the project, the BA can help functional area managers choose which projects in their portfolio should be undertaken.  Once the project is underway the Business Analyst is most prominent in the definition and analysis stages.  The BA is responsible for the process (methodology) and product (requirements) of the analysis.  During the later stages of a project, the BA takes on more of a supporting role.  At this point the BAs major responsibility is ensuring that the transformation to the environment specified in the requirements is achieved.  Depending on the nature of the project, this could require significant change management.

Project Manager

The purpose of the Project Manager (PM) is to ensure that the work of the project gets done and that this work contributes to achieving the intended results.  The tasks involved in managing the project are different from those performed to accomplish the work.  Thus, the PM must possess the skills to manage work that he or she may not fully understand or be able to do.  Additionally, the PM must make sure the project deliverables achieve a quality level that is acceptable to the beneficiaries in spite of a scarcity of resources and various other constraints.

Once a project is established, the PM has the responsibility of marshalling resources in order to produce a specified set of deliverables, resulting in a product or service, via a deliberate process, within a definite time span.  In order to successfully plan, conduct and wrap-up the project, the PM, in conjunction with the BA, must develop the definition that will guide the effort.  Finally, throughout the project the PM is responsible for worry management, project promotion, project administration and responding (e.g. adjusting the project plan) to the inevitable issues that arise.


Business Analysts and Project Managers should each have a unique set of skills, though there are some skills held commonly between the two.  The key hard and soft skills are listed below:

Business Analyst Project Manager
·         Defining and managing the analysis process

·         Managing the analysis products (requirements)

·         Analyzing – The ability to break a complex problem into intellectually manageable parts in order to study them

·         Eliciting and documenting requirements

·         Facilitating decisions (especially important if consensus is sought)

·         Defining and managing the overall process (project planning)

·         Managing the project products (deliverables)

·         Securing and organizing the resources

·         Directing, coordinating and overseeing the execution of the project

Business Analyst & Project Manager
·         Managing change

·         Leadership (of team, business staff, sponsors, …)

·         Communications

·         Identifying and resolving issues

Conflict between the Roles

Although both the BA and PM roles should be concerned with achieving business results, each has a different focus.  The BA is focuses on innovating the business whereas the PM focuses on building a solution.  Both roles are very important to the success of the project but must be balanced.  Some of the characteristics of a BA, such as curiosity and attention to detail, could be  in conflict with the PM’s goal of maintaining project momentum.  Formal business analysis requires more involvement from the business staff and often additional tasks, deliverables and techniques than the ones the PM is familiar with.  These usually require more money and/or time, two of the scarce resources the PM is managing.

The BA and PM are each, in their own way, applying force to push the project towards success.  The project benefits from an appropriate level of tension between these opposing forces.  If one role is allowed to dominate, the project risks wasting time and energy or not adequately understanding the business requirements and ultimately being unsuccessful.  The BA and PM need to reach a balance between doing more analysis and moving forward in the project, one that results in an acceptable level of risk.  This makes it especially difficult for a single person to fulfill both roles.  A person dedicated to reaching the specification in the requirements may have a very different assessment of what level of risk is acceptable than someone with the larger context of the project in mind.  When a person is doing the work of the project as a BA they are not managing the work, and vice versa.  In this situation, one of the roles must suffer.  It can be difficult for an individual to resolve this conflict equitably.  Instead, people tend to devote more time to whichever role they like most, or have more interest in.

Maximizing Constructive Conflict

Many factors should be taken into account when an organization decides how best to foster a proper level of conflict between its BAs and PMs.  In order to position the roles for maximum constructive conflict, the organization should assess the characteristics of the project, the individuals playing the roles and the organization itself.  These characteristics include:

BA & PM Project Organization

Level of Experience


Degree of Visibility

Degree of Business Transformation



The skills, experience and personality of the people playing the roles all help guide what tasks they should be responsible for.  A higher degree of visibility might require one of the roles to be more dedicated to communication.  The more business transformation the project involves, the greater the need for one of the roles to spend time on change management.  Similarly, many elements of the organization’s culture can have a bearing on how effective each role can be and how prominent each should be.  A more mature organization might require less ’As-Is’ analysis than an immature one allowing the BA to do other things.  For the skills, experience, culture and maturity both the current and desired states are important.   All of these factors help to define the roles and their interactions in a way that provides a beneficial tension to the project.

In high business transformation efforts, the BA and PM should consider these factors and decide how they will maintain the desired level of tension.  They can decide jointly who is responsible for activities, especially those for which they both have the necessary skills.  Periodically, as the project progresses, they can check how well each of them is fulfilling the responsibilities they agreed to.  If there are problems, the BA and PM jointly should assess them and decide how to resolve them for the remainder of the project.  During the analysis phase of the project, the PM deals with external issues so that the BA can focus on business analysis.  Each unique combination of pertinent factors, though, could lead to a different way of coordinating these roles and maximizing the conflict that arises from their respective focuses.


While definitely different, both the BA and PM play an important part in the success of projects and organizations as a whole.  The Business Analyst strives to transform the business and the Project Manager pushes to produce the solution, each exerting their force to move the company closer to its intended results.  As the discipline of Business Analysis continues to develop it will become more prominent in organizations and each will need to assess its environment to discern how to best enable these two roles to work in conflict, but also in concert.



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