For decades, project failure rates were astronomical. To deliver a project on time, on budget, and on scope has never been easy. At times, it seems impossible to achieve.
There are many reasons why project managers and their teams fail: not enough time, not enough resources, poor change management processes, “scope creep”, and the list goes on. One consistent factor resonates in failed projects: Incorrect or incomplete specifications. We aren’t clear who our customer is, what they really want and need and how they will use the product.
The fact is, even the most highly competent project manager will fail without the right project specifications.
Enter the Business Analyst
In the mid 2000s, there was a eureka! moment for IT, telecommunications and other industries – they discovered the business analyst (BA). “Why didn’t we think of this sooner?” we asked. “If the construction and engineering sector need proper specs before they build, why wouldn’t we?”
No one is to blame here. This discovery was a natural evolution. It took 15-20 years for all of us to realize that the newer projects were large enough and critical enough to warrant a new phase at the front end. This is what a BA does. The BA is there to make sure that when we build it, we build it right – the first time.
This preliminary BA phase provides:
- a stakeholder analysis that will ensure we are dealing with the right people
- an analysis of the users’ requirements
- time to present models of the potential end-result
- documentation that would ensure we all understand each other and that our expectations are properly set.
Together, project managers and BAs bring complementary expertise to the table. The project manager focuses on the timely and cost-effective delivery of project objectives. The BA makes sure that the right projects are identified, and the needs of the business are effectively served by the organizational capabilities delivered through the project.
Both tasks are critical to the success of any project and to the longer-term competitiveness of the organization. Fortunately, both of these important disciplines are governed by respective bodies of knowledge and professional certification standards: the PMP (Project Management Professional designation) and the CBAP (Certified Business Analysis Professional designation). These individual sets of skills create a force for effective achievement of enhanced competitiveness for organizations through successful projects.
This article is written by David Barrett, program director for Schulich ExecEd’s upcoming program Masters Certificate in Business Analysis (starting Jan. 24, 2019). The program is designed to help project managers get the solution right before the project starts.