The Power of Business Analysis: Enhancing Project Management in Todays’ World

What Is Business Analysis In Project Management?

Business analysis in project management involves identifying and defining business needs, then developing solutions to meet those needs within a project framework. It plays a critical role in understanding business processes, gathering and documenting requirements, and ensuring that the project’s solutions are aligned with the business strategy. 

This process bridges the gap between stakeholders and project teams, aiming to achieve sustainable change and deliver value. Essentially, business analysis ensures that projects are aligned with business objectives, optimising project outcomes for organisational and stakeholder benefit.

Business Analysis vs Project Management

Business Analysis and Project Management are related disciplines that work together to ensure the success of projects. 

Project Management provides a framework that focuses on planning, executing, and closing projects. It is the role of the Project Manager to ensure that project goals are achieved on time, within budget and to scope. 

Key elements of project management include:

  • Defining project objectives
  • Creating/managing a project plan
  • Allocating resources
  • Managing risks
  • Maintaining a schedule
  • Ensuring timely delivery

Business Analysis is the process of identifying business needs, defining solutions, and facilitating the implementation of those solutions. It involves understanding and analysing business processes, eliciting, and documenting requirements and ensuring that proposed solutions align with the overall business strategy. 

Business analysts act as intermediaries between stakeholders and project teams, ensuring that projects meet the intended business objectives. (Refer: The Power of Business Analysis: Enhancing Project Management in Todays’ World, Bec Cortesi.) 

Business Analysis is crucial to achieving sustainable change and delivering valuable, lasting benefits to organisations and relevant external stakeholders. Millpond is committed to providing expert guidance, leveraging industry best practices, and cultivating a collaborative approach. This is why, here at Millpond, we are growing our Business Analysis practice. 

What Is The Role Of A Business Analyst In Project Management?

In project terms, Business Analysis is a critical component throughout the project lifecycle. A Business Analyst should be proactive, seeking opportunities to contribute to a project. This can typically happen in several areas: 

Defining Scope 

Business Analysts work with stakeholders to help determine what is in and out of scope. Information gleaned helps support Project Managers to define the Project Plan, schedule, resource requirements etc. 

Understanding Business Needs 

Business Analysis can support Project managers to define the scope and objectives of the project by helping them understand the needs of the organisation, its business and internal/external stakeholders. This includes gathering requirements, analysing stakeholders/stakeholder groups, and identifying business objectives.  

Analysing/Managing Requirements 

Business Analysts elicit, analyse and document user requirements. Ideally, they continue to manage requirements throughout the project lifecycle to ensure that stakeholder needs, and organisational goals are met. These must be considered as the Project Manager plans, executes, monitors/controls, and closes the project. 

Managing Change 

Business Analysts can help the Project Manager to assess the impact of changes on project scope, schedule, budget, and people. Stakeholder engagement is necessary so that Business Analysts can provide Project Managers with information to help evaluate change requests, associated impacts, etc. 

Managing Quality Assurance 

Business analysts have an ongoing role, contributing to quality assurance throughout a project. This may include validating requirements, assessing stakeholders needs, and ensuring ongoing alignment with organisational goals. 

Managing Risk 

Along with Project Managers, Business Analysts identify project risks, as well as dependencies, constraints, changes etc. Project Managers use this information in their risk management plans and as part of monitoring/controlling a project. 

Communicating and Collaborating 

Both Business Analysts and Project Managers must exercise and encourage communication and collaboration between the project team and stakeholders. This is crucial to ensure ongoing alignment and to manage expectations. Typically, Business Analysts pass user requirements to project teams and seek validation of the delivery from stakeholders. Project Managers are likely to facilitate meetings, provide status updates and resolve conflicts as required. 

Supporting Continuous Improvement 

Both Project Management and Business Analysis should focus on continuous improvement. This may be achieved by assessing project performance, identifying lessons learned and recommending quality enhancements/best practices for future projects. The two disciplines offer the opportunity to collaboratively refine processes, approaches, methodologies etc. to enhance current and future project outcomes.

Business Analysis And Project Management In A Project: Collaborative Power 

Millpond maintains that Business Analysis and Project Management should work together to ensure successful project delivery and ongoing benefits for organisations. The table below identifies the possible tasks that each may perform, broken down into traditional project phases. 

Spreadsheet: PM/BA, Project Phases

PMI Project management and business analysis ( shares a conference paper that refers to the integrated use of these two disciplines as a “dynamic duo” and depicts them in the following way.  

PM/BA: The dynamic duo

(Reference: Maritato, M. (2012). Project management and business analysis: the dynamic duo. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2012—EMEA, Marsailles, France. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.)

What Are The Required Skills Of A Business Analyst In A Project? 

To glean the benefits of the collaborative approach proposed, Business Analysts must have the necessary skills and attitudes. 

The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) presents IIBA Knowledge Areas and underlying competencies that form part of their IIBA Competency Model.  These are: 

  • Analytical Thinking and Problem Solving 
  • Behavioural Characteristic 
  • Business Knowledge 
  • Communication Skills 
  • Interactions Skills 
  • Tools and Technology 

The Better Business Analysis Institute (BBAI) believes that The Better Business Analysis Fundamental Skills offer a collection of essential, key specialist skills and knowledge areas that expands on that presented by the IIBA. Notably, the BBAI references the importance of soft skills (such as: time management, adaptability, leadership, emotional intelligence, presentation skills, teamwork, communication, problem-solving) and goes further in the following areas: 

  • BA Planning & Governance 
  • Stakeholder Management, and 
  • Elicitation & Collaboration 

(Refer: BBAI) The Better Business Analysis Fundamental Skills are broken into the following areas. Millpond notes the overlap between many. 

1. BA Planning & Governance

This skill area involves defining and planning the scope and providing governance throughout the project lifecycle. The aim is to ensure that Business Analysis tasks/activities are well-defined, well-executed and well-controlled. It covers identifying/engaging stakeholders, managing risks/issues, defining the approach (e.g. to requirements management and communication) and maintaining high-quality governance. 

2. Business Context & Knowledge

This skill area covers the basic understanding of business operations and concepts that a Business Analyst should have. This should include understanding of business strategy, organisations (e.g. behaviour, HR, operations management etc.), sales/marketing (industry trends, competitive landscape etc.), IT, Project Management etc.  

3. Stakeholder Management

This is critical. It includes identifying stakeholders, analysing/prioritising their needs, communicating well, resolving any conflicts, and keeping stakeholders appropriately engaged. 

4. Behaviour

Successful Business Analysts are often detail-oriented, creative, curious, and flexible. They have a strong work ethic, a positive attitude, good organisational skills, empathy, and they manage their time well. 

5. Problem Solving & Analysis:

Business Analysts need to think analytically and solve problems. For example, these skills are needed when defining a problem, gathering/analysing information, developing/evaluating solutions and managing delivery of the requirements. 

6. Elicitation & Collaboration:

Elicitation includes gathering information from stakeholders regarding their requirements, desires, and expectations. It is a critical part of any project/initiative. This includes being well-prepared, engaging strongly and successfully documenting/communicating findings. 

7. Communication & Interaction

Business Analysts need to be able to communicate and interact well with various and varying stakeholders, including customers, project managers, developers, testers, line managers, executives etc. This is likely to occur in multiple ways: listening, presenting, facilitation, negotiation, providing feedback, following up etc. 

8. Tools & Technology

Business Analysts need a strong command of relevant IT based tools and a readiness to adapt to preferred tools, based on specific circumstances. 

Millpond agrees that a well-rounded Business Analyst requires skills in all these areas. They are important for project/initiative success. Are they enough though? Certainly not in isolation. 

Importantly, Millpond emphasises the need for a Business Analyst to possess/develop various soft skills. Some of these, such as strong work ethic, a positive attitude, and empathy are touched on above. However, there are some other qualities/characteristics that cannot be emphasised enough. Here are three. 

1. “The Glue”

Business Analysts need to be the glue – they stick things together and they are “sticky beaks”. It is their job to fill any cracks, especially between the Project Team and the stakeholders. Their eyes and ears are always open. A Project Manager should be careful when excluding Business Analysts from anything. Business Analysts should be observant and inquisitive. As a Business Analyst, if you think you’ve asked enough questions – maybe ask 50% more! If you think you have invited the right people – keep asking around and double check. In fact, check everything again! 

2. RapportPicture of a blue person simultaneously shaking hands with two white people

Business Analysts need to be able to establish rapport. All this ‘engaging with Stakeholders’ cannot happen if an open channel of communication does not exist or they are not liked. Be the person that stakeholders want to talk to and trust.

3. Careful and Caring

Business Analysts need to care – be the advocate for both your stakeholders (you may be their only voice) and your project. Be careful and caring – bring empathy! 

Here at Millpond, trust, reliability, integrity and care are at the heart of everything we do. These qualities are especially important for a successful Business Analyst.

Just like most things, being a good Business Analyst in a project environment requires a commitment to continuous learning and adaptation. This includes seeking opportunities for professional development, leveraging industry resources and collaborating with experienced Business Analysts and Project Managers to enhance your project management acumen

Why Is It Crucial To Get Mentorship As A Business Analyst? 

Collaborating with experienced Business Analysts or seeking mentorship can be valuable to your Business Analyst career, as part of Project Teams and working with Project Managers/Management. 

Understanding what area of Business Analysis is of most interest to you, is important. It is also crucial to know where to look for information, support, and answers. 

If you’re interested in finding a mentorship program in Business Analysis, we can also recommend checking out Millpond (Millpond mentoring). 

Summing It Up 

In short, Business Analysis and Project Management should complement each other. Business Analysis provides the data and insights needed for effective Project Management. Together they can vastly increase the chances of reaping the rewards/benefits of successful project delivery. Alignment with business objectives can be ensured, stakeholders’ needs can be met, and quality benefits can be delivered on time, within budget and to scope. 

Business Analysts need a combination of analytical, communication and interpersonal skills: Analytical skills to understanding business/stakeholder processes/problems; Communication skills to enable effective collaboration with stakeholders and coordination with the Project Team; and Interpersonal skills to build relationships. 

Most importantly, for change to be effective, it is not enough for the project to produce a technically robust system/improvement. It must be embraced by the people involved i.e. Stakeholders. The Business Analyst needs to be aware of, and interested in, what is going on. They need to establish the necessary rapport to navigate the project with their stakeholders and to care for them. Collaboration between Business Analysis and Project Management supports this and is, therefore, highly likely to result in a more seamless, successful implementation. 

Note that collaboration doesn’t end there. Both disciplines are well-complemented by and complementary to Change Management.  Be on the lookout for our future blog to explore this third dimension.  

My Picture: the BM/CM/BA triumvirate - triangle of people enveloped in the project circle

Millpond, based in Christchurch, stands as a valuable support system for business analysts. 

Millpond’s comprehensive selection of courses and services accommodates a diverse range of backgrounds and skill levels. 

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