There is always a chance – depending on the organization structure and project load on the project managers available – that this could be happening in any organization. I have personally led a couple of projects where, due to my schedule with other projects, I’ve had to rely heavily on BA participation and part-time leadership of the project. It’s not a good path to follow regularly – but when the project is smaller and you – the project manager – are tied heavily to other projects that are requiring most or all of your time, it may have to happen. And only if the client is very comfortable with your business analyst.
And then there are also those times when there is no project manager available to assign to a given project and a good and experienced business analyst is asked to fill both roles. This is the scenario where I have no experience because I’ve never been a business analyst. Again, it’s not a great idea unless the project is a small one because I do understand the business analyst’s role in the project and it is definitely not an easy one. To also give them the project management duties on the engagement means that one or both roles are going to suffer.
When the business analyst is asked to fill both roles, then – based on my assumption that it is a smaller project that is being managed – here is my recommendation on how the project management duties should be handled (and again, I’m going to assume that the business analyst is not a former project manager and has no specialized PM training):
Managing and engaging the project client. First, if the business analyst is taking over for an outgoing PM that isn’t being replaced, don’t be deceitful with the client. Let them know immediately what is going on and reset their expectations to understand that the business analyst is now performing dual roles. If the client finds out on their own that there’s no project manager in charge anymore, they won’t be happy and you may not recover enough to get back to that happy place with them.
The business analyst must stress to the client that the BA role was and will continue to be their primary role. This may be a touchy subject so depending on how you want to handle this you can stress to the customer that this will be saving them some money in the long run because the PM usually charges out at a higher rate and there will be no more PM-only hours…they’ll be blended with the BA hours from now on. Again, that’s touchy because it also appears to make the PM role non-essential for future engagements so be careful with this one.
Managing the project schedule. The business analyst may or may not be adept at using a tool such as FastTrack Schedule. However, usually they are. It’s best, though, if your organization is using a good, collaborative PM tool with a short learning curve – there are plenty of these available now. This way, other project personnel and even the customer team to collaborate and update task information while making life easier for the business analyst who is now overloaded.
In the case where the business analyst is wearing dual hats, it’s still important to maintain a project schedule, though keeping the effort on this as simple as possible is critical to the successful performance of the BA’s other duties on the project.
Communication. The key role of communicator on the project now falls to the business analyst. All decisions, emails, key phone calls, status calls, etc. need to be funneled through the BA whenever possible. This is a lot of extra load on the BA, but effective and efficient communication is still critical and must be maintained.
Status reporting. A good business analyst is already good at documenting key information on the project so I’m not going to be lenient on this one. It’s still important to maintain consistent weekly project status reporting to the team, customer, and senior leadership. In fact, this is probably more critical – especially on small projects – than maintaining a tight project schedule. Don’t slip on this – the customer will notice and quickly become concerned. Hold the weekly meetings and review the status report as the main activity during those calls.
Call for input
What are your thoughts? What is your experience on projects where the BA must be one of – if not THE one – key leaders? What advice or experience thoughts do you have to share for a very successful project engagement?