/ / BAs and PMs working together (part 2)

BAs and PMs working together (part 2)

Last week I wrote about the way that project managers work, and how this relates to OTOBOS.  This week I want to explain what project managers value in our working relationships with business analysts.

Project managers see BAs as architects.  They are detailed, they decide on and build solutions, they work in a methodical way.  There are often multiple iterations to their work while they strive to get the ‘right’ solutions for the business and the customer.  Project managers like solutions.  We like things all neatly tied up and ready for us to implement.  We’re impatient in the analysis phase and we just want to get on and roll out the BA’s great invention.

We also like communication.  It’s not a good idea to keep all your knowledge to yourself.  It doesn’t make you more powerful, it just makes you difficult to work with.  And everyone wants to work with people who are easy to work with.  So ‘do’ communication.  Find out what the project manager wants and give it to them: weekly written update, phone call a couple of times a week or – heaven forbid – a daily log of activity.  Personally, I think this is overkill but it does depend on the type and scale of the project, and whether or not you are a contractor.

Allied to communication is accurate estimates.  We know it is hard when a lot of BA work relies on interviews with and validation from end users.  It’s fine to give estimates in a range:  4-6 days, 15 days +/- 30%, and so on.  It’s even better if you can provide estimates that say that work is due to finish at 3pm on Thursday afternoon, but in real life that’s rarely possible.  The reason that this is so important to us is that we normally have people scheduled to do things with whatever the outcome of the BA task is.  For example, when a functional spec is complete it will be passed to a techie to produce the technical spec.  Good estimates help project managers to plan dates and resources.

On the subject of planning, project managers appreciate it if you hit milestones.  There are very few reasons why you wouldn’t be able to hit a milestone, and there is nearly always something a PM can do to make it easier for that milestone to be reached.  For example, we can provide more resources, do other tasks in parallel, or – worst case – move the milestone to a more realistic date and reorganise everything else around it.

With that in mind, we appreciate early warnings.  If you know you are not going to hit a milestone, tell the project manager as soon as you can.  With notice, we can move things around – or provide help to get tasks back on track.  There’s often very little we can do at the last minute, apart from standing there and watching while our carefully constructed plan falls apart, before pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and designing a new one.

Business analysts often have a much broader and deeper view of the business than project managers, and spend a lot more time with business people.  Early warnings also apply to risks and issues: if you notice something, please tell us.  Getting a risk on the register early gives us all more chance of doing things to make sure it doesn’t materialise.

Even so, we’d prefer that there weren’t any risks or issues and that everything was right first time.  This is often a problem for business analysts (and everyone, actually) because so much of the role requires input from end users who are not themselves right first time.  We value a ‘right first time’ attitude, even if it isn’t practically possible, because rework and changes are costly and complicated.  While we can nearly always accommodate changes, it is a lot easier to write in that key piece of software functionality that the users must have at the beginning, rather than realise we left it out with three weeks to go.

So, to summarise, project managers value:

  • Solutions
  • Communication
  • Accurate estimates
  • Hitting milestones
  • Early warnings
  • Right first time.

Essentially, it boils down to things that help us keep the project on schedule and on budget – those critical elements of OTOBOS.

Next week: what project managers don’t value when working with business analysts!

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