In this final instalment of the ‘working together’ series, I’ll be looking at how to improve the working relationships between project managers and business analysts.
Changing working relationships is often more about culture than concrete tasks, but there are some things you can do to smooth any blips in the way that project managers and business analysts work together. Here are four tips:
Roles and responsibilities matrix
Have a roles and responsibilities document or matrix for the project. If you are a BA and there isn’t one for your project, get your project manager to do it. There’s an interesting debate on betterprojects.net about roles and responsibilities matrices. For me, they are a useful starting point for who does what, which can help ensure that everyone is clear about what is expected of them. They can also act as professional development guides, so a PM who wants BA experience, or a BA who wants PM experience, can see what the other role involves and who is doing it, and some development activity can be built around that. However, writing it down on paper will not mean people will abide by it. Worst case scenario, it creates a ‘that’s not my job’ mentality, with people hiding behind the matrix. Still, it can provide the opportunity for a helpful debate about who does what, which should avoid some of the “What does a BA do again?” questions.
Know the goals of the project
Common goals are such an important thing on the project. The difficult thing is that often people will get different things out of the project and as such their personal goals might not be aligned to that of the project. Even so, you should strive – PM and BA together – to ensure that the whole project team is clear about the outcome and goals of the work to be undertaken. It makes teamwork a lot easier when people know what they are working towards and can clearly see how their contribution fits in.
Balance “schedule/budget” with “quality/stakeholder satisfaction”
Project managers care about schedule and budget. It’s unfair to say that we don’t care about quality and stakeholder satisfaction, but we can lose sight of those elements. As a BA, challenge your project manager to keep quality and stakeholder satisfaction always in the foreground. There is no point delivering a project on time and under budget if the end product is rubbish. Sometimes project managers are so driven by dates and money that we forget that the result has to be a useful, workable solution for our customer, meeting all their functional needs. Remind us!
Value the contributions that everyone makes
Valuing the contributions that everyone makes sounds all fluffy, but in reality it’s about the professionalism and respect that comes with knowing you are pulling for the same goal. It’s also about not doing someone else’s job. Tell people to back off and let you get on with it if they tread on your toes. And most importantly, share your exasperations. At the Business Analysis conference where I gave a version of this paper, we asked the audience how many of them had issues in their working relationships with their project managers. A generous proportion of them put up their hands – and kept them up when we asked if the problem was the other person’s fault. Interestingly, very few people had done anything about it. Nothing changes unless you talk about it and work to fix it! Whinging to the cat when you get home won’t make your working relationships with your colleagues any better.
Missed previous instalments of this ‘working together’ series?
Read part 1 here: the triple constraint
Read part 2 here: what project managers value
Read part 3 here: what project managers don’t value