Business Analysts vs. Project Managers – friends or frenemies?

By Sandra Mukundu

2PM Services’ Senior Business Analyst, Sandra Mukundu, shares her insights on the age-old question… Business Analysts vs. Project Managers – friends or frenemies?

Most of us have experienced the “friends or frenemies” saga before. The colleague who borrows your pens and never gives them back. Or the older sister who encourages you to get the pageboy haircut.

In this case, the Business Analyst who worries that the Project Manager is promising the client more than can be delivered and the Project Manager who worries that the Business Analyst is promising the client things that sit outside the project scope. So, is there a solution, can the two learn to work in harmony?

Let’s explore this further… but first… the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines Project Managers (PMs) as:

While the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) defines a Business Analyst (BA) as:

What is the role of the Project Manager?

Essentially, Project Managers (PMs) are responsible for the planning, execution, and closure of a project, while Business Analysts (BAs) are mainly concerned with the “product” and ensuring it meets the requirements and demands of the project’s key stakeholders. Although the respective authorities listed above are very clear on the individual roles of PMs and BAs, there is potential for overlap and conflict between the two, bringing us to the question – friends or frenemies?

A friend is “a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection”. A frenemy is “a person with whom one is friendly despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry”. One colleague of mine refers to the Business Analyst / Project Manager relationship as “constructive tension”. Meaning while they may disagree on some issues, the tension between them can be constructive. As long as they both act professionally and in the best interests of the project.

BAs and PMs typically work closely together on projects. However, in my opinion, there is potential for them to reach a point of conflict when it comes to stakeholder management. In my experience, Business Analysts fear that Project Managers promise unachievable things to stakeholders. Generally because they are not across the detail or complexity involved in delivering the project. While Project Managers may fear that Business Analysts promise certain things to stakeholders that will increase the scope of the project beyond what has been planned.

What is the role of the Business Analyst?

As a BA, I understand the importance of good stakeholder management. I believe my role is to know and appreciate the value each stakeholder brings to the project. I strive to have open and honest conversations with them about the project, using their preferred means of communication.

However, some stakeholders will see the project status email come through each month but, due to their busy schedule, may not fully understand the key dates or milestones. This may require a face-to-face conversation or an informal coffee catch-up to explain these things in more detail.

I have worked on projects where the Project Manager wanted to be included in all conversations with the stakeholders, which led to them feeling left out when catch-ups occurred without them.

Working together

So, how do Business Analysts and Project Managers work together collaboratively within a project team and become “friends”? Ultimately, it comes down to communication. Both BAs and PMs need to communicate openly, not only with each other, but with their various stakeholders.

Establishing clear channels of communication from the beginning of a project will ensure that there are no conflicting messages to stakeholders or each other. Without proper communication and collaboration, the BA and PM may have tension over who “owns” the stakeholders, when in fact, the project owns the stakeholders.

A good project-level communication plan needs to be put in place to minimise the potential for conflict to arise. This may be formal or informal but, at the end of the day, the Business Analyst and Project Manager need to ensure that project stakeholders are kept informed and engaged throughout the life of the project… that way everyone wins!

Could your project benefit from the assistance of one of our skilled Business Analysts or Project Managers? To learn more, please contact the 2PM Services team here.

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Editors note: this post was originally published on the 13th of March 2022 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehension.