As a client of a company that provides software development services, you want to make sure that the team working on your project is fully staffed and has the exact number of specialists to guarantee the desired results. Understaffing may lead to unmet deadlines and the low quality of the end-product. Hire a team with an unreasonably large number of specialists, and their salaries will become an unbearable burden on your shoulders. These factors lead to the need to understand the area of responsibility that members of the dedicated development team will have during the project. Only in this case, you will avoid miscommunication and ensure that your investments will bring the best possible result.
Unfortunately, if you don’t have substantial experience in cooperating with a custom software developer, some confusion may arise in determining who does what. In most cases, the role of a specific team member won’t cause any questions. For example, it’s pretty obvious that developers will write the code of your future app, UI/UX specialists will do their best to make your app eye-catching and easy-to-use, and the QA team will ensure that the software product has as few bugs as possible. But confusion may arise when we talk about the roles and responsibilities of project managers (PM) and business analysts (BA). The reason is that, according to the specifics of a project, the responsibilities of a business analyst and project manager may overlap, a single person could play both these roles, or there may simply be no need to involve BA in the project.
Today, we’ll shed some light on project managers and business analysts’ roles and explain how their cooperation helps to ensure a successful project.
What’s the Difference Between Business Analyst and Project Manager
As it has been said, sometimes project managers and business analysts may perform the same set of tasks during the project life cycle. Nevertheless, we can outline the generic set of responsibilities characteristic of a particular specialist. Usually, a business analyst focuses on financial data and administrative activities to ensure the overall efficiency of workflow, reduce costs within a department, and help clients resolve the existing issues by delivering a software product that meets their expectations. A project manager, on the other hand, continually monitors the state of the project to ensure that a particular task assigned to a specific team will be completed on time. The task is to keep the pace of development in line with the initial plan and timely resolve unpredicted issues to meet the deadlines without sacrificing the end product’s overall quality.
Now, let’s look more closely at the tasks that business analysts and project managers usually perform to achieve the goals. When you hire a team of developers, the business analyst is usually the first person to outline how the end-product will look. Therefore, we’ll start with a BA.
A business analyst’s primary goal is to dive deep into your business to understand your needs and define the issues that your company faces. The tighter you cooperate with a BA from the very first stages of the project life cycle, the more accurate requirements can be formulated. It is especially crucial if you want to ensure that the end-product meets your expectations. Also, precise requirement gathering allows avoiding tons of re-work at the later stages of the project, which, as you might guess, will increase the overall cost.
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First and foremost, a BA should plan the approach to requirements gathering, analysis, verification, and further documentation. According to the project’s specifics, the plan may include different business analyst activities, resources requirements, and work effort estimates. The next step is to elicit requirements from the client, manage requirement documents, reviews, prioritize or validate activities, etc. Circumstances may change during the development process, and it’s the business analyst’s task to monitor and manage all these changes. To make sure that the project evolves according to a client’s needs, a BA should also ensure the availability of reliable communication channels that will help achieve continuous engagement.
A project manager’s main responsibility is to ensure that the project will be delivered on time and within the budget. For this purpose, a project manager creates a plan covering the project scope, goals, milestones, deadlines, possible risks, etc. During the whole project lifecycle, all the activities should be continuously monitored by a project manager to ensure they’ll be completed according to the initial schedule. From this point of view, it’s also essential to regularly communicate with the customer to report the project’s current status and inform about the issues.
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Talking about the issues. It’s a project manager’s responsibility to manage and resolve risks that occur during the project’s life cycle. To identify the risks timely, a project manager must ensure that all team members are working together, and there are no conflicts among them. Therefore, there’s the need to regularly communicate with staff members to be informed about specific issues and risks. Like a BA, a project manager has to manage the client’s expectations around the project scope.
There may be more responsibilities for project managers and BAs in a real-life project, but we tried to focus on the most common ones. At this point, you may ask if a business analyst plays such an essential role in the project’s life cycle. After all, the most important thing is to make sure that all the team members are doing their jobs, tasks are completed on time, the product is delivered according to the initial plan — and that’s precisely what a project manager does. Actually, involving a BA in the project may bring some substantial benefits.
When Business Analyst Makes a Difference
A successful software product is more than just source code. You may have a team of high-skilled professionals that will provide outstanding technical solutions, but it’s a BA who can help ensure that this solution is the exact thing that will meet a client’s expectation. Such a specialist can bring a lot of value both to the tech staff and to the customer.
First of all, a business analyst can help to reduce project costs. A scrupulous analysis of the client’s business during the requirements gathering helps reduce re-work caused by the client’s dissatisfaction with intermediate results. Overlooked requirements or the slightest misunderstanding between developers and clients in the first stages of development also lead to additional costs. A BA is an exact person whose work is to understand what the client needs and translate this information into the set of tasks for developers, so they get it right.
There’s a big difference between what you want and what you really need. It may take some time for a client to figure out which exact software solution will solve the issues hindering further company growth. Requirements meetings take time and money and do not always result in a specific solution. That’s where a BA may play a key role and develop an effective decision-making process.
An experienced business analyst can build bridges between the world of business and the world of technology. Forcing developers who dedicated their lives to the intricacies of coding to interact with business organizations representatives may not be as productive as you might think. Such an approach may cause misunderstanding leading to unpleasant consequences such as project delays, for example. In their turn, BAs understand both business requirements and technical requirements, which is a pretty helpful skill that allows avoiding miscommunication.
BA, PM, Or Both of Them
A software solution is, at the same time, a project to be completed in time and within the budget, and a product that solves business issues and competes with other products on the market. This factor leads to the differentiation between the roles of BA and PM. A project manager’s key responsibility is to meet the project objectives, while the BA’s primary role is to help a client overcome the existing business issues. When we talk about complex projects, each role requires significant efforts, and accomplishing both of them effectively by a single person is barely possible. Even though the areas of responsibility of a project manager and business analyst often overlap (e.g., collecting requirements, scope management), in most cases, there’s still the need for both of these specialists.
Nevertheless, in some cases, the same person can perform both the project manager and business analyst responsibilities. For example, such an approach can be suitable for a software development company that works on a relatively small project or doesn’t have enough resources for both project managers and BAs.
To create a successful software solution, it’s not enough to write the code and make sure that it has no bugs. Also, it’s essential to ensure that it solves the problem you have. To guarantee that both of these goals are achieved, both the project manager and business analyst’s involvement is required in most cases. The project manager typically focuses on the project as a set of tasks, creates baselines, communicates with development team members, and resolves project issues. On the other hand, the BA focuses on the end product, analyzes the business issues, and offers a technological solution.
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