Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Ideal Relationship

The Great Rift Valley
By User:Doron - Own work,
CC BY-SA 3.0,
This post describes the rationale for a short answer on the LinkedIn discussion called What is the ideal relationship for PM and BA? which was itself inspired by an article called Top 10 Business Analysis Trends in 2014, by ESI International. I noted that ESI predicts increasing cooperation, better differentiation, and more hybrid BA and PM roles. I asked:
  • What kind of BA/PM relationship is best (in your experience)?
  • What was the context for that relationship?
After a few days absence from the thread, I was asked for my 'final analysis'. My answer is below, followed by the rationale for that answer.

What is the ideal relationship for PM and BA?

An ideal relationship between business analysis and project management includes collaboration during a change (if the change is being managed as a project). It also includes the change team being guided by the portfolio team (the folks responsible for deciding to initiate the change (often using a business case).

This relationship has at least two parts because business analysis is a discipline practiced wherever a business might consider or control a change, while project management is a discipline practiced in projects.


It seems that the discussion on LinkedIn and in other forums is hampered by a framing error: we keep taking about business analysis in terms of projects.

Business Analysis isn't done in a project, or before a project, or after a project, or under, or over, or to the right or left of a project. BA tasks are entirely independent of projects. Business Analysis consists of a set of tasks that are performed in a business.

This means that any change will not have 'a business analyst' and discussion of 'the business analyst' binds our thinking, actions, and reactions. These tasks are performed by people in a business to
  • evaluate a potential change.
  • evaluate an actual change.
  • control for the risks of misalignment during a change.
In some cases these tasks are performed taking a view
  • from inside the change, looking out to the context for the change.
  • from outside the change, looking in from the context
  • from the boundary of the change, looking to the into the change and the context at the same time.
Sometimes the business is making a change, and controlling that change (through a project, continuous improvement, or some other approach). Some business analysis tasks are most often performed in this context.

Sometimes the business is considering a change (estimating potential benefits and investments, measuring actual outcomes and costs). Some business analysis tasks are most often performed in this context.

These tasks are performed by many people. Some identify as Business Analysts, and some do not. Some understand that they are performing these tasks, and some do not. A few perform all the tasks, but most do not. If business analysis tasks are performed poorly in any context the business is likely to suffer from actions that are not aligned to purpose, and decisions that are ill informed.

Business Analysis tasks produce necessary information for well informed decision to initiate, decline, continue, or stop a change. If BA tasks are not performed or performed poorly the decision will be uninformed. Uniformed decisions are less likely to be good decisions (for values of 'good' that include aligned to purpose, likely to succeed as intended, etc.).

Business Analysis tasks do not usually provide sufficient information for well informed decision to initiate, decline, continue, or stop a change. Other tasks from other professions and disciplines are also necessary for 'well informed' to be true. Project Management tasks (when a business is running a project) produce necessary information for managing a project, but like business analysis outputs, this information is not sufficient.

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