You're a business analyst? A project manager? Oh a hybrid then?

Tom Hughes 16.03.2018

The line between a business analyst jobs and project manager is starting to erode. Do companies now want a business analyst, a project manager or a hybrid?

Business analyst, project manager or hybrid?

Lately, it seems like there has been a lot of ambiguity surrounding the description of a role on a job specification and what the job may actually require. In some cases job descriptions may be over-embellished, making the positions seem more senior than they might be, in an attempt to invite more experienced professionals to the draw. However, most of the time, this involves a professional applying for one role, but doing the work of two.

Within the orchestra, the business analyst would be a violinist creating wonderful music, and the project manager would be the conductor. The business analyst is an important individual contributor while the project manager is in a leadership role within the context of the project team. Usually, projects, like an orchestra, should include both a BA and a PM. However, with limited budgets, time, scale and scope viability issues, it may be worth discussing which of the two a company would rather hire.

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Project managers

Project managers coordinate all of the contributors to the project, to deliver value to internal and external stakeholders. When hiring a project manager, an employer will be looking for an individual who knows how to identify and track risks, and will be able to schedule effectively by tracking resources and work dependencies. They can also monitor time, cost and quality to quickly identify when a project isn’t where it’s expected to be.

Business analysts

However, with a business analyst, you may not know what you are getting. You may end up with someone who is little more than a scribe or someone who takes charge of delivering a holistic business solution. The skills and techniques could range from an expert facilitator to a subject matter expert to a process analyst to someone who is little more than a technical writer. The business analyst should understand the business need, business capabilities, and range of available options and provide a robust justification for the proposed solutions.

There are several elements that define the business analyst’s value.

First, they help define, manage and control the scope of the product or solution. Second, as a dedicated resource, they communicate the urgency, value, benefit and risk of the proposed solution. Third, they clearly analyse, document and manage the project’s requirements. They also define the problem, get buy-in from stakeholders and the project team, and define and communicate the business solution.

However, their full value can become diluted when they’re solely focused on internal initiatives. The true value of a business analyst may be perceived by their ability to correctly research business problems and develop solutions that address needs. When appropriately aligned with organisational goals, business analysts can create a tremendous amount of value. However, their full value can become diluted when they’re solely focused on internal initiatives.

But then the question arises, why not a hybrid?

A hybrid BA / PM may have their own merits and limitations, some of which may centralise around the common theme of either being taken advantage of through having to work two jobs in one or by not being able to (technically) specialise and therefore not being able to set themselves apart from the competition.

Furthermore, the biggest issue seems to be the definition of the role; the term business analyst is very general. Although the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) has done a good job of defining the skill set a business analyst needs, the biggest problem is still that the role and responsibilities of BAs vary so widely amongst different organisations that a single level of expectation or judgement does not exist.

Ideally, a single definition of business analyst should be created within which the role should be broken into different functions or roles (process, product, regulatory, data management) instead of sticking to a big tent approach. Business analysts must also aim to show a more direct relationship to value, in order to avoid facing increasing marginalisation, i.e. being perceived as an overhead rather than an essential value-producing function.

Trends for the future may include more project managers adding the business analyst skill set to their professional development by taking certification courses and training in business analysis. The same goes for senior business analysts; they may seek project management certification and take on project management full time. The roles should ideally become more clearly defined and so allowing professionals to flock to the role that best meets their personal, professional, and organisational needs.

Tom Hughes's picture
Senior Consultant | Project & Change Management Recruitment | London
thughes@morganmckinley.co.uk