The changing roles of Business Analyst and Project Manager

By 6 June 2017Blog

Agile

Over a three-year period, the number of organisations with some distributed teams using Agile methodology jumped from 35 to 82 per cent, according to VersionOne’s 10th annual State of Agile survey. With this increasing level of adoption, companies must navigate the challenges of transitioning away from older project delivery methodologies in phases.

This creates an interesting combination of roles and processes, especially for positions like Business Analysts (BA) and Project Managers (PM). Banu Raghuraman, Digital Business Analyst and product owner at Avocado Consulting, offers her insights on how organisations can adapt to the Agile shift.

The challenge of defining roles

“Teams are caught in transition, and they want to make sure they’re not letting go of resources in order to prevent any gaps in skill sets or duties.”

A major challenge that emerges for project leadership roles is the lack of clarity about duties within a position.

“Because Waterfall had been around for a long time, the roles themselves had morphed into something so intrinsic that people knew exactly what a project manager or business analyst was supposed to do,” Banu said.

“The IT software world is in a transition state right now, so even though the PM and BA roles belong to Waterfall, they are still being used in Agile. Teams are caught in the transition, and they want to make sure they’re not letting go of resources in order to prevent any gaps in skill sets or duties.”

Do hybrid roles work?

An emerging trend is for some teams to create a hybrid BA/PM position. This can be a good move in certain projects, but it depends largely on scope and context.

“If you see a project touching more than three or four systems, I would definitely recommend having a dedicated BA and PM. Every system will have its own customisations, and if you want someone to really peel back those layers, having a dedicated BA with the proper skill set will really add a lot of value to the project,” Banu recommended.

Agile

In large projects, the BA and PM function in tandem like a ship’s lookout and captain when it comes to risk.

Risk management is at the cornerstone of these roles. In a larger project, when new types of risk are identified, it falls to the PM to step in and assess whether or not the project can carry on. The BA highlights those risks, but it is the PM who manages them and steers projects away from the red zone.

“On a smaller project, however, it’s actually in the team’s best interest for the role to be hybrid,” Banu said.

“That person could see the entire project from A to Z and figure out all the interactions within the systems they’re working on.”

Preparing for the transition

With many teams caught in the middle between Waterfall and Agile, there are a number of ways professionals can prepare for a role as a BA or PM. Banu identifies four key strategies that will be useful in navigating the transition.

  • Be adaptable: Working within the traditional boundaries of the BA and PM roles won’t be of much use to professionals or teams. It’s essential to be ready and welcoming of new tasks and responsibilities that fall outside of traditional duties.
  • Understand the gaps in the process: With so many details about these roles still being ironed out, there’s room to help shape them inside an organisation. By exploring the gaps in this transition, professionals will gain a better perspective on how to define these roles in an Agile context.
  • Train for the future state: The current state is the knowledge and experience professionals already have, but the future state is the endpoint of this transition – and it will require a different skill set. Training for those future requirements will help bridge the gap between both states.
  • Find a mentor: Professionals should look for others who already have the skills that the new evolution of PMs and BAs will use. Ask for their feedback and, if possible, work on projects with them to further practise those valuable skill sets.

How can your organisation successfully traverse the vague territory between these roles in Waterfall and Agile? Avocado Consulting can help choose the best course. Contact us today to learn more. 

Alternatively, if you are interested in BA/ PM roles within our organisation, keep an eye out for opportunities on our careers page.

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