Power of the business analyst/project manager combo

Looking for a job and/or future job security? The Business Analyst (BA) / Project Manager (PM) combination is a great one-two punch. Yes, these jobs are very different, but they require many of the same skills. You don’t believe me? Then read on!

Let’s begin by listing some of the skills that are needed by both BAs and PMs.

1. Ability to speak eloquently to business users about technical topics 2. Ability to speak eloquently to technical people about business related topics 3. Formalize user needs into a structured format 4. Work simultaneously with people from multiple professional disciplines 5. Ability to present your work to others 6. Ability to define, move toward, and meet project deadlines

There are also a couple of additional BA strengths that would be of value to a PM. They include:

• Ability to understand user needs • The ability to explain user needs to techies, testers, trainers, and others

On the other side of the coin, these are also a couple of key PM skills that would be of value to BAs.

• Ability to define all aspects of a project’s scope and size • Ability to conceptualize all aspects of project plan in regard to needed resources, needed skill sets, and overall structure

The reason that having the ability to act as both a BA and a PM is professionally advantageous is because it makes you more versatile to your company. Speaking for myself as a manager, I always looked for people who could be used in multiple ways. The reason is that it made it easier for me to efficiently schedule and deploy my group. For example, if I had a small project that didn’t require a full time BA and a full time PM, it was great to have the flexibility to use one person on the project full time, rather than two people on the project half time.

Each job role in a software project has its natural rhythms; that is to say, there are busy times and there are slow times. For a PM, classically the busiest times are prior to a project’s actually beginning, when project plans are being formulated, resources are being identified, and funding is being finalized. Then, certainly the PM is busy throughout the project, but gets extremely busy again toward the end of the project to assure all the loose ends are finalized and deadlines are met. Classically for a Business Analyst, the busiest time is when the project begins because the BA is the one collecting, defining, and documenting the users’ requirements (For the Agile purists in the group, yes, I’m assuming a waterfall type methodology. Sorry, next time I’ll use an Agile type example). The BA analyst then continues to be busy during the knowledge transfer of the collected requirements to the programmers, testers, and trainers. Because the BA and the PM busy-times are somewhat different, there is value from a resource perspective to have the same person do both.

All this said, if you can do both, namely act as a BA and PM, this flexibility makes you desirable to hire, more flexible while employed, and less likely to lose your job during a layoff because you can perform multiple functions.

From a credential perspective and assuming you like this idea, if you are a PM by profession, work toward your PMP, it’s a great credential. If you are a BA, work toward a certification in Business Analysis. These certifications will make you more marketable in your primary chosen field. If you already have one of these certifications, work toward the other.

The idea behind having both of these certifications is twofold. First, they are great to have on your resume. Second, and more important in the long run, is that they help provide you with the information and practical knowledge to succeed in the workplace.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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