Getting beyond our rivalry with project managers

I attended the Denver IIBA meeting last month.  Wonderful meeting and I found myself rejuvenated by the excitement within the profession.  One thing struck me as quite funny.  There were several jokes made about project managers. They were light and in good taste, but they definitely created an air of “wow, isn’t life grand not being a PM”.  I can’t say I completely disagree. I’ve done PM stuff.  I am good at upfront project planning. I’ve built a team of project managers.  But, luckily for my own personal sanity, I’ve not had full-time project management/coordination responsibilities for a long periods of time.  However, watching them in action, both as a BA and as a manager, has instilled in me a deep sense of respect for the PM profession and for many, many individual PMs within a profession.

So why do BAs give the PMs such a hard time?  I think we have a bit of a reversed inferiority complex.  The PM profession is established; the BA profession is establishing itself.  There is definitely a perception, though it is changing, that the PM role is senior to the BA role.  For example, nearly everyone I’ve worked with always thought I’d “work up” to being “promoted” to a PM.  My opinion based on the experience of overseeing both organizational functions, is that both roles have an equal capacity to bring strategic and tactical value to the organization, albeit in very different ways.  PMs, at the strategic level, will help their companies plan resources and programs and budgets for the next 2-5 years.  Analogously, BAs can be found forming the enterprise strategy of what those programs should do and working with architects on the solutions involved.  But it is much more common to see PMs involved at the strategic level than BAs and maybe this is the reason for the inferiority complex.

But I say, stop joking and kick it up a notch.  Be the BA you want to become.  Sell enterprise analysis within your organization and ensure you’re involved in thinking “outside” the project, a clear sign you are working toward  a strategic contribution. And for goodness sake, give the PMs respect for doing the things you don’t want to do (or simply aren’t good at).

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  1. I find this an interesting topic as I find the two roles moving closer and closer together. Case in point: I am a BA who was hired specifically, in part, because I hold a PMP. As one who has also worked in both roles, I find them to be quite complimentary.

  2. Hi James. Thanks for digging up this post for me. A lot has changed in the year and a half since I wrote it and I’m proud to say my style has changed too. There are a few too many generalizations in this rant I published and so I would find myself today agreeing with you that in general business analysts do not have an inferiority complex. But some do and some need the message that is here.

    I do take your point about authoritative PMs vs. collaborative ones. It sounds like you’ve got a great tactic for asserting yourself as a BA in this sort of situation.


  3. With all due respect, I would like to disagree with your premise that BAs are suffering from an inferiority complex. The real problem is that some PMs take an authoritarian approach to management and try dictate requirements to the BA in pursuit of a preconceived agenda. This is an assault on our professional responsibilities and should be resisted.

    The best way to deal with this is to submit status reports that require the PM to make more decisions in writing. If the PM makes these decisions, then they are responsible for the results. If they defer the decisions, they are forced to reduce their power. Either way the BA wins.

    Note that this is not an attack on PMs but on authoritarian PMs. Collaborative PMs should be supported and rewarded.

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