How Business Analysts and Project Managers Can Work Together: The Janus Relationship

Janus Relationship Project Manager BAIn Roman mythology the god of gates and doors is Janus.  In his capacity as god of doorways, he is also the god of beginnings and endings and was used by the ancient Romans to symbolize change and transitions, and the launch of new enterprises.  Romans placed statues of Janus near a doorway or paintings of the god over the front door of the house so that he could look inward to protect the household and at the same time look outward to prevent unauthorized entry.  He is depicted with two faces, one looking forward and the other backward, giving him literally “eyes in the back of his head”.

The image of Janus looking forward to the new and backward at the old is an appropriate representation of the relationship between the project manager and the business analyst.  Since an individual human does not possess the ability to view in two directions simultaneously, the project manager and business analyst form a relationship whereby they are working toward the same goal:  the project manager looks inward toward the solution team to make sure the solution is being built right, while the business analyst looks outward to the customer and organization to ensure that the right solution is being built.

The project manager and business analyst have the same overall purpose:  a high quality product.  The business analyst is determining what must be done to successfully solve the business problem brought forth by the business community.  The project manager is determining how to efficiently solve the problem in a timely fashion.  Acting in the role of doorkeeper, the project manager protects the project team from attention draining interruptions and the business analyst filters changes, issues and problems that emanate from the business community.  Those issues that the business analyst does not filter out are then filtered by the project manager based on schedule, budget and feasibility.

When the two are in synch, the business analyst has no trouble representing the project manager’s view to the customer and the project manager has a clear view of the product that will solve the customer’s problem.  They have the same partnership as the pilot and navigator:  the business analyst provides the destination and the project manager drives the project.  Through the business analyst, the project manager understands the scope of the product being delivered, its importance to the organization, risks to the business, and impact a given solution will have on other parts of the organization.  Through the project manager, the business analyst understands the technical challenges and issues and is able to relay those challenges to the business in terms that allow the customer and stakeholders to make reasoned decisions about the project.

There is a strong implication in the Janus metaphor that the project manager and business analyst are “of one mind”.  However, even with the close relationship required for success, the business analyst and project manager should provide a check and balance on each other.  The business analyst makes sure the project manager does not sacrifice the solution to the exigencies of schedule or budget.  The project manager keeps the business analyst within the limits of technological feasibility and realistic project performance.

When working with technical project managers, it might be the business analyst’s job to forge this Janus relationship.  The business analyst may have more developed interpersonal and communication skills by the nature of the job.  That is not a knock against technical project managers who deal more with technical issues and code; that is simply a statement of role differentiation.  In the end, it is best if it is a mutual merging, although it doesn’t matter who initiates the partnership, as long as the relationship exists for the duration of the project.

Of course, when you are playing both project manager and business analyst roles simultaneously it means you have to be facing both outward and inward.  That brings up an unfortunate picture of being “two faced” which does not connote a positive image.  Here is a bit of advice for those who must be a project manager and business analyst on the same project.  As much as possible separate the activities you perform as business analyst from those you perform as project manager.  For example, carry a different notebook for each role, or record information on your computer into different directories, or, as I did on one project, wear different colored baseball caps.  The more you can separate the roles, the easier it will be to perform them.  And, just as important, let anyone you communicate with at any time know which role you are playing.  This will prevent confusion, mis-communication.

Bottom line: the better the relationship between the project manager and the business analyst is, the greater the focus and likelihood for a quality product on time and on budget.

>>Learn More About the Relationship between PMs and BAs

Click one of the links to read about article:

What’s the Difference Between a Senior BA, Lead BA, and Project Manager?

Working with Project Managers to Juggle the Triple Constraint

Is Project Management the Next Step in a Business Analyst Career? 

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  1. I totally agree. I’ve seen first-hand how a great relationship between business analysts and project managers have helped my business and put me on top of the game and over my competitors. You just need the proper combination of input and you’re good to go.

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