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Sunday, March 11, 2012

How to Handle Being a Slash Part 2

We addressed some actions you can take when you are both project manager and business analyst in the last couple of blogs, now let’s talk about attitude.

One of the problems with being both a business analyst and a project manager or even a business analyst and a system analyst or maybe all three is that the tasks and activities are basically the same. Both roles define problems, communicate with all levels of the organization, define solutions, define requirements, assess risk, perform stakeholder analysis, define and maintain scope, handle changes, plan, manage expectations, and so forth. The difference is in focus.

The business analyst focuses on all things pertaining to the business or the product (the result of the project). The project manager focuses on all things pertaining to the project. In other words, while the project manager identifies and assesses project risk, the business analyst identifies and assesses product or business risk. The project manager defines problems in the execution of the project. The business analyst defines problems in the business. And so forth. To the degree that you can retain and not confuse your focuses will be the degree of success you achieve as a slash.

Keep in mind a couple of tenets. The project manager has authority; the business analyst does not. This means that when you make pronouncements about the project make sure you are not doing it while performing the business analyst role. To retain as much of the checks and balances that are built in when there are two people playing the roles, keep your focus as business analyst away from the project. For the most part, the business analyst should not be concerned with deadline or budget. The business analyst is focused on delivering the solution to the business problem. The project manager however is very much concerned with the project deadline and budget.

The project manager will resist any changes that will impact those constraints while the business analyst should resist any attempts to reduce scope to fit the constraints where the reduction causes the problem not to be solved completely. This is a healthy relationship, as long as it remains professional. As a slash, you may have to argue with yourself about these issues. But that should be all right in today’s environment since most people will assume you are talking on your cell phone.

The tricks discussed in the last blog are techniques to assist you in maintaining separate focuses. There are some other tricks we can talk about in the next edition.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How to handle being a slash part 1

The first thing to do is to separate your roles as much as possible. This can be done physically. For example, put your business analyst materials and files and folders on one side of the desk and the project manager materials and files on the other. Under your project directory separate the emails and other documents into a “business analyst” folder and a “project manager” folder. In other words, do what you need to do to separate the two roles so that you will be able to focus only on one role at a time.
Then you want to make sure all communications are with the appropriate role.
When you start a meeting make sure everyone understands who is moderating the meeting, the business analyst or the project manager. Do not assume that because you have convened a “requirements session” that the participants will understand that you are a business analyst. Make it clear at the risk of sounding redundant. Reminding the participants what your role is will help them focus on you in that role and the meeting will be more productive.
Also when talking one on one, make sure that the person clarifies which role you are expected to be in that conversation. Do not assume, or try to deduce it from the conversation. Ask. You will be surprised if not amazed to find a project manager conversation was really aimed at the business analyst. If you are successfully separating your roles, those conversations will be different, even when the topic is the same.
When you are making pronouncements or tendering opinions, it helps to state where the pronouncement or opinion is coming from. “From the project manager’s perspective, I think…”. This way there is no misunderstanding. Remember that what you say as project manager has the specter of authority behind it while the statements of the business analyst may be accepted as opinion only.

In the next blog we will talk about focus and how that helps the slash to handle both sides.