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We are doing a review or several teams and in certain cases the PM and BA roles are combined into one and in other cases they are seperated out into completely independent teams. I am looking at this from 2 angles.

1. Whats best for the efficiency of the project?

Obviously there are specific analysis and project mgmt responsibilities but we have found that in many cases (depending on size of project, etc) that the person who is doing the analysis is in the best position to really manage the project (as the analysis is what is raising up questions and issues and risks, dependencies, etc) versus separating this into two different roles which would provide an extra hop and potential disconnects. The other question is "can a project manager really "manage" a project if they are not really well versed in the domain knowledge? In many cases we find people are tagged as one label but if you look at the dynamic of the project they are crossing the boundaries of these functions

2. What is best for the individual people?

For example, in certain teams a junior BA grows up to be a project and then program manager so they are really different stages in the same team (versus separate roles). In other cases people don't seem to want to do one or the other. That being said a PM should have a decent understand of the space (goes back to the question above, can you be a great PM if you are not well versed in the domain which mean you must have done some time doing analysis in understanding the space

In many cases the answer might be "depends on the people" but I am curious around how rigid or open people are on this question based on experiences.

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Your question appears to be looking for an answer that applies in all cases, all projects, all the time, or nearly so. If that was the intent behind your question, then my answer would be unequivocally no. Individuals can assume multiple roles and I would venture a guess that this is the case on most projects, especially those that are initiated under competition.

The analysis behind whether an individual can assume another role is if (s)he has available time and that (s)he possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for the other role. Other questions to be answered might include something around separation of duties or conflict of interests that roles can sometimes have. Also, there is some evidence that multitasking can degrade performance, so that needs to be balanced against the expense and risk of bringing on another person to fulfill a role that may not be required full-time.

So your answer to question #1 is about balancing benefits, costs, and risks and you should avoid trying to find a one answer fits all as that would likely be to your detriment. For question #2, that is probably too individualistic to again find a common answer across the board. High performing teams take on whatever role is necessary for success, no matter an individual's preference. Perhaps that should be your focus for project work. Projects are temporary; this is not a life long situation for a person.

  • Nailed down with 'if (s)he has available time and that (s)he possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for the other role'. +1! – Tiago Cardoso Apr 14 '13 at 19:15
  • What are the techniques to assess the business impact based on the scenario given and how does information technology helps to improve this?Any thoughts or idea on this please – ILoveStackoverflow Sep 16 at 1:01
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TL;DR

There is no "best" answer. Project management involves a lot of soft skills and can be very situational. However, there are some clear delineations between roles, and rules of thumb for optimizing teams.

Different Roles Should Be Separate

A project manager's role, when done properly, is a full-time job. So is business analysis. That doesn't mean that people can't fulfill more than one role at a time; all it means is that they are fundamentally different roles with a different set of responsibilities.

At the risk of a flawed analogy, you can't have a soccer player simultaneously playing as both a mid-fielder and a goalie. Sure, it's theoretically possible, but they are different jobs and it's impossible to do both at once--and even if you could, you couldn't do both well.

In the same vein, a project manager is generally responsible for the control and reporting of the project, while a business analyst is typically responsible for gathering customer requirements and feedback. Even if you quibble over the definitions, these are clearly separate roles.

Even if you have a cross-functional team, you will have better productivity if you allow people to focus on one task at a time, and don't ask people to do too many different things at once or in rapid sequence. Task-switching is bad for productivity. This is usually bad for teams, and it's frequently bad for individuals.

Different Roles Belong on the Same Team

Teams should be cross-functional. Whenever possible, a team should contain all the skills necessary to complete a project without having to rely extensively on people or resources outside the project's scope.

By definition, that means that a team that needs business analysis performed should include a business analyst on the team. The skills should be intrinsic to the group, even if you decide to share the skills across multiple people or multiple roles.

What's Best for Individuals is an Individual Thing

If you want to find out what's best for John Doe, ask him. There's no canonical answer for that. That's very much an individual issue, and more in the nature of individual capabilities and workplace politics. I won't address it further other than to say that what benefits the team often benefits the individual, but that there's no substitute for asking people what works best for them.

  • +1 - I find in my experience that I've enjoyed doing many different things: PM, BA, engineer. But I've found it's better to take on one of those roles at a time, such as being a PM for a few years and then moving back into development, but not trying to do both at the same time. I love the soccer analogy! – jmort253 Apr 14 '13 at 21:13
  • What are the techniques to assess the business impact based on the scenario given and how does information technology helps to improve this?Any thoughts or idea on this please – ILoveStackoverflow Sep 16 at 1:01
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Whats best for the efficiency of the project?

What is best for your project is going to depend on the project's complexity and criticality to your business. If the end product is simple & straightforward and/or it isn't mission-critical you can probably get away with a small team and merged project roles. Generally I have found that there is a tendency to ask too much of too few, try to avoid that if you want things done well.

The other question is "can a project manager really "manage" a project if they are not really well versed in the domain knowledge?

A project manager needs to be well versed in the domain knowledge of project management. The underlying principles of PM are universal across sectors. You need some technical knowledge, but 90% of the job is dealing with personalities/people and helping those who do know the nuts & bolts stay on plan. By way of analogy, you probably hire a software developer based on their knowledge of how to develop software rather than the industry the software is meant to support.

What is best for the individual people?

That depends on personality. At the end of the day it is better for your team and team members if everyone enjoys what they do, find their work rewarding, etc. Don't put PM as a step in the promotion ladder for other roles like BAs or software developers, they are very different skillsets and you run the risk of turning good team members off of your company if you force them into a role that they don't have the aptitude for.

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In my opinion or according to experience, both the roles should be different. Again, it really depends on the organisation and the level of projects.

The role of a Project Manager is very high level: managing the project according to the budget and resources available as well as scoping the project request. They work on a high level, managing multiple projects.

On the other hand, the Business Analyst works on a product. Products run longer, projects finish off and close. A BA works on technical details, documentations, and requirements gathering from a business team and then works with developers and analysts to help them in implementations, then carry out User acceptance testing (UAT), testings and then delivery and deployment. Business Analysts will not have time to analyze the budget and scope out projects.

So having both as separate roles and having both together working closely in an organization is the best combo to have smoother project execution.

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