I'm a Business Analyst - Should I Consider Getting the PMP Certification?
Business analysts (BAs) and project managers (PMs) are often seen as partners in crime. While their roles are distinctly unique, BAs may find themselves performing both the job functions of a BA and a PM depending on the needs of their organization. Business analysts are often expected to analyze a business problem, identify needs, and provide solution design. The project manager works to ensure that implementing that solution is done according to the needs of the project. Given the fact that business analysts have their own unique responsibilities, should they be familiar with project management methodologies? The answer is that it depends. In this article, we will dig into the responsibilities of a business analyst that differ with those of a project manager and then consider where they may overlap. While most of the time business analysts will perform distinctly different roles than project managers, there may be some situations where a PMP certification is relevant for a BA. Read on to determine whether the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is right for you as a business analyst.
1. BAs Typically Focus on Product, Not Project
The PM typically focuses on the project-creating baselines and managing project constraints, communicating and resolving project issues, and getting the resources working on project activities. The BA typically focuses on the end product or solution. On sizeable projects, each role is a full-time effort and cannot be accomplished effectively when the roles are combined. Trying to do both will usually mean increasing the risk and compromising the quality of both the project and the end product. Although the PM may do some work related to the product and the BA may do work related to the project, there is still a need for both roles on most projects.
2. BAs Help Organizations Reach Their Goals
The BA's role is to help organizations reach their goals-not projects. This is a subtle but important difference. Organizations initiate projects to help meet a specific set of objectives, and scope is intentionally well defined or even narrow. In order to help the company reach its goals, the BA may recommend solutions that do not align with the project objectives but are good for the company as a whole. This tension is actually healthy because both objectives are important to the organization. Without a separation of roles, this tension would not occur, ultimately to the detriment of the organization. Because there are different focuses and different objectives, there is often a pull in opposite directions, especially when both roles report to different organizational functions. Project managers want to deliver the end product on time and within budget. Business analysts want to ensure that customers can actually use the end product once it has been implemented and tie it into the company's overall vision.
3. BAs and PMs Plan Together
The activities of BAs and PMs are often combined together. Project managers can only accurately plan and estimate with the help of a qualified business analyst. The project manager will ultimately be responsible for defining the scope of the project, but the BA should be involved in the conversation to help determine what is a reasonable scope and what is not based on requirements. Many other activities cannot be done without the BA and PM planning together, including creating the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), defining quality metrics, and creating reporting standards for the project. For this reason, the BA will need to be familiar with some project management activities.
4. Both BAs and PMs Perform Requirements Management Together
Project managers are expected to baseline, document, and trace requirements. They are the trackers. However, it takes unique business analyst skills to effectively complete these activities for a specific business area. The BA may often help the PM establish the scope baseline through requirements gathering. The BA may also help create requirements documentation for the PM. The BA is an expert in requirements gathering.
5. BAs Should Understand Agile Approaches to Process Improvement
The PMP exam will comprehensively cover agile approaches to process improvement, including Scrum, Six Sigma, and Lean. Business analysts also perform this role on a regular basis for their organizations by creating process flows and streamlining where it's needed. The relationship between a project manager and a business analyst should be fundamentally the same on an agile project-both perform distinct roles but must operate together to successfully deliver a project.
Regardless of the project approach, methodology used, or requirements processes followed, the PM must meet the project objectives, and the BA helps the organization reach its goals, which means the product requirements must be well-defined, but they need to be defined just in time for the next iteration. For example, elicitation using such techniques as requirements workshops, prototyping, and interviews might still be needed on any given project, and it is the BA's role to elicit requirements using those techniques. The PMP teaches aspiring applicants about agile approaches to project management.
6. Are You the BA and the PM?
In certain situations, it may make sense for an organization to combine the BA and the PM role into one. This can happen when:
- The project is small in terms of timeline, budget, or scope
- The project is relatively low-risk
- The project is self-contained to one or a few business areas / departments
- The organization has not strictly defined roles and responsibilities
- The project team is small and expected to wear multiple hats
- The project's resources are limited and budget does not allow for separate roles. If an organization combines roles, they may be focused on a lower-cost solution that can be implemented quickly.
If at least a few of these things applies to your current role, you may be expected to know how to perform both project management and business analyst job functions. For this reason, you may want to consider the PMP.
While there are rare instances outlined above in which the business analyst may need to consider the PMP certification, your roles and responsibilities are most likely separate. If you are in a unique situation where your skills as a project manager need to be brought to the forefront of your organization, it is worth considering the PMP certification. Keep in mind that PMI also offers a certification specifically for business analysts, which is more relevant to those who are in a traditional BA role. Consider looking into the PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA) if your role as a BA is considered to be more aligned with the industry standard.
In the world of managing projects and organizational improvements, we often wear many hats. Those who do not solely perform the roles of a business analyst or who work in small organizations may want to consider the PMP certification
. The certification is not the right fit for all
business analysts, but it ultimately depends on whether the certification is relevant to your own job responsibilities.