Guiding Business Analysis For Project Success

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Brian A. Weiss talks with Joe Newbert about how PMI are guiding business analysis for project success, through their industry standard and certification.

Brian serves as PMI’s Vice President, Practitioner Career Development. He has been with PMI since 2007, bringing more than 20 years of business leadership, product management, marketing and consulting experience to the organisation.

The PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)® accreditation has been available for a few years now. How has this certification been embraced by organisations, and what has the uptake been from individuals?

The certification is gaining popularity from around the globe. Launched in December 2014, PMI-PBA has more than 1,400 active certification holders across 79 countries worldwide, which was really important to us – making sure it is globally relevant. We continue to see a healthy and growing pipeline of candidates come through as, on average, we add more than 150 new applications each month.

Practitioners from around the globe also appreciate that our organisation recognises the importance of the BA role as four out of five PMI-PBA holders say they would recommend the certification to a colleague. A number of organisations in the energy, financial services, IT, telecom, healthcare and consulting industries have started to recommend or require the PMI-PBA certification for their business analysts.

People will ask why further business analysis certifications are relevant. What deficiencies are PMI looking to solve and how will the professional accreditation bring value to the business analysis industry?

In the development of any certification, we start with the market need. If there wasn’t a unique need for something we could serve, PMI wouldn’t have entered. In the creation of credentials, PMI conducts a role delineation study and engages with thought leaders, skilled practitioners and key organisational stakeholders from around the world. Business analysts, project managers, systems analysts, engineers, programme managers, and more were involved in developing the PMI-PBA.

The PMI-PBA was created by global practitioners for practitioners to address the challenges these professionals told us they were facing that were lacking from other offerings out there, and it encapsulates the critical skills and tools needed for individuals to contribute to organisational success and demonstrate the value of the business analysis.

A number of varying descriptions of the business analysis function exist in the industry. What is the PMI’s view on the focus of business analysis and the competencies required for success?

We recognise there are many job titles in use for those who perform business analysis work. While our credentials and certifications in general tend to focus on a role, PMI’s full focus is not on any one role, but all the roles and participants that help organisations deliver value and change through projects and programmes. In this context, business analysis is fundamental to that, so we are interested in

… driving a consistent understanding of what business analysis is, why it is important, and how it contributes to portfolio, programme and project success.

According to our latest Pulse of the Profession: Success Rates Rise: Transforming the high cost of low performance research, project failure rates continue to be linked to poor requirements practices. As a result, we are focused on developing an understanding of business analysis to help address these failures. The hope is that through this awareness — and the products we develop —organisations will mature their business analysis practices.

The Guide for Business Analysis (Including The Standard for Business Analysis) is due to be released in Q4 2017. What can business analysts expect this foundational standard in business analysis to contain?

The good news is they can expect all the things they have told us they value in other PMI standards, such as the identification of process groups, knowledge areas and processes. However, this new standard is unique in two ways. First, it was built from the ground up considering all types of project life cycles. This is a significant deal as more organisations are moving to iterative and adaptive delivery methods, meaning agile. Business analysis professionals will be able to understand their role regardless of the life cycle their team is using.

Secondly, we have been told over and over – and our formal research shows – that the bulk of business analysis work is performed in projects, programmes and portfolios. Thus, we designed it similar to the structure of our Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide. This has provided an opportunity for the development team to map business analysis processes to project management processes and explain the relationships.

The different priorities of a business analyst and project manager can be at odds with each other and may result in compromises that impact project success. How does PMI propose managing this challenge to drive collaboration?

Well, on paper that might be the case, but the reality is that most of them are driving towards the same exact thing – project or programme success. However, in the spirit of your question, the new standard as well as “PMI’s Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide” both include ‘collaboration points’ throughout. These are just a few sentences for each point that provides helpful advice on how business analysis professionals collaborate (or should) with other roles on the product team — including project managers.

On a much bigger scale, with PMI now supporting portfolio, programme, project management and business analysis under one umbrella, there are endless possibilities available to help bring professionals together. We are doing this with our products and we are starting to see this at the chapter level with the creation of BA Communities of Practice that focus on business analysis and joint BA/PM educational events. In fact, our own Business Analysis community on has a subscriber base of 122,000 practitioners.

PMs and BAs share many of the same underlying competencies and are often combined into a single PM/BA hybrid role. Does the PMBOK or The Guide for Business Analysis offer guidance on managing their conflicting priorities?

As the PMBOK Guide does for project management, this new standard will provide a very clear picture of what business analysis is. The new standard also explains how

… business analysis can be ‘tailored’ to each unique context and environment.

It is then up to organisations to determine their methodologies and how to execute their roles within their unique environment. This will help organisations understand what is considered business analysis and how the work is different from project management.

The new standard has many techniques that can be used to help teams establish priorities. More importantly, this standard emphasises business analysis within the context of projects and programmes – where our research tells us most BA work happens. That removes some of the separate or distinct language, or priorities you might find in other publications, so this can be more practical for users.

Through the PMI’s ground work on The Guide for Business Analysis, how has the research and insights gained in producing the standard informed the PMI’s Project Management Body Of Knowledge?

Our products will continue to integrate ideas and concepts over time. The business analysis certification was built using the results of an extensive role delineation study. This same research was used when developing PMI’s business analysis practice guide and again when developing the new guide and standard.

The new standard is not our organisation’s opinion about business analysis. Rather, it is based on common practices identified through extensive research using community input. Our standards are continuing to evolve — and will continue to do so over time.

Evaluation tasks included in the PBA Handbook cover some elements of Quality Assurance. What is the PMI’s view on the role of the business analyst in validation activities and are there any implications for the testing profession?

Our practice guide has a chapter on solution evaluation that defines the part of validation that falls under business analysis. The new guide and standard also covers this content well. Each material explains that testing is performed by testers and that business analysis is used to elicit and develop the acceptance criteria. This results in testers knowing what constitutes proof that a requirement or an aspect of the solution has been properly developed.

Business analysis supports user acceptance testing. However, we are not saying business analysis is responsible for running the tests. Rather, that’s performed by testers. Business analysts write acceptance criteria and evaluate the results with other members of the team. This is another example of how collaboration with other product team members leads to better results.

The business analysis and project management professions are at their best when they coexist harmoniously. Do you see the restructure of PMOs and BACOEs to move towards increased maturity in requirements management?

It’s really up to the organisation, how they are structured and what value they can achieve through a COE structure. Smaller and less mature organisations are struggling with the fundamentals. For organisations that have PMOs, in addition to focusing attention on managing projects, they need to

… focus attention on business analysis as it’s one of the primary causes of project failure …

per our Pulse of the Profession research.

Many of the same benefits that PMOs provide can be attained by those performing business analysis. The new standard includes an ‘Assess Business Analysis Performance’ and the adjustments to process can be done as part of a PMO or at an individual project level for less mature organisations.

Noting other standards in the PMI portfolio, such as the Organisational Project Management Maturity Model and the Agile Certified Practitioner (Project Manager), can we look forward to further business analysis speciality publications?

We respond to what the community is requesting to do their jobs better. We’ll give the community time to use our newest business analysis standard, listen, take feedback and then decide what comes next. For example, when we launched our Professional in Business Analysis credential, we acted upon feedback we received to create our Guide to Business Analysis.

‘Guiding Business Analysis For Project Success’ with Brian A. Weiss was first published in the Inter-View Report 2017

About Joe Newbert

Joe is a consultant, a writer, a speaker and above all a teacher, who spends most of his time at the Business Change Academy helping people to grow their skills, bring meaningful change and see their career soar.

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