3 essential positions on your project team

You expect to see 9 players on the field at a professional baseball game, right? But what if you go to a game and your team’s catcher, first baseman, and shortstop aren’t there?

What if the manager decided instead to use some of the front-office guys in those positions? He figures they’re already on the payroll, they’re smart, and they’re hard workers. How well do you think that will work?

Everyone knows the types of players and skills required for a successful baseball team, but many association executives and IT professionals don’t know the types of players needed for a project team. Too often, association staffers are asked to take on project roles for which they’re not at all qualified, yet they’re expected to perform as if they were.

When associations decide to select and implement a new system, 3 roles on the project team must be filled by qualified professionals:

  • Business analyst
  • System analyst
  • Project manager

Here’s a breakdown on each of those roles.

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Business Analyst

The business analyst (BA) helps staff define, analyze, prioritize, and document functional requirements for the new system. She has aproven process for guiding organizations through the requirements phase of a project. She knows which questions to ask to reveal issues and needs, and can safely ask those sometimes difficult questions.

Having come to an understanding of the association’s business goals, business rules, and desired features, the business analyst develops user stories and functional requirements for the new system. She conveys to the system analyst and solution provider what the system has to do to deliver value to the end-users and other stakeholders. Ultimately, she is accountable for the solution meeting business requirements and, therefore, the association’s expectations.

System Analyst

The system analyst (SA) writes specifications for the solution based on the business requirements developed by the business analyst. These specs include the configuration of the system, and the configuration results necessary to meet system requirements and goals. Often, the same person serves as both the business analyst and system analyst. However, it is important to understand the difference between the two roles or steps in the process:

  • First, the business requirements and rules (BA)
  • Then, translating them into what the system needs to do to meet those requirements (SA)

Project Manager

The project manager is in charge of managing the project, including its schedule, costs, and resources. He sets up the project charter, outlines the scope of the project, and is in charge of communication about the project. He is responsible for defining the roles and responsibilities of those on the project team, and monitoring any risks that may impact the project’s budget, schedule, and ultimate success.

Minor league players can cause major league consequences.

Why is it so important that qualified professionals be in these roles, rather than staff trying to learn on the job? When a project goes haywire, we can usually trace the cause back to one of these roles being poorly done or going unfilled.

For example, if you don’t have a qualified business analyst on the project team, you can end up with insufficiently developed requirements and, therefore, a final product that may not solve your business problems.

Or, you may end up with a weak contract. We’re sometimes called in after the fact because a vendor isn’t delivering what the association expected. We often find a contract containing nebulous terms about the prototype, deliverables, and/or client approval process.

These 3 roles—business analyst, system analyst, and project manager—are all easily outsourced, yet many organizations don’t budget for them. If you have a hard time selling this concept to your leadership, try the realtor analogy.

A good realtor will tell you to spend only 80% of your housing budget so you can reserve 20% of your funds for other costs related to a new home purchase, like moving, repair, and furniture expenses. Projects need a similar resource buffer to cover business analysis, system analysis, and project management.

Flickr photo by murphman61