Three Essential Positions on Your Project Team 

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    Dave Coriale

You expect to see nine 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 to use some of the front office guys in those positions instead? He figures they’re already on the payroll, they’re smart, and they’re hard workers. How well do you think that will work? 

The types of players and skills required for a successful baseball team are well-known, but many executives and IT professionals in associations and nonprofits don’t know the types of players needed for a project team. Too often, 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 nonprofits and associations decide to select and implement a new system, three 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.

Business Analyst

The business analyst (BA) helps staff define, analyze, prioritize, and document functional requirements for the new system. They have a proven process for guiding organizations through the requirements phase of a project. They know which questions to ask to reveal issues and needs and can safely ask difficult questions. 

By understanding the association’s business goals, business rules, and desired features, the business analyst develops user stories and functional requirements for the new system. They convey their findings to the system analyst and solution provider by describing what the system has to do to deliver value. Ultimately, they are in charge of ensuring the solution meets both business requirements and their organization’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 work these two roles accomplish. The BA defines the business requirements and rules, and the SA translates them into what the system needs to do to meet those requirements.

Project Manager

The project manager manages the project, including its schedule, costs, and resources. They set up the project charter, outline the scope of the project, and manage communication about the project. They are responsible for defining the roles and responsibilities of those on the project team alongside 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 fulfill 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 was expected, and 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 eighty percent of your housing budget so you can reserve twenty percent 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. By budgeting for these three essential positions, you’ll set up both your project and your organization for success.  

Related resources on this topic.

Forget the Chicken and the Egg, Business Requirements Come First (blog)

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