Business Analysis/Project Management Friction: How to Overcome It!

Penny Pullan. PhD, PMP and Director at Making Projects Work Ltd. conducted research on the relationship between Project Managers and Business Analysts. In her study, she identifies areas of friction between the two, and offers solutions to overcoming it. The study surveyed 400 project managers and business analysts about the relationship, with participants spanning across 24 different countries.


The graphic above is a great illustration of different perspectives associated with each, and in which areas they overlap. The project manager focus is on efforts needed to complete and deliver the end product, where the analyst is focused on creating a solution. Where the project manager plans the project, s/he should build the project plan on the basis of requirements from the business analyst.

Surevey participants identified the main cuases of tension due to each role. For project managers, 68% of participants agreed the greatest tension comes from them being under pressure to get things done. 47% agreed that tension arises for using analysts for a range of tasks, not just busines analysis. 43% agreed that tension arises when project managers don’t wait for requirements before planning the projects. On the flip side, 36% of analysts agreed the greatest tension faced in their role results from them wanting to do the right thing, regardless of how long it takes. The following causes are that analysts have a long-term focus and that they don’t realize time pressures of a project and act accordingly. From the start, it’s obvious to see that the two sides are set-up in a position to clash based on these results. Project managers are dependant on data analysis, however the time constraint associated with the task varies immensley based on perspective.

The participants were also asked to analyze what is currently working for the realtionship, which can be used as a great foundation to build off of. The main things that work are represented in order by the participants, which include: good communication with regular updates, trust between the two roles, respect of each other’s knowledge and skills, rapport between the two roles, and project manager understanding of business analysis perspective.

Top tips for a productive partnership between Project Managers and Business Analysts

(1) See the business analysts as a leader, just as you are a leader. Their role is to consider what is best for the organisation and beyond. Allow them to see the diverse range of stakeholders in the project and apply their expertise to what they need and what solutions would work best for the organisation.

(2) Use a common language, develop a common understanding, and know each other’s different perspectives. Build a strong rapport to serve the project together, as good communication and mutual understanding was identified as critical by the survey participants.

(3) Work together from the start, building on each other’s strengths and developing a good working relationship. Work together in areas of shared interest, such as risk management or communications.

(4) The organisation matters. The organisation can help on a higher level by not hindering how the two roles work together. It should be understood by top management how dependant the two sides are on each other.

(5) Iterate and learn as you go. Make sure you are able to take time away from the project tasks to be able to reflect on how the project is going.  

The full study can be accessed through the following link: