We recently had the honor of speaking with Ori Schibi, author of the book “Managing Stakeholder Expectations for Project Success” Ori will also be a speaker at the PMI Global Congress 2014 - North America, delivering "The Role of the Business Analyst in Managing Stakeholder Expectations " So you kind of get the feeling that he knows what to expect from stakeholders.
Although most of Ori's answers imply an increase in the scope of the BA role and what appears to be additional work volume - he believes deeply that enhancing the collaboration between the PM and the BA will allow both roles to achieve more effective results with improved efficiency – resulting in less work for each overall.
Q1. How important is the role of the BA in managing stakeholder expectations? Are there ways of increasing or decreasing that importance? (Perhaps by making their power/lack of power to alter scope clear?)
The role of the BA in managing stakeholder expectations is important and can be substantial, even though this aspect of the BA’s role is often overlooked. In fact, there is a strong need for an increase in the BA’s role in managing expectations. There are multiple areas that are inherent to the BA’s role and the knowledge that the BA brings to the table that can provide significant value to the effort of managing stakeholder expectations. The areas of potential contribution span all throughout the project:
1. Take part in performing project complexity and readiness assessments to identify early areas of deficiency or concern
2. Take a more active role in providing information for the Project Charter, utilizing the BA’s knowledge of the business case and other early project-related due diligence activities
3. Establish clear boundaries with the PM on who does what (in the areas of risk, quality, transitioning requirements and scope management, communication, issue management and reporting)
4. Provide the PM with a “package” of background documentation, access information, and existing resources that are applicable to the project
5. Take an active role in managing issues and assumptions
6. Establish guidelines for prioritization and urgency (cross-project and within the project)
7. Jointly (with the PM) define project success criteria and trade-offs that factor in both project and business objectives
8. Help the PM articulate the cost-benefit and impact of actions, decisions or delays
9. Jointly build a set of Health Measures that serve as early indicators to stakeholders of trends and warning signs before performance issues surface
Q2. What are the top 3 ways Project Managers could work with stakeholders to improve stakeholder communications?
1. Focus (i.e. invest time and energy) in building trust, developing a rapport and establishing healthy working relationships with at least a representation of the key stakeholders (partially by utilizing the BA’s familiarity and existing relationships with stakeholders)
2. Establish a Team Contract that outlines a set of ground rules to set expectations and serve as a code of conduct for communication within the team and with external stakeholders. This Team Contract should address three areas:
a. General communication
b. Emails and messaging
c. Meetings and teleconferences
3. Create a Delegation and Escalation system that will free up some of the PM’s time to handle “strategic” aspects of the project (e.g. resource management, cross-project dependencies and business risks), specifically:
a. An “internal” system (within the project team) of delegation and areas of ownership that builds a system of support for BAs and team members to handle an agreed upon set of ongoing “mechanical” responsibilities of the project (e.g. schedule management and certain aspects of reporting)
b. A combined internal and external set of clear escalation procedures for risks, reporting, issues and controls to reduce “noise” in the system.
Q3. What role does the BA play in managing risk? Are they more able to identify risks than the Project Manager?
The BA has the organizational and product knowledge, as well as exposure to project related processes and activities that enables the BA to make an even greater contribution to managing risk than even the PM.
The BA’s involvement in risk management should focus on three categories, depending on the project’s needs and on the BA’s level of experience:
a. Requirements management (i.e. the process) related risks – with the central role the BA plays in the requirements process, he/she needs to (and often does) lead the effort of managing risks related to and around the requirements process, and incorporate all remaining risks into the overall project risks considerations. These are mainly risks that may impact the project success criteria.
b. Requirements and scope (i.e. the product) related risks – the BA needs to capture and introduce into the project risk management process all of the risks related to the actual requirements; i.e. risks that may impact the ability of the project to deliver product and project success. Since the PM has no clear context and visibility into the requirements, the BA is perfectly suited for integrating the requirements related risks into the project.
2. Project risks – beyond the familiarity with the product, the BA is also closely involved with project-related processes, team coherence and performance, roles and responsibilities, and has visibility of other issues, assumptions and constraints. Having this additional set of eyes involved in and interacting with the day-to-day project work can be handy in providing the PM with alerts and help the process of managing by exception.
3. Context for business/operational risk – with the PM typically focusing on project risks (surrounding the project success criteria), many of the PM’s decisions may be “good for the project”, yet at times be misaligned with business objectives and/or existing operational issues, or ones that may be triggered by project decisions (e.g. reducing the testing time to achieve schedule milestones, which may increase the risk for defects and other post implementation issues). In this case the BA can serve as the “voice of reason”, resulting in better likelihood to address both project and business related risks and considerations.
Q4. What role does the BA play in managing quality? How is that best clarified in the requirements they produce (both written and verbally communicated)?
The BA should, along with the PM, own quality. The BA is the most applicable person to lead the effort to pursue quality and in turn ensure that the PM maintains a focus on quality. Quality is the key to achieve a combination of product quality, project success and customer satisfaction – and the BA has the most applicable knowledge of these areas.
The way to achieve quality is by integrating all relevant considerations into the project decision making process. Working with the PM, the BA should provide an impact assessment of actions and decision on the product and on any downstream areas – with a focus on business value and post project impact.
More specifically, the BA should lead the enhancement of the quality assurance role (e.g. audits, reviews, process analysis), lead the way in producing project health measure indications, and incorporate cost of quality analysis to ensure impact is expressed in terms and values that resonate with stakeholder needs.
The BA plays an important role in producing quality through the requirements. With over 40% of project defects traced back to the requirements, owning the quality starts with producing requirements that are SMART-CUT (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound; Clear/Complete, Unambiguous and Traceable). Applying the notion that “quality needs to be designed into the product and not inspected into it” makes it the BA’s role to take quality seriously from day one and ensure that no requirement makes it into the project if it’s not ready to go. Further, it is the BA’s responsibility to ensure that the requirements “hand-off” is done properly so that each requirement is appropriately represented in the project scope, as well as in subsequent planning.
Conceptually, the BA should deal with, if not own, all of the “invisible” aspects of quality, i.e. those parts of the quality iceberg that is under water. These “invisible” aspects are the hidden costs organizations incur as a result of poor quality; these costs are difficult to track and account for, as they are spread over time, beyond the project end date, and over multiple cost centres – depending on the areas impacted.
Q5. Could you tell us a bit about your book? Perhaps give us three things that our members might find most useful about it?
1. “Managing Stakeholder Expectations for Project Success”is a pioneer in providing an integrated approach to managing stakeholder expectations, by offering a broad context for the area of stakeholder engagement. The book reviews and considers everything that the PM needs to do in order to effectively manage stakeholder expectations; and ultimately deliver project success. With that, the book introduces a comprehensive Team Contract that allows the PM to “own” project communication and effectively addresses common issues that often plague projects’ and teams’ performance in a meaningful and constructive way.
2. The book focuses on what the PM needs to do and to focus on and how the PM should to utilize his/her time to maximize the value produced by working smarter, not harder. It clearly articulates common challenges and problems and provides simple and straight forward approaches to address them, establish environments that foster collaboration, overcome barriers and continuously keep an eye on project success criteria and their alignment to business objectives.
3. The book is intended not only for PMs, but also for BAs (to enhance the BA’s ability to add value to stakeholder expectations management) and for Project Sponsors (to clarify the mandate they need to provide PMs so the job gets done). In addition to being relevant for the three leading non-technical roles in a project, the book is also a first to introduce a detailed breakdown of what project integration entails, along with full consideration and impact of dependencies and project trade-offs. Additional concepts that contribute to the reader’s ability to apply critical thinking include time management, and a mechanism to determine urgency and prioritization.
My upcoming book (no title yet) deals with how to enhance and streamline the relationship, touchpoints and collaboration between the PM and the BA and is due to be published in the Fall of 2015.
Ori Schibi (MBA, PMP, PRINCE2 Practitioner), is a visionary leader, communicator, connector, and devoted husband and father. With 24 years’ experience, he offers practical and unique ways to effectively manage projects and people. Ori is the President of PM Konnectors (www.pmkonnectors.com, a Toronto, Canada based Consulting firm specializing in program/project management / recovery, PMOs, cost of quality measurements, process streamlining and improvement, PM/BA skills assessments and communication management. Ori is the author of the book “Managing Stakeholder Expectations for Project Success” (J. Ross, 2013; www.ManagingStakeholderExpectations.com).