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Issue 14

Project Manager and Business Analyst – a duo that can make the difference in Romanian outsourcing

Adrian Cighi
Project Manager
@Yonder
OTHERS

I have been working in IT, in software outsourcing, for more than 10 years and I have followed the development of this industry from inside it. The financial crisis and the focus on making costs more efficient has lead an increasing number of companies to resort to outsourcing, a trend that favoured the development of this sector. With what consequences? To begin with, it has created a protecting crystal ball around this sector which has continued to grow organically despite the financial crisis and bloomed exactly at a time when other industries were restricting their activity or were vanishing completely. Secondly, it has been accompanied by a larger employment offer, good wages and a Western-level work environment. However, increasing costs has led to the profit margin in the case of outsourcing becoming smaller than what it was 7 to 10 years ago and thus to making room for a stronger cost-based competition coming from India or China.

So, what can we do, here, in Romania?

In order to be able to answer this question, we should have a look at the main factors influencing the choice of a software services supplier:

  • Quality of supplied products
  • Price
  • References (trust)
  • Flexibility
  • Resources
  • Collaborations
  • Cultural similarities
  • Localisation

I wonder, which of the factors above would allow us to make a difference? Surely we can"t or won"t make the difference in what concerns some of them, such as price. We cannot compete on price all the time because that would influence resources and sustainability in the long term. In the same way, in what concerns the resources (the professionals we need) it would be extremely hard to compete at a quantitative level with India or China, if only because of the difference in population. Nevertheless, there is a series of key areas where we could not only make a difference, but we could even excel.

Quality commitment: it is more than delivering quality products, with a well-written code. It presupposes a guarantee offered to clients even before starting the projects. "Quality commitment" ties in to the degree of maturity of a company and means assuming quality, deadlines and all the agreed conditions.

Predictability: means a company"s capacity to understand the client, to be able to draw a viable and sustainable roadmap and which would ensure success - and doing that in a convincing manner.

Customer intimacy: refers to understanding the clients" needs and businesses, the market and the clients and to trying, through innovative ideas, to deliver the best solutions. How can you tell you"ve done a good job? When the client sees you as a trustworthy consultant and not just as a service provider, the aim has been reached to a great extent.

The roles that make the difference

It is undeniable that one needs a valuable project team in order to fulfil the above-mentioned ambitions, but two key roles stand apart from this team, roles which can make the difference, especially through added value. These are the roles of Project Manager and Business Analyst. If a professional Project Manager (PM) ensures predictability, a Business Analyst (BA) makes the connection between the client"s problems and the development team and contributes decisively to maintaining the position of "trusted consultant" that I mentioned above.

If a few years ago the companies were looking for Project Managers with in-depth knowledge in the field of the project, thus being able to also act as a BA, the changes of the last years and the professionalization of the sector have led to the specialisation of roles and the necessity of an independent position in the field of business analysis. Moreover, the fact that agile methodologies focus on the role of the BA (or on the product specialist), the role of Project Manager has evolved towards being a team integrator, a role that works with distributed teams in order to reach the goal of the project and to keep costs under control.

Surely, there are voices that claim that there is a strong conflict between the two roles, i.e. the PM one and the BA one. At first sight this conflict is real, because the PM manages the budget/ goal and the resources and the BA is concerned more with the essential details for solving and optimising the business processes, which put pressure on the budget and on the goal.

Nevertheless, if there is no close cooperation between the two roles or if one of them is weaker, there is a greater probability for the project to not be successful. Moreover, because the two roles have certain joint responsibilities, there is the need for a cooperation framework.

There are two major players when it comes to establishing the two roles: Project Management Institute (PMI) and International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) which drafted such a cooperation model.

If we are to look at the major phases of a project, as defined by the two institutes, we have the following implication of the two roles:

  • Starting the project ("Inception"): here the BA plays an essential role, because, in this phase, the business case is being built, it is the stage when the "Go - No go" decision is made. The business needs are also identified here.
  • Planning: the role of the PM is essential, because the project plan is being constructed, the required resources are allocated, and the project manager defines the three important areas that s/he will be monitoring: goal, budget and time.
  • Execution, monitoring and control: both roles must work jointly in order to achieve the success of the project. If the PM is focused more on monitoring the budget, the costs, the time the resources and the risks (being the main responsible for the goal of the project), the BA stresses functionality, quality, the risks coming from the functional part, from the product area. At the same time, by making decisions, s/he influences the goal of the project through changes or faults found in the product.
  • Closing: in this phase there is a joint effort of the PM and BA in order to convince the client to accept the project

Conclusions

One way in which Romania can make a difference on the IT market is by not focusing on low cost criteria, but rather by creating added value for clients, a process during which the two roles described above have a significant contribution. The Project Managers and Business Analysts must cooperate for a joint purpose, i.e. for obtaining innovative solutions which solve their clients" business problems.

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