What Is the Difference Between a Project Manager & Business Analyst?

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Project managers sometimes fill the role of business analyst on projects.
Project managers sometimes fill the role of business analyst on projects. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Business projects often require the cooperation of several different professionals and departments within a company. While project managers and business analysts usually work together on such projects, the two jobs require very different skill sets, responsibilities and approaches.

Overlap

In the early stages of a business project, the responsibilities of the project manager and the business analyst may overlap as the outline of the project is created. Project managers and business analysts may work together to create the scope and definition of a project, as well as the key objects that the project needs to accomplish. Both professionals may also work to identify the risks or challenges of the project.

Project Manager

The project manager is typically the first person assigned to a project. As such, the project manager bears the primary decision-making responsibilities, which include any planning required. That's the stage where he's most likely to enlist the help of a business analyst. Other responsibilities included establishing the necessary team of people for the project, and ensuring that the team follows through according to the established project agenda. The project manager is also tasked with the management of any changes or problems that may arise, and ensuring that the project is completed on time and within budget.

Business Analyst

A business analyst is brought onto a project after it has been announced and assigned to a project manager. The primary responsibility of the business analyst is to bridge the gap between the business aspect of the project and IT. To ensure that the project and all its parts run smoothly, the business analyst must learn and understand the details of the project inside and out. The business analyst must also keep the project's stakeholders informed of its status.

Skill Set

Project managers and business analysts have different, but complementary, skill sets. Project managers need to be able to see the "big picture," direct the project team, help people get things done, and use general management skills. Business analysts generally need to be detail oriented, to have the ability to listen to people, and to be able to identify and investigate business-related issues that may occur during the course of a project. Sometimes, particularly on smaller-scale projects, one person with all those skills will wear both hats.

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