Vicki James, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

formerly of Professional Project Services, LCC

Category Archives: Business Analyst

The Care and Feeding of Business Analysts (Guerilla PM Interview)

I had the great honor of being interviewed by Samad Aidane for Guerilla Project Manager. Catch the interview on-line at

Achieving Success through Business Value

I am thrilled to announce ModernAnalyst has published my article on Achieving Business Value – check it out and pass it on. I look forward to your comments on the ModernAnalyst site or here.

Business value is a new indicator for project success. Huh? You may be wondering what ever happened to the good ole scope, schedule, and budget. They are still there and measured, but what the 2012 trends have been pointing to is that a project completed within scope, schedule, and budget and not be successful. The opposite is also true. Read complete article

I just ran across this excellent supporting video on Twitter.

Tim Banfield, APM, Project Managers should define project success “in their own terms”

Full article



Do Not Miss This Critical Piece of Information for Project Success

I have a new appreciation for a specific project need after teaching a Mastering Requirements course earlier this week. I had asked the participants to come up with examples of goals or requirements for a situational software product. However, I did not offer them the two most important pieces of information, the project vision and objectives. It was an oversight on my part. I erroneously thought that they would automatically have the same vision as I if I provided a clear project title such as Classes Registration System. Two things happened.

They had a hard time getting started on who the users and their goals would be for the system. There wasn’t a clear place to start without knowing whose problem they were trying to solve or what the objectives of the project were. Instead they would tentatively put an idea out and look for clues that they were on the right track. The ideas were rolling once I said “the project is…” and “the objectives are …” You could see the light bulb turn on, “oh, so that’s what we’re doing.”

Another exercise was to take a stakeholder statement “I want full details on students” and interview me to get to the real need. I inadvertently tripled the size of the project by adding requirements related to a Customer Relations Management (CRM) system. Lucky for all of us, one clever participant spoke up, “I thought this was a class registration system. It sounds like you want a CRM solution for marketing.”  Oops…busted! Yes, I was the scope creep.

It is much easier to call “creep” on an instructor in a classroom setting then it is an executive manager within your organization. You are likely to run into “just do it” even if you do say something. Your best defense…a clear, documented vision and objectives for the project to serve as a guide and negotiation tool.

Vision – a description of how the world looks after project implementation.

Students will be able to sign up for designated classes and the organization will have a record of who has attended what classes.

Objectives – expected measurable results from project implementation.

  • Reduce overall staff time required per student registration by 75%
  • Time to complete inquiry of student participation is not more than 10 minutes (from opened to responded)

Responding to ideas outside of the vision and objectives become much easier with this context. Now the BA can respond with “how will that help us meet the objectives of the project?” when the business owner says “I want the student’s home address so that I can send a Christmas card”. While having other features may be nice and add value, it clearly does not fit into the intent of the funded, schedule project. Scope creep diverted – schedule and budget saved.

How many “quick, little projects” have you worked on where the vision and objectives were assumed rather than documented? I’ll admit it, I’ve seen a few. It won’t happen on my projects, or in my class, after seeing the difference that simply documenting and agreeing to these makes. That doesn’t mean I won’t try to trick students so that we can practice scope negotiation in the future.

More information on this class is available at Contact me to bring this class to your area.

The Project Manager vs. the Business Analyst

I have a hard time deciding whether “versus” is a good word to compare the two roles. On one hand, the project manager and business analyst should be working collaboratively. On the other hand, the two roles do offer a healthy contest in project related decisions. The issue at hand is that there is a lot of uncertainty about the difference in these roles. The result of this uncertainty is cases where one person plays both roles without enough skills for each, and other cases where the team members do not know who is responsible for what. Hopefully, we can clear this up.

The core of the difference is in the title.

  • The Project Manager manages the project – “The application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to provide activities to meet the project requirements.”
  • The Business Analyst conducts business analysis – “The set of tasks and techniques used to work as a liaison among stakeholders to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and to recommend solutions that enable the organization to meet its goals.

One source of confusion is the activities in both sets of tasks according to the relevant Body of Knowledge[i]. The intent is that planning and monitoring tasks within the BABOK® are limited to business analysis activities as indicated by the task title.

  • 4.2 Develop Project Management Plan
  • 2.3 Plan Business Analysis Activities
  • 2.5 Plan Requirements Management
  • 2.6 Manage Business Analysis Performance
  • 4.4 Monitor and Control Project Work
  • 2.6 Manage Business Analysis Performance
  • 5.1 Collect Requirements
  • 2.5 Plan Requirements Management Process
  • 3.1-4 Elicitation: Prepare, Conduct, Document, Confirm
  • 4.2 Manage Requirements Traceability
  • Requirements Documentation
  • 5.2 Define Scope
  • 5.4 Define Solution Scope
  • 5.3 Create WBS
  • 4.1 Manage Solution Scope
  • 5.4 Define Solution Scope
  • 5.4 Verify Scope
  • 7.5 Validate Solution
  • 8.3 Perform Quality Control (Testing-monitoring and recording results)
  • 7.6 Evaluate Solution Performance(Results analysis and recommendation)
  • 10.1 Identify Stakeholders
  • 2.2 Conduct Stakeholder Analysis
  • 10.2 Plan Communications
  • 2.4 Plan Business Analysis Communication
  • 10.3 Distribute Information
  • 4.5 Communicate Requirements
  • 10.5 Report Performance
  • 2.6 Manage Business Analysis Performance

* Thank you to Elizabeth Larson for review and advice to the PMBOK® / BABOK® process mapping.

Stakeholder analysis is one good example of collaboration between project manager and business analyst. The business analyst focuses on stakeholders specific to the requirements and scope of the project. The project manager is looking beyond this to stakeholders whose interest is outside of the project scope. Perhaps the project manager is recording a competitor as a stakeholder to aid in the identification and tracking of potential project risk. The stakeholder analysis is a joint effort. Assign items resulting from the stakeholder analysis to either the project manager or business analyst based on stakeholder interest and influence.

Another point of confusion is in the PMBOK® task of Collecting Requirements. It looks as though the project manager is responsible for collecting requirements. When you look further at the PMBOK® tasks you also find Perform Quality Control, yet we know the project team has members responsible for product quality. The intent of the PMBOK© is that project managers take responsibility to ensure activities for collecting requirements are covered in the project management plan and monitored along with the project. Not the project manager collects the requirements.

Section 5.1 of the CBAP® Handbook does a great job of differentiating “analysis” activities from other activities. Download the CBAP ® handbook from the Certified Business Analysis Professional™ (CBAP®) website for detailed examples of these activities.

Volunteers from both the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®) and Project Management Institute (PMI©) joined in a collaborative project to “facilitate a shared understanding of the roles.” You can read more on this effort and results at  The conclusion –

Both the PM and BA play leadership roles—the PM for leading the team and delivering the solution and the BA for ensuring that the solution meets the business need and aligns with business and project objectives. And both roles, equally, are required for project success.

You will get decisions based on full information of the impacts to the project and the benefit of the solution when you have both a strong PM and BA playing leadership roles on your projects. The result is a project that brings greatest business value to the organization.

I had the distinct pleasure of joining Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, CSM, as guest experts on PMChat (a weekly Internet radio show/Twitter web chat) to discuss the BA and PM roles on June 1, 2012. Listen here to catch our interview hosted by Robert Kelly and Rob Prinzo for more on this subject.

September 2015 Update: Please check out my book, Leveraging Business Analysis for Project Success Book Cover Image (Business Expert Press 2015), for more on the role of the business analysis and discussion of the Power Project Team.

[i] Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) 4th Edition

A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide) Version 2.0


Listen to internet radio with KellyProjectSolutions on Blog Talk Radio

Project Managers vs. Business Analysts

Event Announcement

Friday 6/1/2012 – PMChat Topic is Project Managers vs. Business Analysts 

I will participating in this event at the invitation of Robert Kelly and Rob Prinzo, PM Chat hosts. This is a great forum to share information and ideas with project peers. Find more information and archives to past topics at
I am thrilled to announce that Elizabeth Larson will be co-guesting with me. The supporting article from Elizabeth is now online at…tnership/.

2012 – Year of the Business Analyst…Almost

Chinese astrology says 2012 is the year of the dragon. In technology, it is the year of the Business Analyst. Unlike the dragon, growth of the business analyst will be subtle and take some time. Organizations will first begin to understand the role and value of the business analyst.

Current economic struggles require organizations today need to do more with less. 2012 predictions for technology brings a shift in project success defined as simply on schedule, on budget, and within scope to projects that give the business value. This is a clear opening for growth in the business analysis profession. It is up to business analysts to prove their value on projects and to the organization.

Business analysts will offer the greatest value when they collaborate with project managers and executives responsible for the initiatives. We have the key in providing the information that supports decisions that bring greatest value to projects. This includes providing information that supports making the best decisions on project scope. We must also provide project managers the detail, support, and customer interaction that supports developing that scope to bring value to the business and the users. This means breaking past documenting user “wants” and conducting analysis that help us understand the “needs” that will bring business value, and convincing decision makers of the best course of action.

There is good news as we face this challenge in that there are many resources to guide us as we move in this new direction. The International Institute of Business Analysis ® has been around since 2003 providing guidance and best practices in business analysis. This goes far beyond project requirements and includes study in knowledge areas of Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring, Elicitation, Requirements Management and Communication, Enterprise Analysis, Requirements Analysis, and Solution Assessment and Validation. Visit for more information. The Guide to Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK®) is just one benefit of membership. Membership also gains you access to thousands of books and articles online to help the business analyst navigate through this exciting profession.

Learn more about the role of the business analyst, project sponsor, and project manager in bringing business value with projects at the IPMA Forum on May 23, 2012 at 2:30 pm at Worthington Center, Lacey, Washington.

Poll Results: Who is responsible for ensuring project value?

I recently cross-posted a poll in a couple of different locations. The majority of responses came from this LinkedIn poll. The biggest value of the poll is in the comments. They are worth a good read. I will be writing an article based on the information collected and my thoughts. Here are the raw results in the meantime.

A few notes:

  • Many commented that they did not like having to select a single role, that it is the team’s responsibility to ensure project value.
  • The wording of the poll was questioned. I agree! A better question would have been “Who is responsible for ensuring the project delivers business value?”
  • In a different context, the use of “business owner” was questioned. In the article I will be referring to this role as the Customer/SME.

Here is a preview of what is to come in the article.

Thank you for your participation and comments. Keep them coming!

Mastering Requirements with Use Cases, User Stories and More (2-Day Class)

Read any article on the challenges that projects face today and you will find “requirements” in the top two. Many of us have taken various courses on one tool or another, yet find the techniques hard to apply in our real work on a consistent basis. The problem is that there is not a one-size-fits-all method to elicit requirements that will bring the most value to your project. Great requirements call for changing how you elicit, communicate, organize, and prioritize requirements based on the specific project and organizational culture.

This comprehensive two-day class will provide business analysts with the information they need to develop great requirements. Participants will learn how to develop use cases and user stories to support their projects. The class will also provide information on modeling, organizing, prioritizing, and communicating requirements. Students will gain an understanding that helps them decide when to use each practice and how much effort is required to get the most out of them. Included is a demonstration of a requirements management tool to help participants understand the value and benefits of purchasing a solution.


This class is for anybody who has responsibility for delivering quality requirements.

What you will learn

  • Confidently write and evaluate use cases, user stories, and detailed requirements
  • Know when to use each tool to maximize your time in developing high value requirements
  • Manage, prioritize, and communicate requirements
  • Understand requirements management systems

About Vicki James

Vicki James has been involved in project development since 1999, serving as both business analyst and project manager. She is both PMP and CBAP certified. She is a skilled trainer, presenter, and facilitator with a passion to share best practices to make the lives of her others easier and more productive. Vicki is a known expert in her field, having provided guest blog posts for Karl Wiegers,, Ah Ha Moments, and PM Chat post and web radio program. Her blend of expertise in project management and business analysis gives her insight to set the stage for a project environment that fosters success.

Included with course 

  • Wiegers, K. E. Software Requirements, Second Edition. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press, 2003.
  • Cohn, M. User Stories Applied, for Agile Software Development. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley Professional, 2004.

Contact me at or 360.951.1873 to schedule this training for your organization.

Great article from @ModernAnalyst http:/

Great article from @ModernAnalyst – value, needs, process for documenting business req #pmot #baot #pps1 RT if you agree!

Achieve Success with Focus

Lately, the word “focus” has come up repeatedly as essential to identifying and achieving business success. I know I struggle in this area in starting Professional Project Services. There are so many fun and exciting things to do, who can pick where to start?

Last Saturday I made the right decision on where to spend my energy. I saw the date for an event creeping up on my calendar and had a hard time getting excited. I hoped that it turned out to be an inspiring morning and happily, I was not let down. The National Speakers Association Northwest event was a four-hour seminar lead by Mark LeBlanc on Growing Your Business When You are the Business. I walked away with two simple strategies involving “focus” that will help me become more profitable with my business in less time.

The first strategy is to focus on the single “profit center” that will most help you meet your financial targets for the month.

  1. Each morning ask “what am I doing today to get to book my optimistic monthly revenue target”
  2. Each evening ask “what did I do today to get to book my optimistic monthly revenue target”

These do not have to be big things. In fact, Mark says he rarely spends more than an hour a day working on his three baby steps each day. Just do three things that will support generating new revenue in that area.

The other strategy is the idea to reach out to connect with one contact in support of your primary business each day. Mark recommends that this be a phone call and I can see how much more meaningful that phone call will be compared to an email or social network tools. I have written in earlier posts about how powerful a connection can prove to be without any insight and or idea of what benefits they can bring. You help make sure that your connections remain your connections by reaching out to – remind them that you are out there with the services you offer and gain insights into where you could be of help in their lives.

I have many ideas when it comes to what I want to do in my business and often feel like a pinball in deciding what to work on each day. My 3-5 year vision is that I am on the speaking circuit and writing books to help project professionals and leaders realize the greatest success in the projects they take on. My project experience tells me that greater success comes from focusing on the activities that will bring the biggest benefit to my business. What brings me the biggest value five years from now is not what is of value to build my business and reputation as I work toward that long-term vision. Instead, I need to ask myself, “What is most valuable to me today?” Hearing Mark’s strategies is what has convinced me I need to adjust my short-term focus. Each day I will do three things, plus make one contact, that help me book technical training events for project managers and business analysts. My other business strategies will benefit from this focus and help me to achieve my vision.

Have you experienced this? You buy a new car, a make and model you had not paid any particular attention to in the past. All of a sudden, you see your new car everywhere. That is what has happened to me since I had this Mark inspired epiphany on my business. Yesterday I ran across an article on Harvard Business Review that talks about how Steve Jobs turned Apple around by making them streamline their product line and focus on what their consumers needed most. Then today again, I get my highly anticipated CBSNews email and find an article on Three Key Mistakes to Avoid in Setting Goals. Can you guess what number 2 on the list was? That is right, too many goals. We need focus.

You can help. I am looking for opportunities to go on the road to speak. I would love to come to your local PMI or IIBA event to a present any of my one-hour presentations. I am working on solidifying the curriculum on a program specifically designed for Business Analysts. I will offer this BA training in your local area as part of my travel plan. I may ask for a little help in marketing the program in your area as well.

Just one more tiny favor to ask. Please check out Mark’s website and found out how he can help you or your organization.

Thank you!

Referenced Links:

Image: Danilo Rizzuti /

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