Is a Project Manager or a Business Analyst Career, a Better Fit for You?

Part 5 of 20 in the Series: How To Become A Business Analyst

How To Choose the Right Career?

How To Choose the Right Career?

The following question was submitted by a reader who needs help with choosing between a business analyst and a project management career.

If you need help with a Question or Challenge, be sure to submit your question as a comment on this page and I will answer it fully just as I am answering this reader’s question below!

If you enjoy reading this post, please be sure to … Share this Post with Friends

Here is the Reader’s Question: Should I Change Careers To Business Analysis Or Project Management?

Hello,

I am interested in making a career change from working currently in customer service in a bank to becoming a business analyst or a project manager.

My educational background is a degree in Banking and Finance and I have over 8 years experience working in the Treasury department of a bank.

Can you advise which would be my best choice?

Here is the Answer: How To Decide Between a Business Analysis and a Project Management Career

Hello,

I can certainly help you understand the differences between a project management and business analyst career.

You will be able to decide on your ideal career, after weighing all the pros and cons that I will list in the rest of this article.

The Roles and Responsibilities of a Project Manager

The Project Manager is often considered to be the first point of contact for the project and is solely responsible for the project’s success or failure.

Please note that this is an important distinction between the project manager and business analyst’s duties, roles or responsibilities.

This distinction means that you have to be wired a certain way or learn to take full responsibility for the outcome of your projects without making any excuses!

  • This also means that as the project manager, you will be responsible for overseeing all the phases of a software development or information technology project unlike a business analyst who is tasked with gathering requirements at the inception or beginning phases of a project.

  • Another important distinction is that, as the project manager you will also be responsible for establishing time-lines or ensuring that your projects are completed on time and under budget.

  • Finally, the Project Manager allocates resources to a project, monitors significant milestones as the project progresses and manages risks and costs to ensure that there are no budget overruns.

To achieve these goals, the Project Manager works with a correct or comprehensive set of customer requirements provided by the business analyst.

This last statement means that the Project Manager has to collaborate or depend on the Business Analyst’s requirements elicitation and management skills.

If this collaboration works out well, then the correct and complete set of project requirements are provided to the software development or information technology project team … if not, then the project is doomed from inception!

The Roles and Responsibilities of a Business Analyst

  1. Like the Project Manager, the Business Analyst also spends most of the time working with end users, stakeholders or management.

  2. Unlike the Project Manager, whose attention is all over the phases and tasks of the Project, the business analyst focuses mainly on the requirements for the project.

  3. Because the business analyst is tasked with gathering requirements, he or she ends up focusing on the minute details of what the end user wants, documenting requirements with very detailed reports that measure goals and outcomes, validating requirements or communicating requirements in precise ways to developers using tools like User stories, Use Cases and UML

In essence, the Business Analyst ends up bridging the technical or business communication gap between the software development or project implementation teams and the management, executive or business teams.

What are the similarities and differences between a Project Manager and a Business Analyst’s Job?

There is a good deal of speculation and confusion on the 2 roles leading to the assumption in some circles that project managers can gather requirements or that business analysts can manage resources!

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Each of these is a rigorous, methodical discipline that may share some body of knowledge with the other, but are functionally, completely different.

  1. Project Managers manage all the resources assigned to project and they carry the final authority on who does what. They usually have the ability to hire or fire resources and for delegating tasks or responsibilities.

  2. Business analysts on the other hand, manage the business, end-user, customers or stakeholder requirements and in reality, they report to the project manager, just like the software developers, testers or any other resource assigned to the project.

  3. Both business analysts and project managers understand the software development life cycle, both of them serve as points of contact for the project and both of them communicate with management or stakeholders.

  4. Both of these are also responsible for accurately defining the scope of the project.

However, even here, there is still a qualitative difference … while the business analyst is concerned with the minutiae of the requirements, the project manager is focused on the big picture, and on delivering a project that fulfills the requirements under schedule and on budget.

On this last point, I would like to stress that in an ideal world, there would be no adversarial relationship between a project manager and his/her business analysts because like any successful leader knows, “war is worn by wise counsel” and the business analyst is the project manager’s wise counsel.

Another key difference between these 2 roles is that at the onset of a project, the business analyst implements feasibility and cost/benefit analysis studies before the project manager is even hired!

Finally, I would also like to add that, while the business analyst is concerned with the quality of the finished product … the Project Manager is concerned with managing the process of producing the product.

Is a Project Manager or a Business Analyst Career, a Better Fit for You?

So how do you decide which of these two (project management or business analysis) is the better fit?

If your personality type is such that you have a singular focus on completing projects with a “big picture” view of the process from beginning to end, then the Project Management career may be the better fit for you.

If on the other hand, you enjoy working on details with business users, customers or management, analyzing problems or defining solutions, documenting or communicating problems and solutions, then a Business Analyst career may be the better fit for you.

This post was written in answer to a question submitted by a reader on how to decide between becoming a project manager or a business analyst.

If you have a question, be sure to post it here as a comment or submit it to: [Ask IT Career Coach].




39 Discussions for “Is a Project Manager or a Business Analyst Career, a Better Fit for You?”

  1. Deepak

    Which Has A Greater Demand, Project Management Or Business Analysis?
    I have 10 year of experience in Information Technology and I am confused about whether I should take a business analyst or a project manager role.

    Which of these (project management vs. business analysis) has a greater demand in the market?

  2. yesha

    Hi, I am a Bsc.IT graduate….and i want to become a Business analyst….so is it ok if i work as well as pursue MSc.IT (distance learning) and later on pursue my MBA…???…is MBA a necessity…for becoming a BA?…or my Msc.IT degree shall be enough?

  3. Vivek Ranjan

    Hi!!
    i am a fresher. i have completed Master in Computer Application (MCA). Is it good to start my carrer with Business Analyst?

    This career will help me to grow up from bottom to Peak?

    Is Work experience count if i change Business Analyst to Computer Programming field?

    • Why are you considering a career in business analysis?

      Why are you considering a career in computer programming?

      Do you know what a business analyst does?

      Do you understand what a computer programmer does?

      Have you taken the time to review what you need to learn to become a business analyst?

  4. Kam

    Hi,

    I recently graduated back in 2008 with a degree in Computing for Business.

    My degree was split 50% Computer Science and 50% Business.

    As part of my degree I did a placement year where I worked a web developer.

    Since graduating I have taken on similar positions however do not get that job satisfaction of coding all day.

    As a result i recently completed the PRINCE2 Project Management qualification.

    I would like some advice as to whether Business Analyst or Project Management would be a better suit for me.

    I want to get more involved with the business aspect however still have an insight into the technology. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks
    Kam

    • Kam:

      I wrote a detailed post on the pros and cons of business analysis versus project management here:
      http://www.it-career-coach.net/2010/04/12/is-a-project-manager-or-business-analyst-career-a-better-fit-for-you/

      Based on this post, which of the careers is a better fit for you?

      In addition, what do you really know about the project management career and the business analysis career?

      What is motivating your desire / interest in either or both of these two careers?

      Do you have any real knowledge of what a business analyst does versus what a project manager does?

      Sometimes, “The Proof of the Pudding Is In The Easting” … so, after reading the comparison of project management versus business analysis careers mentioned on this page, just choose one of them … and then get your hands dirty doing the job

      Then ask yourself if you really like what you are doing … if not, change your career and do something else.

      Sometimes, no amount of theoretical analysis is as helpful as actually getting your hands dirty .

      To have the experience of a thing is far better than to have mere knowledge of it …

  5. Deepak

    Hi,

    I am having 10 year of experience in IT,

    I am confused that if i need to take business analyst or project manager role. Which have demand in market.

  6. miss nervouse

    I have been working in finance and have been a good team leader and a manager in my career but I have no formal qualifications nor a degree so I am hoping to do the PRINCE 2 foundation and practitioner.

    What can I gain from this qualification?

  7. kovergal

    Hi..
    Currently am working in an Australian based software company as a Business Analyst for the past eight months. Our company is a cost centre for all the development work , basically a outsource partner for the head office in Australia for all the production work.

    I do not have much of a challenging role , since I am a new bee and all my colleagues are very experienced since they have been working here for the past eight years.
    The company does not have any local clients but all Australian based clients, where the head office has all the required resources in managing the project from initiation to the end.
    I am in doubt how could I start my career as a Business Analys in a company like this. Since all the projects have been already started where all the requirement gathering stages and all have been passed.

    In such a situation, I would like to know , what would be the role of a Business Analyst in an already started project, what are the necessary work required for a Business Analyst in such a situation?.. Please provide guidance

      • There should still be some ongoing business analysis work for you. For example, if the Use Case and/or UML Documents have already been created, they may need to be updated from time to time and some of the developers may need help with interpreting or understanding these requirements.

        You should still be able to participate in some ongoing work. Ask your manager or team leader to tell you specifically what additional help you can offer to them. Don’t assume that you can’t ask and get a specific answer.

      • There is more to a Business Analyst’s work than Requirements Analysis

        For example, you may have to co-ordinate the Test Cases with the Software Testers or perhaps even be the one to Test the Software as it is being produced!

        So, don’t think that the only role you will play in the project as a Business Analyst is to gather Requirements.

        Once again, ask your manager to confirm your roles and responsibilities on the Project and don’t assume that there are none :-)

      • If you manager or team lead is unable to confirm or provide your role, you may look into getting a new business analyst job … but be advised, you will need the experience from this job for the next job, so it may be better for you to get more aggressive in your asking for work than to assume that getting a new job will a better solution.

      Best Wishes

  8. vis_vitalis

    Hello,

    I have pretty the same problem and can’t actually decide myself what to choose.

    After a year of working as a support engineer in really fast growing IT company, I was offered to continue my career in 2 ways: become a support team lead and become a junior business analyst.

    The question here is that I’m learning BA in my University and managing to deal with that fluently and can say that I really love the specialty I have chosen.

    But as I understood the work of BA in our company includes mostly SRS writing and requirements are commonly being submitted by clients themselves.

    Otherwise, support team lead position is more connected to management and mostly looks like organization liaison between company management, client processes and support team.

    And I really lost in doubts, because I can’t definitely say what shall I choose.

    Because becoming of BA refuses management skills development, and voting for support team lead stopping professional skills development, those skills that I’m getting in my Universtity.

    I have read a lot of articles on this site an would be really grateful if you help me with this dilemma.

    Thank you,

    • It all depends on what you want to do with your life or where you see yourself in the next five years. Based on this, here are my recommendations:

      1. If you see yourself staying at the same job or working for the same company for the next five years, then you may consider staying on as a support team lead.

        Who knows in those five years, if you do an exceptional job you can even get promoted into a management role.

      2. if you don’t see yourself staying on the same job for the next five (5) years or you will be fulfilled or enjoy working as a Support Team Lead, consider a Junior Business Analyst role.

        Since you will be leaving the company, you will probably find more work or opportunities as a business analyst.

        Also, if you enjoy working as a business analyst, then you should go for it, because nothing beats doing what you love!

      • VIS_VITALIS

        Hello,

        Thank you for your reply! I have worked for a one month as a team lead and get deeper in the deals there. So, I can say for sure, being a team lead requires a lot of organizational skills, but actually destroys your professional experience, you just mostly dealing with different things like policies, processes and so on. You are trying to set up procedures and these procedures can improve the deals in the department, but you are actually trying to keep more far from the original process. You are resolving human issues like salary, schedule and so on. I can’t actually say, that this will help in the professional growth.

        So, I have chosen business analysis and I think that this will bring me more really useful experience and I will avoid he things which couldn’t help neither in professional developement nor in management (just resolving things like peoples schedule is really useless and requires simple logic but nothing else).

        Anyway, thanks a lot for your advice!

        Regards,
        Vitaly.

  9. Vasu

    Hello Sir,

    I have completed MBA-IT with 9 months of development experience in asp.net an d sql server.

    Now I have joined as a Project coordinator, Afterwords, I would like to become a Project Manager.

    So what skills i should have or what i have to prepare for that.

    Thanks And Regards

    Vasu Hajare

    • Get lots of handson experience in actually managing your projects and pay attention to both the soft skills and the hard skills.

      1. Learn how to use one or more project management software programs. Microsoft Project (MS Project) being a good example. Don’t just learnit, use it on the job so that you get real-world experience in it

      2. Learn how to estimate your project resources for each feature, milestone or phase of your project. Get some experience with estimating task duration, task dependencies and resource allocation.

      3. The skills I mentioned above are more of hard skills. But you will also need some soft skills including communication and leadership skills.

        Along those lines, get some real-world experience on how to communicate with senior management and how to communicate with your developers.

        The best way to get experience is to get your hands dirty.

        So, ask your project manager for the opportunity to take on some of these roles and responsibilities under his/her supervision!

  10. Tari

    I am thinking of a career move into business analysis.

    I studied Information Systems many years ago (2001) and worked as a BA for a logistics firm for a 3 years after.

    Since then, I have gone on to solidify my business and project management skills to the detriment of my BA skills.

    I am thinking of moving back into Business Analysis mainly because I miss the creativity and with my working experience, i have more of a grip on business entities and processes than I did before.

    The one thing I know is I don’t enjoy the hardware side of IT but I do enjoy the programming and mapping of processes.

    My question is how do I go about getting back into the IT world as a business analyst and using the skills I have to my advantage?

    What training courses would you recommend?

    Thanks.

    • Tari:

      It sounds that you are more passionate about business analysis than about project management … which is a good thing to know because so many people end up being confused about what they like or do not like and they feel like they have to work jobs that they hate as if they had no options.

      #1: Getting back into a business analysis role will not be hard for you from the experience side … project management is close enough to business analysis. In many corporations, project managers also fulfill the role of a business analyst because there is no funding for a full-time business analyst or an awareness of the need to separate a business analyst’s duties from a project managers.

      So based on that, you are already ahead of many people that are transitioning to a business analyst role because of your project management background.

      However, you have to learn or master the functions of a business analyst especially if you are going to be doing that as a full-time job because there is still a lot of difference between the skills of a project manager and that of a business analyst.

      Here is an article that talks about the difference between the two careers

      Here is more information on training courses that will help you get back into a business analyst career

      Here is more information on the business analyst career

    • Tari,

      It sounds that you are more passionate about business analysis than about project management … which is a good thing to know because so many people end up being confused about what they like or do not like and they feel like they have to work jobs that they hate as if they had no options.

      #1: Getting back into a business analysis role will not be hard for you from the experience side … project management is close enough to business analysis. In many corporations, project managers also fulfill the role of a business analyst because there is no funding for a full-time business analyst or an awareness of the need to separate a business analyst’s duties from a project managers.

      So based on that, you are already ahead of many people that are transitioning to a business analyst role because of your project management background.

      However, you have to learn or master the functions of a business analyst especially if you are going to be doing that as a full-time job because there is still a lot of difference between the skills of a project manager and that of a business analyst.

      Here is an article that talks about the difference between the two careers: http://www.it-career-coach.net/2010/04/12/is-a-project-manager-or-business-analyst-career-a-better-fit-for-you/

      Here is more information on training courses that will help you get back into a business analyst career:
      http://www.it-career-coach.net/shopping-cart/business_analyst_boot_camp.html

      Here is more information on the business analyst career:
      http://www.businessanalystbootcamp.com/more-information/

  11. Cheryl

    I had a 20 year career in IT after graduating from college.

    I have a MS in Computer science.

    I have been working as a science teacher for 7 years now.

    I would like to re-enter the IT industry as a Business Analyst.

    I have extensive experience as a Project Manager/Business Analyst.

    What can I do to make my solid skills attractive to employers?

    • Reentering the workforce as a business analyst should be pretty straightforward to you … why?

      Because you already have extensive experience as a project manager / business analyst!

      You are way ahead of the game … a lot of people are still struggling with getting handson experience and you already have that figured out, good for you!

      What you need to do going forward is to highlight your extensive handson project management experience / background.

      Don’t do this … don’t be overly apologetic for the years that you’ve spent working as a teacher. Yes, you may be asked about the seven (7) year gap that you spent working as a science teacher.

      Your answer should be a positive, assertive response. Something along the lines of … “I wanted to serve or give back to my country and I felt that being a science teacher empower me to serve my community” and now, I am ready for a new challenge.

      Now, you want to spell out the clients that you worked for and the projects that you worked on in a big way, so that potential hiring managers or recruiters are focusing on your current science career … but on your extensive project management / business analyst experience and yes, you should brush up on your terminology and your knowledge of business analysis and/or project management.

      All you have to do, is to go and sell yourself … and you should be able to do that, because you’ve already taken care of a major hiring requirement: handson experience!

  12. Latifa

    My toughest challenge would be getting out of my current job and moving forward.

    I don’t know if I should move out of my current job because its a union job

    (I also have small kids), more security here, but the management jobs e.g Business analyst and eventually a Project Manager has more challenges, changes, keeping things more interesting, this is what motivate me and I would love to get into the game.

    Not sure what to do…

    • #union #projectmanagement #pmp The best security is found in yourself and not in a job or in a union. There is no security in a job. Security is in the skills and attitude that you bring to the job.

      There is no security in a Union Job or in an Employer paying your wages because companies frequently go bankrupt or layoff their workers (whether they are unionized or not).

      The best security is to invest in yourself, my growing your skills, experience and leadership potential.

      If you make a personal development plan and then start growing your skills in the project management and business analysis area, the time would come whjen you are so good … that if you lost your union job, you would still be marketable because your skills are portable or in-demand

  13. Garima

    I am an MBA and I have worked in Banking Sector for about two years. I am interested in BA, but what are the job opportunities for someone with non-technical background?

    • #mba #ba #cbap #iiba You can follow a banking / finance business analyst career path.

      Based on the fact that you already have a banking / finance domain experience.

      Your business analysis career path depends more on your hands-on skills and experience than on your MBA degree.

      Your MBA degree is more like an entry level qualification .. same as having any other degree (computer science, information technology, business, marketing, etc.)

      However you need to add business analysis learning to your resume because that is not equivalent to having an MBA.

      So, take the time to learn business analysis and then start searching for banking / finance BA jobs.

  14. information

    I want that i always be in touch with the latest technologies as well as client handling and requirement gathering.

    I mean i want that if someone ask me something about technology i can provide him the answers, as I have worked as a software engineer for last 5 years(in java ) so i want that if someone has technical problems regarding it i can solve that too along with the analysis of the project.

    So should i go for BA.

    • You want to be a senior software developer, a software architect or a technical team lead. These positions allow you to work with the requirements of the system, stay on top of the technical discussions and at the same time leverage your five (5) years of Java Application Development.

      On the other hand, transitioning to a full-time business analysis job will remove you from the technical aspects of the job because in many companmies the techniacl aspects are separated from the business analysis aspects.

      However, some companies still put up job postings for business analysts withj a software development / coding background. These is not necessarily the norm and when you see such an advertisemnt, you have to find out what the employer is really hiring for:

      1. A business analyst (BA) with coding background? – so that the BA can discuss the requirements with t5echnical folks easily?
      2. A sofware developer with business analysis skills – the primary job will be software development, but they want the business analyst to bne responsible for gathering and documenting the requirements of the project?

      Attempting to be both, may mean that one or both suffers. So, you must be sure to understand what the prospective employer is hiring for or what you really want!

      • information

        Thanks for the reply

        actually i would like to go for your (2) point but what i get from ur point is that even if i go for 2 point at some point of my age i have to leave s/w development.

        can u tell me if one moves in BA can he/she becomes a business consultant after some years in a specific domain.

        actually i want to become a business consultant and I think that BA is a right ladder for it. coz i think i will learn all lessons through it , coz if i move to s/w development only i will not be able to become business consultant as s/w develper or PM has only knowledge related to projects not about the market ??

        waiting for ur reply …

        • #1: The path to becoming a business consultant maps to the business analyst career path more than it maps to the software developer career path or to the project management career path

          #2: On the other hand, you need to really become a subject matter expert and try and work a specific industry. Beacuse the business problems you have to solve in the Telecoms Industry (for example) is different from the Healthcare Industry

  15. Edin

    The toughest challenge facing me now is the answer to the what next question.

    I do not want to be a project manager, so what other options are there for me?

    • Edin:

      As this article points out, business analysis is an alternative to project management.

      But so is technical writing, data analysis and others.

      I need to know what you dislike about project management and what you like to do, to make a better recommendation.

      • Sibusiso

        Thanks for your response.

        I habe just joined a new organisation, in my previouse organisation i was employed as a Businaess Analyst but i also managed projects.

        My experience in project manaement was not so good with regrds to having to chase after people for what they know they have to do.

        I also disliked the admin that came with the job. the other thing i realised about my self is that i tend to get involved in the detail which made my job even more complicated and annoying.

        I ended up having to do a lot more work that i was not supposed to as a PM.

        I do not realy dislike PM, i just feel there must be more options.

        • Handling both Business Analysis and Project Management means that one or both careers will suffer! It is better to be just one … a business analyst or a project manager.

          Since you dislike chasing after people or the administration and scheduling of tasks … you are either not ready, not trained or not cut-out to be a project manager!

          Project Managers and Business Analysts tend to work hand in hand and knowing that some employers decide to kill 2 birds with one stone by either asking you to do both jobs.

          However, most people will be good at one or the other but not both because these are separate career paths that require a dedicated body of knowledge, training and skill sets.

          What usually happens in such cases is that if you have good PM skills then the PM aspects of the job will get done but the requirements analysis will suffer and vice versa.

          There is another option … dedicate yourself to your business analyst duties and say no to project management duties when asked to do so. Only do PM duties when you are comfortable to do so (and to help your company out) but not as a duty that carries eual weight with your BA roles and responsibilities.

  16. One of the best skills a project manager can learn is how to fully engage a client in the requirements gathering phase.

    Too often, the PM will listen to a client’s needs, then go off and create requirements that address their interpretation of those needs.

    That’s a big difference that routinely creates friction between the two parties.

    When you can work with your client in real time to build a list of mutually understood requirements, you increase the odds of project success.

    Thanks,

    Hobie Swan

  17. Scot

    I have to take exception to the characterization of the BA in your compare/contrast article, especially in light of Agile Development.

    In both Iterative and Agile methods, the BA is (or should be) involved with requirements gathering, project communication and facilitation, translating technical and business jargon, holding development to the business needs during the execution phase through Alpha Testing, demos, walk-throughs and issues management. BAs often write the Test Cases and, suprise!

    The Test Scripts when the project doesn’t have QA resources.

    In the implementation phase, the BA acts as a Level Two Support contact to triage user issues.

    Then the BA and the PM begin negotiating the features/repairs list for the next spring or iteration.

    • An agile business analyst gathers requirements iteratively compared to more traditional / waterfall processes.

      However, the BA may write test cases or test scripts in either, both or none depending on the environment … in smaller shops, the BA tends to be a jack of all trades doing some testing and even some development while in larger shops, you have clear separation of duties.

      I posed your question to the readers in the article: A Day In The Life of a Business Analyst

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