What's the Difference Between a Project Manager and a Business Analyst?

Updated on October 9, 2017
Max Dalton profile image

Max earned his project management professional (PMP) certification in 2013. He holds an MA in Communication from U of I.


The line between the roles of project managers and business analysts is blurry, and the responsibilities of the roles will vary from organization to organization. The common way to differentiate the roles is to think of the project manager as being responsible for managing the project as a whole, while the business analyst is often responsible for managing all elements of requirements, from gathering at the beginning to validating at the end. This article explores the roles of both the project manager and business analyst within the five standard phases of a project.

Initiation Phase

After a business case has been submitted and a project has been approved, the first big task for both the project manager and business analyst will be to have a follow-up conversation with the project sponsor to take a deeper dive into the project. At that time, the project manager's focus will be on gathering information around how the project will be funded, what the timeline is, and how project success will be measured. The business analyst, however, will start identifying what stakeholders will need to be involved in the project and start getting a feel for what the high-level requirements are. This is primarily done through capturing user stories around how they feel the new functionality or tool should work. All of this information will feed into the project charter, which is an output of the initiation phase.

First Questions a Project Manager Should Ask When Starting a New Project

Planning Phase

During the planning phase, the project manager works to build out a communication plan, which details how often each specific stakeholder will be communicated to, and how they will be communicated to. The project manager also pulls together a detailed schedule, risk management plan, and works with the technical leads to pull together the resources that will be required to do the work. The business analyst takes this time to start breaking the users captured user stories and high-level requirements into more detailed requirements. To do this, she may lead brainstorming or process mapping sessions, which will feed into the generation of wireframes that can be referenced by the developers. The business analyst will then start breaking those requirements down into specific tasks, which developers will provide estimates for. All of this requirements information will live inside of the work breakdown structure, which is owned and maintained by the business analyst. All of the information generated by both the project manager and business analyst will get pulled into the project plan, which is managed by the project manager.

Execution Phase

The primary job of the project manager during the execution phase is keeping a thumb on the pulse of the project and making sure that everything stays on track. The project manager is responsible for everything from raising awareness of risks to getting the work completed on time, and monitoring issues to ensure they get resolved in a timely manner. Alternatively, the business analyst should be generating test cases and test plans that will be used during testing to validate that what was developed is in line with what was asked for.

The project manager is responsible for managing all aspects of a project.
The project manager is responsible for managing all aspects of a project. | Source

Control Phase

The project manager will work to line up testers and distribute the test cases and test plans to the necessary parties, ensuring they are returned in a timely fashion. The business analyst is responsible for reviewing the results that come back through the testing, and logging issues and bugs for the developers to resolve. If there are questions and concerns about how specific issues or bugs should be addressed, the project manager and business analyst should work with the primary stakeholder to discuss the correct action, and then give direction to the team based on that feedback.

Closing Phase

During the closing phase of a project, the project manager is responsible for ensuring that all documentation is signed and stored in the appropriate location, and ensuring that all bills get paid. The business analyst, on the other hand, is responsible for ensuring that all of her updated documents make it into the hands of the project manager, and for making a final lap through the project from a requirements perspective to ensure that nothing was missed. Both the project manager and business analyst, in addition to other key players on the project, should pull together a list of lessons learned to review with the team after the project is closed out.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2017 Max Dalton


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