Business Case Ownership: Nothing But the Facts Please

In Product Management, Product Teams, Project Management by 2 Comments

Several months ago I was asked to participate on a cross-functional panel tasked with answering a difficult question. Would you rather hire a project manager or a business analyst?

The underlying assumption was you could only hire one or the other. As panelists we were instructed to pick a role and defend it. The challenge, of course, was that we had to make this decision without the benefit of any background information about the hypothetical company. The question was designed to be highly controversial.

In fact, the question was so controversial that the panelists later banded together to write an article on the subject. The article shot up the ranks into the top five on both the ProjectTimes and BATimes. None of the contributing authors were shocked given the  controversial nature of the topic.

As the panel drew to a close an interesting discussion broke out. In fact, I have to admit to being a bit puzzled at the time. A business analyst in the audience asked a question about who should be responsible for creating the business case for new product development efforts?

I was a bit taken aback because, as someone who has been in the product management profession for some time, I had primarily seen product managers creating the business case and owning it. At this point, a vigorous discussion broke out amongst the panelists and the audience regarding business case creation and ownership.

This question has continued to nag at me ever since.

So when the opportunity arose to clarify what was going on I have to admit that I was determined to dig into this topic. My chance to get the facts presented itself in a recent cross-functional study we conducted called The Study of Product Team Performance, 2012. What we found resolved my nagging question once and for all.

The majority of respondents indicated that product managers “are primarily responsible for writing the business case for product development projects.” However, it’s interesting to note that Business Analysts are the second largest category with approximately 14% of organizations pointing to the business analyst. The next closest column was product owners at 13%.

So it appears that product managers still remain firmly entrenched as the business case creator in the majority of organizations but business analysts appear to be making inroads. In fact, thought leaders in the business analyst space tell me that they’re beginning to develop training courses to help business analysts become more proficient at business case development.

We now have the facts. And it’s quite clear that product managers continue to own the task of writing the business case. I’ll sleep a little easier tonight!

 

Greg Geracie is a recognized thought leader in the field of product management and the President of Actuation Consulting, a global provider of product management consulting, training, and advisory services to some of the world’s most well-known organizations. Greg is also the author of the global best seller Take Charge Product Management. He is also an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on high-tech and digital product management. 

Comments

  1. Something tells me you weren’t surprised by the result. Neither was I. PMs and BAs most often work together, but it’s usually the PM that starts the project and the BA that finishes it, no?

    1. Author

      Hi Bruce, you’re correct. However, I was beginning to wonder if some seismic event was taking place under my feet that I was only beginning to feel. So the facts were a bit reassuring. However, I do believe that there is rising interest in the BA community to increase the proficiency of BA’s to fully develop business cases. I had a couple of sidebar conversations with some industry thought leaders and training organizations and it was clear that this is a direction that they’re moving in…

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