How to transfer from a Business Analyst to a Project Manager

In our recent survey of more than 1,600 technology professionals, we asked if they would consider transferring to a different skill set and if so, which skill set they would consider transferring to. Whilst 13% said they had already transferred, a further 57% would consider trying a new discipline, with the most desirable skillset to transfer to being project management.

A common route into project management is to transfer from a business analyst position. So what makes project management so attractive to business analysts? How easy is it to transfer from a BA to a PM? And what advice can the people who have already transferred give to their fellow technology peers looking to make the move?

We have sought the opinions of three project managers who have made the switch from a business analyst position and another project manager who came from an alternative background to understand how they found the transition.

Mark, IT Project Manager, Hampshire

“I started out as a Business Analyst and found on many occasions the opportunity to undertake project management tasks would arise. To begin with, I found myself doing a hybrid role that combined business analysis and project management activities, and to this day, there are times when I put different ‘hats’ on depending on whether I’m planning a project or actually doing the project. It was a natural progression to move into the project management role and I now spend the majority of my time managing interesting and diverse projects.

Being a project manager can be a challenging job, but also very diverse, interesting and enjoyable. The one thing I’d advise to anyone looking to transfer from a technical background into project management is to be flexible to change and not to be downhearted when projects don’t quite go to plan. There is a drum beat to managing projects and being a strong communicator is essential to understand where people are at, where they’re struggling, and assess how we can overcome the issue. I’d also recommend for aspiring project managers to obtain an industry recognised qualification or awareness in both the Prince2 and Agile methodologies.”

Alex, IT Project Manager, Hampshire

"I kind of fell into project management as a result of a lack of resource. I was in a BA (business analyst) role and there were a lot of transferrable skills. Initially, there was a steep learning curve and a lot more responsibility. The key is to get into the detail as quickly as possible and understand how you need to tailor your approach for each of your stakeholders. I enjoy the fast pace, high pressure environment that exists in the profession and every day there is a new challenge.  I also like that you get to work with a wide variety of people and stakeholders across your own company, third parties and clients and that you play a key part in growing/changing the company you work for.”

“Once I had delivered a few projects I then got professional qualifications that were appropriate for what I was doing such as PRINCE 2 and Six sigma. These qualifications provide evidence you understand the process/thought process needed to deliver a project end to end, but only experience gives you awareness for the real-life risks that you will need to mitigate when you embark on a new initiative.”

Des, Project Manager, London

“With a background in finance I was attracted to project management as I like analysing problems and finding solutions to them - especially technology related issues. People are generally attracted to project management if they like autonomy and the ability to change their working environment as well as daily challenges. I transferred from a BA (Business Analyst) position which was tough initially and hard to get the first role. I transferred because I always wanted to work in projects. I recommend for anyone looking to transfer to project management to gain knowledge of Agile and Scrum is a must. Try to get some experience, even if it's low paid or just for a few weeks, working in an Agile or PM (Project Management) environment as it will provide you with vital experience that will stand you in good stead to get another longer term role in the future.”

Of course, transferring from a business analyst to a project manager isn’t the only route into project management. As long as you possess strong communication and organisational skills, amongst other core attributes, project managers can come from a wide variety of backgrounds, as Samantha, Infrastructure Project Manager, Dorset demonstrates:

“Whilst teaching at a school, I decided to pursue a career in project management with the view to advance my career. I left teaching to project manage the implementation of a new virtual learning environment as well as the building of a new website. I love the diversity of the job and the contact I have with various stakeholders.”

So in terms of routes into project management, starting as a Business Analyst is a natural role to progress from but at the core, it is really about being a strong communicator and enjoying working with people. To boost your chances of getting your first project management role, gaining work experience in a project management environment and reading up on key methodologies such as Agile, Scrum and Prince2 will help. If you’re flexible to change, like problem solving and thrive in a fast paced, high pressure environment, then project management could be the career for you.

View our latest project management vacancies here.

To view the full Technology: Voice of the Workforce results click here.

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