Donning a New Suit: Business Analyst as the Product Owner

By Bismaya Kumar 4 min read

In today’s fast-paced business ecosystem in IT/Manufacturing/Retailing/Fashion etc., Agile is no longer an option and has taken the front seat in the core of business processes, and every enterprise is turning their head towards it.

To top it further, experts predict the new era of Digital Agile Transformation is here to stay. Well, why not? Everyone wants to be ahead! And to be ahead, the need of the hour is to multitask in an Agile environment. To understand this further, let’s take an example we all can relate to.

In the Hollywood movie ‘Man of Steel’, the protagonist dons the alter ego role of a reporter to gain insight into various situations and gathers information using his reporter abilities. However, when nobody is looking, he slips into his superhero suit to become the superman saving the day and becomes what he’s good at – solving problems at the ground level!

Many of us have similar capabilities too, right?

Now, with that in mind – Let’s look at our workplaces, and in the dynamic IT / Digital solutions space. We often need a guy who can shift gears to understand the nature of the project/product being a Subject Matter Expert (SME); support testers and developers in translating product requirements; suggest value-adds to the solution; strategize the solution to fit the core needs and creating the bridge between requirement and development phases; get back to demos on features ready to go and what not.

When reading the aforesaid, aren’t we inclined to think about whether we’re talking about a product owner or a Business Analyst and up needing someone who is both! Well, in the following lines – we tend to understand this very quandary of a Business Analyst suiting up as a Product Owner.

Introducing the Product Owner

Product Owners (PO) are regarded as the drivers of the product. And why not, according to Agile gurus and Scrum Alliance, a PO is a person at a high level, who nurtures the business case, and safeguards the solution that stays affiliated with the product roadmap and business boxes.

Having said that, the PO ensures his presence at all stages of development, requirement discussion, RFP drafting and solution blueprint; testing to see that the vision is realized. This will in turn ensure that the solution being developed touches every aspect of the product’s core implementation and meets the very thought that got the solution in place. To help them set on this path, the PO uses the very knowledge of their experience, their business domain expertise, futuristic vision and not to forget the very essence of direct consumer/customer relationship.

Does this sound very familiar to what a typical BAs day pans out? Don’t worry as I won’t take time to divulge the fact that it is true. Yes, BA and PO are like the two sides of a coin. Let us take a few moments to realize it.

So, who is a Business Analyst?

Defining a Business Analyst is a Herculean task, as they don many roles depending on the complexity and business model such as:

  • Business Systems Analyst
  • Digital Strategist
  • Requirements Engineer
  • Process Analyst
  • Product Manager
  • Enterprise Analyst
  • Business Process Architect
  • Management Consultant
  • Information Architect
  • Business Intelligence Analyst
  • Data scientist, and more

The list is endless, and it is evident that Business Analysts span across the various stages of a Project much as the Product Owner. However, BAs act additionally as an implementer, investigator, strategist and fact checker. True as they even reconcile, coordinate information sharing, find gaps, and perform traceability and impact analysis. Inching closer to our answer, when a BA can perform all the aforesaid tasks that act as a Superset of the PO, it can be safe within boundaries to ascertain the fact that BA can be the POs going further.

Becoming the ‘Man of Steel’ – Can the BA suit up as a PO?

The answer to the question is apparently evident given the above definitions of a BA from Pundits and well-established Organizations such as IIBA, Scrum Alliance.

For today’s projects and agile requirements driven business models, having a BA with the combination of Subject Matter Expertise of a PO and solution requirements/design experience would be a boon. As the person will conjure the essence of these two elite roles and help the project team realize the product vision, that is critical to quality requirements and tackle any complexities at the design level.

The BA who is a proxy PO will essentially investigate the requirement gaps while understanding the problem areas; determine the need and help prioritize them ensuring the solution is well within the definitive context, and determine the best possible approach to satisfy both the client and the solutions vendor. Not to forget the Strategic visioning and Analytical skills required to forge the continuity of business people, processes, terms, definitions, and software in the surrounding enclave.

The conclusion

Given the full-fledged scope of a Product owner’s role and their proximity and dependency on the BA in translating product needs – it only makes sense that in time with an added insight of the domain and market needs, the BA can get a good grasp of the product roadmap thus stepping up to act as proxy Product Owner, as and when the need arises.

However, given an ideal project environment it is always recommended to have both PO and BA working hand on hand, as this will ensure not only the success of the project but will also assure that in this ever-Agile world- the much-needed requirements are prioritized and that no details are missed. In other words, to lend value the BA should be able to step into the PO suit and play to the ever-expanding roles they possess.

Do you agree?

At TA Digital, our team of multifaceted Business Analysts are constantly adapting to the Product Owners role. Our framework in Digital Strategy molds a Business Analyst to understand the landscape, competitor needs, map it to Customer’s business journey, align it to suitable platform offerings and provide a value-based business analysis engagement that embraces the Product Owner’s vision.

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Bismaya Kumar

Written By

Bismaya Kumar