by Sohail Chatha,
Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant
A week back, I had a very wonderful corporate lunch with work colleagues. For my dish, I needed a fair bit of customisation. The waiter took all the details patiently even though some may have seemed rather quirky even by my own standards. After a 20 minutes wait, voila I have my dish served & I liked it so much I left a tip.
Once at home, still thinking about how perfectly it was executed, I wondered what if the waiter (BA) was not patient enough to carefully note all my wish-list (requirements) & present it to the Chef (product owner) promptly. Had the Chef not listened to the waiter’s input to make perfect meal (product), I (Customer) would not been able to return home in such festive mode (UX).
In the IT industry’s context, a Business Analyst & a Product Owner often have different deliverables but overlapping roles in an organization. For an enterprise to succeed these variable roles need to work collaboratively across all initiatives to deliver value, RoI.
The BA is an inward looking role with a focus on the requirements and improving an enterprise’s internal processes as a result of a need, change or opportunity. Whereas the Product owner is an outward looking role responsible for realising the product, its vision and defining the evaluation metrics for the product’s success. In today’s competitive environment nobody would bet on success of the Enterprise which is not true to its core, inside and out.
A BA collaborates with various stakeholders to perform documentation/mapping of the processes to enhance efficiency whereas a Product Owner is responsible for product management, marketing, roadmapping, and ensuring the product is aligned to user expectations. If the internal processes are optimized & correctly mapped then a Product Owner would be in a better position to deliver a product efficiently within the timelines. Similarly, feedback loops from end-users & external stakeholders transferred from the Product Owner to the enterprise will help the Business Analyst in reshaping processes with a correct modelling of business dynamics. This will make organizations leaner & customer oriented.
Often a Business Analyst is expected to work as a Product Owner as well, due to overlapping areas in their responsibilities. After working on the design and approach, a BA is given charge as a Product Owner to deliver the expectations into a real working solution.
Enterprises are very tempted to use these roles interchangeably as the transition path looks seamless. In limited scenario it has been quite successful. However for projects where the risk of failure is intolerable, requirements are subject to change and tight regulation is present, it is a tough challenge to cover both the bases with same resource without impacting the true potential of the product. As with changing circumstances it becomes more crucial than ever to maintain the sight of the business.
More and more organisations realise the face value of their existence is in the survival of their product, therefore after experimenting this model they are moving towards a settled approach which creates opportunities for the BA and Product Owners to work together rather than stretch the capabilities.
Companies want their critical workforce to be agile, objective oriented, smart and product focused to maintain an edge over their competitors. Since the roles of a BA and Product Owner have the same objective, to deliver a product which delivers the desired value to their customer/end-user, the focus has shifted more on channelling these efforts into collaboration.
More than 50% of IT start-ups could not survive their first financial year because they failed to devise a collaboration model not only at individual levels but also at a process level. In absence of a proper handshake between a BA and a Product Owner, the understanding of the requirements remains invalidated. Agile models encourage the iterative collaboration between these two roles because in case of conflicting delivery the cost of the change and effort makes the product less viable for the market strategy. Due to these impacts, our industry is definitely in need of their friendship.
To create the “Rainbow effect” a Product Owner & a BA need to maintain communication, a working collaborative relationship to get to that illusive perfect product. Through their fostered friendship a successful product can be produced which is a recipe for business success in this lean & competitive business environment.