Business Analysts who want to become Product Owners should know these two things.

As the market changes for business analysts and more consider the move into the product owner world, the question becomes, what is the difference between the role? Product owners can sometimes just be business analysts with a new job title and in other cases they are really product owners with full authority to make decisions.

Agile development has driven the growth of the product owner role. No longer do business partners have to wait months for development to implement new features / functions, instead they can be delivered in weeks. Since business partners usually have to run the business they don’t have time to spend on agile work so they delegate business representation to the product owner.

Now, let us consider two of the key differences in the product owner role vs business analyst:

  1. Industry knowledge – with the traditional BA role, there is usually time to get up to speed in the industry being worked in (Retail, Utility, Finance, Health, Transportation etc..) as the requirements are gathered. This means that having industry knowledge is not a deal breaker to being hired. In the product owner world, you had better know the industry as decisions have to be made quickly to keep the development moving. For example glass devices are not allowed in food processing plants, so developing a product solution that uses cell phone applications would be a bad decision for any industry that goes inside food processing plants because of the glass touch screen.
  2. Metrics / research – product owners need to make decisions on the priority of features / functions to be developed. As a product owner, you need to know how to justify the decision based on real world facts. This requires an understanding of the research options / data available and metrics desired in new development. Think Google Analytics, combined with any restrictions on data that can be collected / solutions that can be delivered. Business analysts on the other hand normally get this information and direction from their business partners.

How to get the skills needed to be a product owner?

  • Industry knowledge can be gained by either working as a business analyst in the industry for a period of time or getting a job on the business side. Both options will be good to getting the necessary experience.
  • Knowing research options / metrics to justify decisions is not always needed as not all companies expect this of their product owners. However for those product owners that do need to know the information, joining external groups in the industry, reading trade publications, staying on top of trends, working on the business side etc.. can all help to build up the knowledge required to justify decisions.

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