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When we talk about the role of the Business Analyst what are we talking about. Are we talking the same language when we talk about the Product Owner role? Why does their seems to be a mystical cloud when trying the connect both of these roles. Simply put both of these roles are the same (in theory) as the focus of the role is on a particular industry, function, technology, or line of business. The role becomes fully immersed in the nuances of their industry and project. Dependant on the type of industry, the role can often transition into the functional area and become responsible for the technical enablement of the department. The titles around here can vary with things like business analyst or product consultant or technology specialist.  This person might get so involved in the policies and rules of a product, they may actually get to the point where they someday lead that product area.

The role of a business analyst or product owner can be defined as the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to:

  • Determine problems and identify business needs.
  • Identify and recommend viable solutions for meeting those needs.
  • Elicit, document, and manage stakeholder requirements in order to meet business and project objective.
  • Facilitate the successful implementation of the product, service, or end result of the program or project.

In today markets, this role can be performed but a multitude of different individuals and competencies that can range in title, name and price. The role can be covered by the following:

  • Agile team members,
  • Business architects or process analysts
  • Enterprise business analysts
  • Product managers or product owners
  • Project managers
  • Requirements, software requirements, systems, or value engineers and
  • Requirements managers.

The role of the business analyst or product has traditionally been one that facilitates communication between the product and business stakeholders. We expect the product owner or business analyst to have great skills in this area and also to be focused and efficient at both verbal and written communication.

As the traditional business analyst takes or more of an agile role, then lets refer to them as the product owner. Again, even the title changes, the role remains the same but the title really is a reference towards agile and the culture that brings with it There are several aspects about this role which I think are critical to understand:

  1. Product owners bridge the communication between the team and their stakeholders. This breaks out into two main elements
    • first as a technical go-to person within the development team and
    • as a project team representative to the overall stakeholder community as a whole.
  2. Product owners are empowered with the ability to deal and make change as need be. The product owner is the single person whom is responsible for prioritising requirements as the part of the backlog. This is one of their single go-to point and focuses. By doing this, this provides a method for providing the details and explaining the requirements to the team.
  3. Product owners facilitate communication. As product owners need good communication skills, including agile brainstorming, prototype and conducting workshop. The skills of the product owner should never be overlooked. They also need to know who the stakeholders are, interact with them regularly, and when needed facilitate the interaction which the team has with them.
  4. Product owners should prefer direct means of communication. There is significant evidence that the worst way to communicate information between people is via documentation, and that the most effective way is face-to-face around a shared sketching environment. This is probably one of the singular biggest differences between a business analyst and a product owner. Focus is on the communication and not on the documentation.
  5. Product owners need many business analysis skills. The product owner need to be skilled in techniques to identify stakeholder needs, negotiate priorities between repeating stakeholder factions, and then collaborate with developers to ensure that the requirements are implemented effectively.

So is the role of the business analyst significantly different to the role of the Product Owner. The answer is no. What is different is the culture of the business where these roles do exist.

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