In this episode, Angela Wick explains the skills needed to successfully transition to a Product Owner role and how to overcome some of the associated challenges.

After listening to this episode, you'll understand:

  • Which business analysis skills overlap with those of a product owner
  • The mindset shift needed to become a product owner
  • Common gaps in the business analyst skill set and how to address them
  • What you need to do to successfully transition to a product owner role

Show Notes

Can a Business Analyst be successful in a Product Owner role?  There’s so much overlap between the roles and many opportunities to collaborate with the Product Owner.  Because of the overlap in skills, the Product Owner role is on the career path of many Business Analysts.

The two roles are so closely aligned that almost everything in the Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) is part of the Product Owner role.  The most foundational difference between a product owner and a BA is decision making authority.

Business Analysts facilitate the conversation with decision makers to arrive at a decision while the Product Owner has the authority to make decisions about the product themselves.

Many teams and organizations view the Product Owner as the decision maker and customer/business facing role and the Business Analyst as the internal, team facing role.

Bob Galen’s Product Owner model describes the role in four dimensions; Product Manager, Project Manager, Business Analyst, and Leader.  These elements are also in the Business Analyst role and the BA can either partner with the Product Owner or transition to the PO role.


What is a Product Owner?

A Product Owner is a role on a scrum team that is responsible for determining priorities and what gets build.  The delivery team then can focus on how to deliver that product.

The product owner may perform elicitation, analysis, prioritization, visioning, and more to ensure a shared understanding of customer value.  It’s their responsibility to create a healthy, prioritized list of backlog items that the team can deliver.


Core BA skills that are transferrable to a PO role

  • Facilitation: Facilitation is a key skill. That includes facilitation to create a shared understanding and to elicit requirements.
  • Decision Making: A Business Analyst may be used to making decisions through models and analysis. Decision Making is also needed for Product Owners to decide the best features and capabilities of the product to maximize customer value and return on investment.
  • Prioritization: Prioritization may be an issue for some Business Analysts because they’re accustomed to prioritization through consensus building. However, as a Product Owner, you have decision making authority and the expectation is for faster prioritization decisions.
  • Systems Thinking, Modeling, and Analysis are also needed to be a successful Product Owner.

One area where Business Analysts transitioning to a Product Owner role may struggle is documentation.  If BAs see their value as producing documentation, there is a mindset shift needed to be successful as a Product Owner.

We must shift from the need to create documentation to the need to facilitate a conversation.  When we do need to create documentation, it should be just enough, just in time.


Where are the gaps?

The most basic gap between the Business Analyst role and the Product Owner role is the mindset.  While Product Owners use many of the same skills and techniques, there is a fundamentally different way of thinking about the role and the product.

We need to understand our own mental model and how that drives our behaviors.  From there, challenge some of those thought patterns.  It takes time to shift your thinking to incremental work, empowerment, and a culture of collaboration over documentation to get a shared understanding.

The other area with which Business Analysts often struggle is Product Management; understanding the product and the value it provides to customers.  As a Product Owner, you need to understand the product and which changes will be valuable to customers.

This includes talking to customers to understand them better and create a vision of the product to align the team.  From there, you can create a roadmap to develop a shared understanding of priorities and where the product is going.  You may also need to create a release plan based on delivery customer value (instead of based on technical changes) and aligned to the product vision.

We need to put customer value first and let that drive the roadmap.

Listen to the full episode to hear all of Angela’s advice on transitioning from a Business Analyst to a Product Owner role.




Your Homework

Keep learning!  The role keeps changing and evolving.  You need to have a mindset of continuous improvement and continuous growth.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Angela Wick

Angela Wick

CEO of BA-Squared

Angela Wick is CEO of BA-Squared.  She was a member of the IIBA BABOK v3 Core Team, expert reviewer of the PMI BA Practice Guide, lead author of the IIBA Competency Model, and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences

Angela’s passion for business and product requirements, combined with her deep and broad experiences in the field, bring a unique perspective that helps all teams develop effective, flexible requirements practices.

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