A few days a go, a fellow BA, Anthony Arriagada, made the statement on LinkedIn that BAs are essentially product owners. The ensuing discussion was insightful.
Here’s my two cents- a BA can be a PO, but not every PO is a BA.
To evaluate this statement carefully, I think we need to take a step back. We call ourselves Business Analysts (BA) primarily because we practice the art of business analysis. For the most part, we accept that the IIBA sets the parameters around the art we practice, including methodologies and techniques. Business Analysts can serve in various industries and be given various titles, but it is what we do, and how we do it, that allows us to collectively call ourselves Business Analysts.
The same can be said of a ‘product owner’. This title has been defined by a specific methodology, and has it’s own set of ascribed techniques.
If we look at the techniques practiced by both BAs and POs, there is quite a bit of crossover. I put it to you that the difference can be found in
- how work is approached
- how much organizations value each approach
POs are meant to serve as SMEs (-at least that what my experience tells me). They know, for a fact, every detail about the products they own, from the software to the hardware, from the user interface to the algorithms.
BAs perform thorough research (-at least that’s what my experience tells me). BAs look to find ways to define and measure. BAs acknowledge and try to uncover the unknown. BAs try to reconfirm what is already known. BAs ask lots of questions, and they keep asking until they get answers.
POs bring certainty. BAs question, measure, and question again anything that is said to be certain.
Certainty is brought about by thorough research. Research allows certainty by minimizing unknowns. Certainty cannot be without thorough research.
If organizations value the appearance of certainty above anything else, that organization probably employs POs. However, as the business community learns that they need to respond differently that they have been to changing markets, those who practice the art of business analysis become more prevalent.