Product owner vs business analyst

Last post 09:48 pm October 14, 2020
by Paul Ockleford
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10:11 pm October 5, 2020

Today it became clear to me whilst taking part in a workshop with another team that a common view is that the product owner does the work of the business analyst and it was suggested that with a product owner the business analyst role is really superfluous.

I do not have a lot of experience with exactly what a product owner does in their day to day job, I do know that the last large system I worked on had both, and the roles were very different.

Is there a clear line between these roles, or is often the product owner actually working as a business analyst and so the business analyst role is no longer needed?

10:44 pm October 5, 2020

From your reading of the Scrum Guide, is there a business analyst role at all?

What does the Guide say about a Product Owner's work, and who might do it? Could there still be a use for someone with business analysis skills?

06:28 am October 6, 2020

Hi Ian,

From my understanding and reading of the guide there is no business analyst role.
 

I just reread the product owner section and it certainly sounds like the sort of thing that a business analyst 'might' do (amongst other things).

Personally I do think there is still a use for people with business analysis skills, although they might also be the product owner?

In your experience are there people with business analysis skills (aka business analysts by job title) and a product owner embedded within a team or generally just a product owner?

03:01 pm October 6, 2020

Remember that the Scrum Guide defines ROLES not job descriptions. And it is very possible for many people to do functions of a role.  So having someone with a title of Business Analyst and someone with a title of Product Owner work together on a team is not unusual.  However you do need one individual that is ultimately responsible for the decisions for that role. 

My current company has Product Managers that work together with Business Analysts and User Experience Engineers to fulfill the Product Owner role.  The Product Manager is ultimately responsible for the product direction and decisions of that matter. 

01:00 am October 8, 2020

Every company adopts Scrum, or Agile, differently. I have not seen it done one way. In some organizations, the Product Owner is no more than a Lead Business Analyst, and the Product Manager owns the Product. In other organizations, several Business Analysts act as Product Owner proxies and assist the Product Owner on a large and complex product.

04:05 pm October 9, 2020

Daniel thanks for sharing your experience, when you say Scrum defines a role of product owner I completely understand this, but the Scrum guide does say "The Product Owner is one person, not a committee."

If there are multiple people fulfilling this role, although one person is still ultimately responsible that doesn't sound like it is in accordance with the Scrum guide?

I get it is different at different organisations and I did previously work on a large system for NHS bookings which had multiple product owners for discrete parts of the system but all of the user stories were written by business analysts.

04:39 pm October 9, 2020

There's nothing to stop a Development Team from having business analysis skills.

The Scrum Guide says:

The Product Owner may do the above work, or have the Development Team do it. However, the Product Owner remains accountable.

In your experience at the NHS, how clear was this accountability for each product?

12:44 am October 12, 2020

If you insist on figuring out which roles in a traditional development team are equivalent to Scrum roles, you may be disappointed. 

For the new Scrum team, I will tell them that the product owner is like an entrepreneur. S/he is responsible for maximizing the value of the product resulting from work of the Development Team. 

What s/he cares about is the rate of return on investment.

As for what expertise s/he must have, or what role s/he has played, this is not the point. As long as s/he can find someone to help her/his accomplish her/his goal.

 

 

 

09:40 pm October 14, 2020

In your experience at the NHS, how clear was this accountability for each product?

It was not overly clear who was actually accountable, it felt like as developers we were ultimately accountable and the product owners were healthcare professionals, from what I know the business analysts wrote the user stories and performed the analysis but worked in some way with these product owners.

If you insist on figuring out which roles in a traditional development team are equivalent to Scrum roles, you may be disappointed. 

That is not what I am trying to do really, what I wanted to understand is whether someone who fills the 'role' of product owner should also have business analysis skills and be performing the 'job' of a business analyst.

By this I mean someone has ultimate responsibility for the product and ensures value is added but is that person necessarily going to be going out and working with users, gathering requirements and drawing up diagrams. This is the impression that I was given after attending the workshop.

I think the answer is they could, but they might not and its completely dependent on the project/organisation, so being told that this is the case is not necessarily true.

09:48 pm October 14, 2020

it felt like as developers we were ultimately accountable and the product owners were healthcare professionals

I thought I should expand on why I said this... it felt like this because the product owners were not involved in our day to day activities although they were at the show and tells.

And it felt more like the responsibility fell on the development teams because there were road maps of the work which needed to be completed by certain dates and which felt more like the indicator of success.

The part where product owners talked about what work would add value happened somewhere else and we were not aware of it and to me it was not clear who was accountable for anything.

What we were doing was a form of Scrum (I think) but was called "Enterprise Agile", it looks in hindsight like a version of SAFe and there were lots of layers of project managers, delivery managers and programme managers, as well as technical leads and delivery managers from the private consultancy who had the lions share of the work.