There is a common misconception that the Product Owner is just a Business Analyst with a new suit and a better title. While the two share many skills in common, the roles are really quite different. According to the Agile Atlas: “The Product Owner is the single individual who is responsible for drawing out the most valuable possible product by the desired date.”
Great Product Owners have:
- A clear understanding of the business needs.
- A clear vision of where the product needs to go.
- Enough budgetary authority that they can make decisions about product features without having them changed later.
- They must be able to get answers to the team’s questions rapidly (think minutes and occasionally hours).
The right Business Analyst has these attributes and will make a great Product Owner. In contrast many BA’s are great detail people, but struggle with the vision side. In addition many businesses aren’t willing to give a BA the budgetary authority required of the PO.
Other warning signs of the wrong PO:
- Rarely available to answer the team’s questions
- Doesn’t talk to end-users directly instead just talks to their managers or admins
- In a large organization there are often many levels of people between the PO and the actual users of the Product
So before just deciding that your Business Analyst will become the Product Owner, sit down and examine who has the right mix of skills, authority and access to play the role well.