Richard Larson of Watermark Learning on ProdBOK, Business Analysis and Product Ownership
Today I’m joined by Richard Larson the President of Watermark Learning. Rich is a well regarded thought leader in the business analyst community.
Rich you’re very actively involved in the Business Analyst (BA) community, as you look across the BA profession where do you see it headed?
(Richard Larson) The BA profession is still evolving. The trend our company is seeing is one of the BA playing a dual role. The first is the traditional one that involves eliciting and documenting requirements. That is still a needed and valuable role on projects, no matter what the methodology. The other role is that of a management consultant, advising and making recommendations to business leaders and decision-makers. Examples of this include creating a business case, guidance in prioritizing requirements on a product backlog, and assessing a system’s value and recommending replacement.
Do you encounter a lot of confusion between the business analyst role and the product manager role? If so, where is this most likely to occur?
(Richard Larson) The second role, which we just touched on, is one that might be a possible overlap. If the BA is acting as a consultant, that role can include devising new products. However, the product manager as we see it, represents the business and the BA complements that role with a systems or IT perspective. A business case for a new product should be “owned” by the business, but much of the analytical work can be accomplished by a BA.
How do you think the ProdBOK will help address these challenges?
(Richard Larson) My opinion here is that ProdBOK will help establish clearer boundaries between the BA and product owner. In the case of requirements definition, the BA may be responsible for eliciting, specifying, and documenting them. But, depending on the organizational structure, the product manager may be the person accountable for those requirements. Also, an aligning of terms and language between the ProdBOK, BABOK, and PMBOK would help the industry. IIBA and PMI worked to align the BOKs, and there is still work to be done there. Perhaps the ProdBOK could be aligned with the other two.
Do you think product development leads should encourage a tighter working relationship between business analysts and product managers?
(Richard Larson) Yes, and I’d add to that a closer relationship with the project manager as well. All three roles fulfill a different purpose and all three are critical for success.
Any final thoughts?
(Richard Larson) To repeat a thought, the product manager and BA roles complement each other. The business area that is responsible for a product “owns” it, including the business case, the product deliverables, and the business benefits accrued by a project. The BA plays an advisor role, analyzing business needs and recommending solutions. The basic relationship of business owner and BA advisor extends to any methodology or framework.
A current issue in our industry pertains to the roles on Agile projects. Some are of the opinion that the BA has no role on Agile projects, and some say the BA should play the role of product owner. We at Watermark Learning think that the product manager should play the product owner role, not the BA. As stated above, the BA adds value through the advisor role, grooming the product backlog, and analyzing and recommending solution options. The product manager is the decision-maker in the end, not the BA.
For more information about Watermark Learning, please visit www.WatermarkLearning.com.
Greg Geracie is a recognized thought leader in the field of product management and the President of Actuation Consulting, a global provider of product management consulting, training, and advisory services to some of the world’s most well-known organizations. Greg is also the author of the global best seller Take Charge Product Management. He is also an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on high-tech and digital product management.
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