How do I become a Product Owner as a Business Analyst?
I get a lot of questions regarding; how do I become a product owner with my business analyst (BA)background? Do I have the right capability or skill set to become a product owner?
The answer is … *drum roll*
“Yes,” you have every capability to progress yourself into the product space, as long as you focus learning other areas of product management that are required outside of the business function.
Note: The information below is based on my experiences and things that have worked for me, coming from a BA background.
What exactly does a Product Owner (PO) focus on?
The role of PO focuses on the “sweet spot” between the customer, business and technology.
- “The customer” function focuses; understanding your target audience, what are their pain points, how will you solve these pain points (e.g. UX, process improvements, new product development etc), how do you valid with customers that what you are building is on the right track?
- “The business” function focuses; the vision of your product, what does success look like (e.g. increase revenue, NPS, reduce process etc), understand how to slice your work into iterative releases to loop back into the “customer” side to valid you are on the right track, working with your companies’ internal stakeholders, subject matter experts to understand what is required and analysis it from a high level to lower detailed level (this should be every BA’s bread and butter) to build out your product backlog
- “The technology” function focuses; how does your product work within the technology layer (no, you don’t need to be super technical just need to understand at a high level) what platform are you using, what is in your tech stack and is it feasible to support the need of “the customer” and “the business”
Note: Remember, you have a team around you that will support the details of the “how”, all you need to provide is the “what” direction across the three functions to lead your team. (I will explain in-depth in another article)
What are my advantages as a BA?
Having a BA background can be an advantage in the product space:
- Adaptable — most BAs can adapt to different environments from low-level details into high-level thinking (vice versa)
- Strong stakeholder management — BAs sometimes are seen as the SME (subject matter experts) in their domain of analysis. They get exposed a lot to different areas of the business and it’s almost what I call “the pseudo product owner”, (in charge of the product when the product owner is absent) as the BAs are heavily involved in the product backlog
- Analytical skills (your bread and butter) — having strong analytical skills is a good win as some products require a detailed level of thinking to define a particular direction for your team to work through. However, be careful not to get too caught up in the analysis if it’s unnecessary or impacts your overall release timeline.
That sounds great! So how do I get into the product space?
There are many opportunities around your role as it is heavily tied into the business function. Here are a few things you can do to get into product space or continue to learn more:
- Get more engaged in the business — most of the time requirements are gathered based on what the business wants, however in your next meeting with the business get engaged on how the business works, why did they come up with those requirements, and how does it provide overall benefit for the customer/business. This will prepare you for that product thinking and going beyond the subject matter expert.
- Express interest to your product owner — if you have a product owner in your team, then express your interest in this path and get them to take you along in the journey — maybe they can become your mentor and provide coaching
- Look for Business Analysis / Product Owner roles — there are a few roles in the market that require heavy BA skills along with the Product Owner skills. I would only recommend this if you are a Senior BA with many years of experience to be able to pick up the Product Owner as well. Note: Dual roles usually require a strong combination of analysis and being able to make decisions on the spot. Therefore you need to set the direction on what you want and how it will work (e.g. user stories) at the same for your team to commence the build.
- Look for Junior Product Owner roles or Producer — these are entry-level product roles which will have a lot of senior product owners or product managers support to guide and coach you along the way.
- Get busy in the product community — join meetups, sign up to product coalition (this is a worldwide product community with beginners, experts in product management and just sharing knowledge). You might even find a mentor here.
- Product Courses for beginners — there are a few Linkedin courses you can do for Product Owners, General Assembly has product management courses for beginners, and Scrumology / Scrum Alliance community also provide courses for beginners with certification on top.
Overall the journey transiting from BA to PO can be difficult, and sometimes it can take a few years to grasp all the areas. However, if you put in the hard work to understand what it takes to be a great product owner, surround yourself within the product community and open to continuously learning (because product space never stops) then you will do great!