28 Mar 2012
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Business Analyst as product owner

Many a time I have been asked, ‘There is no official role for a business analyst on a scrum team, is there?’ My answer is that a business analyst does fit into all scrum roles, from scrum master to the development team. That said, I personally believe the closest fit is product owner.

Let’s look at the various ways a business analyst can evolve as a product owner. Becoming a product owner is a natural progression for a business analyst and the transition should not be very steep.

Let’s explore some of the key responsibilities of a product owner:

-Prioritising items in the product backlog to deliver highest business values or ROI

-Making sure the product backlog items are unambiguous and achievable

-Providing more details on items in the product backlog to the team

-Representing and engaging with customers

-Ensuring items on product backlog are visible to the entire team

Most of the responsibilities listed are already those of the business analyst. The only difference is that in scrum teams there is only one product owner, while typical projects have more than one business analyst working and making decisions at any given time.

A product owner is the person with whom the buck stops, so it is very important for the entire organisation to trust and respect the decisions they make. They are responsible for building the right product and ensuring the product the team is building is valuable to the business, usable to users and feasible to build.

Product owners play an important role in the sprint planning meeting where they present a prioritised backlog of items with enough details for the team to be able to plan and commit to the sprint.

To be a successful product owner, you need a lot of business analysis skills including being able to identify stakeholders, manage their expectations, communicate with them and so on.

Product owners are also responsible for assessing product opportunities. Ideas can come from anywhere – customers, the development team, the marketing team and so on. It is the product owner’s  responsibility to maintain a catalogue of these ideas, form a discovery team and to run collaborative workshops to explore the ideas further. They would typically produce a Market Research Document from the workshop meetings, the main purpose of which is to define:

-Why are we building this product?

-Functions and features of the product

-Goals and metrics for the product

-Target market/audience of the product

-Outcome and impact of the product

Below are some of the qualities of a good product owner

-Thorough understanding of customer needs

-Good working knowledge on how software is planned, developed and delivered

-Natural leader and motivator

-Responsible and available

-Collaborative by nature

-Reasonable and humane

-Flexible

Jayesh Jain is an agilist and senior business analyst, as well as a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO).

This article originally appeared in the April issue of IT Brief. Go here to subscribe. 

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