lean agile teams
Recently, I presented our new Business Analysis: The Makings of a Great Product Owner webinar. I wasn’t able to answer all the questions asked during the session and wanted to post them for everyone to see and share. Let me know if you have more!

How can Product Owners balance analysis and refinement and ordering while still being on hand to validate sprint effort, answer questions, and get clarification from business? So much to do!

There are a few answers to this question!

  1. Try to get some structure around what you do: maybe use templates and some planning.
  2. Have regular sprint reviews with the team, hold quick workshops or interviews with the business for clarification.
  3. Use transparency. Post a Kanban so that people can see what’s going on, what’s coming up, and can prioritize.
  4. Don’t make documentation the focus (yes, it’s important, but do it efficiently, not perfectly!).
  5. Set expectations. If you are overloaded, let people know! An agile team should be collaborating to help you. Ask for help!

How often do you find the BA on a team is also serving as the PO?

I would say we are seeing this more and more, maybe 60% of the time I would say!

How much should the Product Manager contribute to the analysis of the business need and solution requirements?

It depends. If there is a product owner and/or BA on the project, the Product Manager probably is involved in setting strategy and objectives, understanding the customer, reviewing needs, requirements, etc. and helping make decisions. If there is nobody doing analysis, they need to be heavily involved in my opinion!

What is your opinion of hybrid role of BA and Project Manager? Pro and con?

Having been in that position many times, there are benefits and disadvantages. Benefits: if I’m a good analyst, we have someone on the project with authority AND good analysis skills! Nice. Disadvantages: the PM focuses on getting project done on time, under budget, with quality, right? The BA is trying to get ALL the requirements. Two different things. Sometimes they conflict! What I do in that case is try to segment my time: X% for BA work, X% for PM. That helps me not jump around all day too much!

Are you saying the whole team does Business Analysis in different capacities?

The whole team should do some business analysis! If the whole team doesn’t understand and ask good questions about the business problem to solve, you may have problems. Is the whole team an expert in business analysis? Probably not! Do you need someone who IS expert at it? Probably yes!

How about a combined PO/Scrum Master?

Combined PO/SM is OK to me if the team is cohesive, collaborative, and understands how they are approaching their project. A scrum master may not be necessary, at least not full-time in that case. My only real caveat there is that if the project has a lot of roadblocks/issues, who will help remove them? That question needs to be asked and addressed.

If my Product Owner does not understand our products due to their technical nature, and completely relies on the proxy Product Owner and analysts to understand the work, what do I do?

Does the proxy owner and/or the BA understand the products? Are they able to make decisions on direction? If yes, maybe you are OK. If not, I would raise that as a risk. If you are already having problems because of that, possibly try to figure out how much time is being wasted, how much rework is having to be done, and/or how many ‘bugs’ result from the situation. You can then quantify those risks, and help to get them addressed!

Where do you see the role of a UX analyst or team in here?

The UX analyst or team (I’m assuming all UX) are part of the design team. I’m a big believer in user-centered design, so am hoping the the UX team involves the end user to ensure usability, acceptance, etc. They should be doing analysis on those users to do that!

Cross-functional teams were the norm and now they want homogeneous teams where anyone can do anything. Is that reality?

I say nope! I think I touched on that a little. If everyone is a generalist, and nobody is a specialist, you wind up with nobody knowing the highly specialized, expensive skills. You may end up with gaps. To me the only way that works is if you have ‘wandering’ specialists that teams share. But, then we are back in the boat where we have dependencies or bottle-necks in projects for competing resources (people).

What if my PO doesn’t have a BA background?

The more business analysis skills your PO has in their toolbox, the more successful they will be! So, I recommend your PO getting some training. And…of course, I suggest B2T Training! Our Essential Skills for Business Analysis is an excellent place to start. Once this foundation is established, we have all levels of analysis and agile training.

Since a Product Owner should understand the business, how do they handle being the owner of an enterprise product that is utilized by different lines of business within an organization?

You could need multiple Product Owners that each ‘own’ an area or module within the product. They would need to coordinate heavily to understand dependencies and conflicting priorities. I’ve seen that especially with ERP products.

How do you write user stories simultaneously for multiple projects from multiple areas/domains?

One at a time. But seriously, one at a time. If you are spread across different projects, try to allocate a certain time (either within one day or separate days) to each one independently. If your problem is actually that you are spread too thin, please see my answer to the first question above.

Does PO or BA own the backlog?

Whoever is filling the Product Owner role should ‘own’ the backlog. If you don’t have a PO, it would default to the BA in my opinion. If you have both (lucky you!!), I would suggest that the BA supports the PO in understanding how to manage the backlog, including prioritizing, grooming, detailing user stories, etc. In other words, helping the PO and the entire team get the stories prioritized, sized, and progressing from raw state to ready to enter a sprint.

How do the roles of Product Manager and Product Owner complement each other and are Business Analysis skills just as important for the Product Manager?

If you have both of these roles, typically the relationship is hierarchical. The Product Manager is the decision maker and may be the ‘voice of the customer’; they are typically charged with both customer satisfaction and market success. The Product Owner has to be able to provide detailed requirements for user stories, be involved daily in the project, and answer questions as the customer and maybe the Product Manager representative. I’ll show my bias here and say that Business Analysis skills are important for both! The Product Manager needs to understand the higher level needs, strategies, objectives. The Product Owner needs that plus the ability to dig into details.

Did you miss the webinar presentation? Good news…we added the recording as an on-demand webinar!

Please let us know if there is more we can help with as you continue developing your agile teams.

– Ali


More on Product Owners

Business Analysis for Product Owners Course

The Yin and Yang of the Business Analyst and Product Owner Roles

From a Dysfunctional to Cross-Functional Agile Team

Just Enough Doesn’t Mean None! The Agile Business Analyst Role

Agile Transformation Maturity and Optimization Roadmap


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