BA, PO, and PM

In July 2014 I wrote about the differences between product manager or product owner, where I say that product management and product owner manager are two sides of the same coin. While the role of product management is focused on the result, the software that is being developed and its goals, both from the user perspective and from the software owner’s perspective, the role of product owner is focused on the process because Agile methodologies have their focus on the software development process.

In another article, from March 2016, I comment that “BA and PO are very similar roles in software development. Both have the same goal: to help the team make software that meets the objectives of the software owner while solving problems and needs of its users.”

Some time later…

These two articles were written based on my experience at Locaweb, where we had only the role of product manager, who we called indiscriminately PO or PM and in conversations that I had with people from other companies where they told me about their structures, roles and responsibilities.

In August of 2016 I took over the management of product management at ContaAzul and when I arrived I came across a structure with business analysts (BAs) and product managers (PMs), a new scenario for me. I spent some time talking to people to understand roles and responsibilities of each function and the motivations for the creation of such structure. After these conversations, it became clear to me the difference of roles and responsibilities of each of the functions, which I try to translate into the image below.

This image shows some important aspects:

  • POs do what BAs do (specification) plus the prioritization of what needs to be done. And PMs, in addition to prioritization and specification, are responsible for the development, communication, and execution of product vision and strategy. There is an increase in scope and responsibility as you move from BA to PO to PM. 
  • Although PM is responsible for developing, communicating and executing product vision and strategy, it is also responsible for prioritization and specification. 
  • It may makes sense for some companies to have BAs and PMs, or POs and PMs, or even BAs, POs and PMs. However, there can not be companies without someone as PM, developing, communicating and executing the vision and strategy of the product. 
  • If in a company, in addition to the PMs, there are people in the role of BA and / or PO functions, it is possible to place the PMs as managers of the BAs and / or POs. However, this creates an extra burden for the PM who, in addition to managing the product, will have to worry about managing people. 
  • My preference is for not having this separation of roles and having only PMs. If there are BAs and / or POs in a certain organization, my recommendation is for treating those roles as intermediate career steps that will evolve to reach the PM level, with increased scope and responsibility. The rationale for my preference is that by leaving the roles separate, the PM may make little or no specification and / or prioritization, delegating those responsibilities to BAs and / or POs. By doing so, the PM will lose important input to developing the vision and strategy of her product.

I believe that with this image I was able to clarify the differences and similarities of the functions of BAs, POs and PMs.

Product Management: how to increase the success chances of your software

In 2015 I wrote a book on Software Product Management in Portuguese. In 2016, Paulo Caroli talked to me about how he enjoyed the book and how this book could be useful to people in the software industry not only in Brazil but anywhere in the world. For this reason, we decided to create an English version of my book.

The book is organized in 5 sections:

  • Definitions and requirements
  • Life cycle of a software product
  • Relationship with other areas
  • Product portfolio management
  • Where to use software product management

This book is suitable for anyone working with software. Even companies that do not have software as its core business use software in their day to day and often have developed some software that interfaces with its customers such as a website or a mobile application. It is important for these companies to understand the software product management role and responsibilities, so they can better manage this software and increase its chances of success.

We are working on the translation but as we progress we are already releasing the content. If you want to see the work in progress, please visit the book page at LeanPub. Still in beta but already with valuable content. Feedbacks are not only welcome, but needed!

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