Role Overlap: Business Analyst and Product Manager

Here is a job posting for a Business Analyst at American Express, India. Looking at the role, responsibilities and qualifications, it is very clear that there is significant overlap between the role of offshore enterprise product manager and the IT Business Analyst. So does it mean that a product manager is simply a glorified business analyst?

Not at all.

A product manager has skills along multiple dimensions, business analysis being one of them. So you can actually think that the activities of a business analyst are a sub-set of the activities that a product manager undertakes. Additionally, the business analysts usually have strong domain knowledge as well as software development knowledge and strong customer interaction skills. This should and indeed does, make them valuable as market facing product managers. And there is a natural career growth towards product management.

PMvsBA

Unfortunately, in India today, if a business analyst wants to move to the role of an enterprise product manager, he could encounter strong resistance from various teams.

The top reason for this resistance is the idea of Technology Products development being superior to IT Services. A Business Analyst is seen as supporting IT services and custom application development and is not expected to “cope with” the challenges of product management. This bias eliminates the résumé of even the most competent BAs right at the recruitment stage.

After recruitment, the BA faces the challenge of adapting from a structured, process driven IT services firm to the “chaotic”, agile world of software R&D centers. This is a transition that many BAs fail to make, and prefer to return to the world of IT services and custom application development.

Finally, the BA also faces the challenge of learning multiple dimensions of product management, such as sales and marketing support, pricing, UX design, analytics and many others, which he may not have touched before. This is the last competency hurdle that causes many of them to either avoid the transition to product management or often fail in the new role.

If a BA can successfully overcome these challenges, then it becomes easy to succeed in product management, and can offer a very enriching and lucrative career.

In a future post, I will examine the similarities and differences in the role of Offshore Enterprise Product Manager and the IT Business Analyst.

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