Tag Archives: IT Business Analyst

Product Manager Or Business Analyst

[In a previous post, I had mentioned the overlap between the role of a product manager and a business analyst]

Here’s a scenario, you have several years of engineering experience under your belt. You have also managed to get a part-time MBA during your career. And now your organization has moved you from engineering/dev-ops/tech. support to product management. Here is another scenario, you have been working as a business analyst in an IT services firm, and have worked for a few product development clients. And now a client in that domain has offered you a product management role.

Is it time to celebrate this awesome product management opportunity?

Well…read further. The following job features may indicate that you end up working as a business analyst.

Reporting to Another Product Manager

No brainer, if your reporting is not to senior management, in India or overseas, then only a part of the product management function is delegated to you. This aspect brings the role closer to a functional business analyst role.

Limited/No Engagement with Product Marketing

If your only engagement with product marketing is at an all-hands meeting or a town hall, then you are not engaged in any outbound product management activities. This also tilts your role towards business analysis rather than strategic product management.

No Involvement in 2-3 of the 4 P’s of Marketing

You can figure out if this is relevant to your role, and whether you are able to work on these as a product manager or a business analyst.

Engineering is your Primary (or Only) Stakeholder

If you are working as a product owner, with limited product management tasks, then that is fine. You have a well-defined role which fits into the product management hierarchy, in today’s agile world. But if you are called a product manager, and your reporting is to a Director of Engineering, and your primary stakeholders are the engineering team, then you might be working as a functional business analyst.

Your Main Work Output is a Functional Specifications Document

This is typically true in e-commerce firms or start-ups. Most product managers in such firms are actually working as business analysts, creating functional specifications, providing reports on product usability and usage. And product decisions are usually made by the senior management of these firms. Business analysts handle such activities in most enterprise software firms.

Limited Engagement with Senior Management in Business Units

Product managers play a strategic role in addition to taking care of tactical activities. If you have never presented on strategy, finance, operations, pricing, marketing plan, new product business case or another business metric to senior management, then you may be working as a business analyst.

 Note:

There is nothing wrong with the role of a business analyst. BA’s have a lot more exposure to the product and business domain than a regular product developer. The current challenge in India lies in the fact that firms require BAs and advertise for PMs, which sometimes leads  to an expectation-reality mismatch.

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Time To Get Agile/Scrum Certified

In earlier posts, I have written about the challenges of agile product management. I also reviewed a pretty good book “Agile Product Management with Scrum” that you should read to learn about Agile software development and the Product Owner/Manager’s role.

Well, now it may be time to go one step ahead and become a Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO).

This certification is a basic two-day introduction to gathering requirements and delivering them to the scrum team in the format of user stories. After getting certified, you will also get access to the online forums, blogs and other resources that you can use to hone your story-writing skills. One advertised benefit is the ability to show potential employers your knowledge of Scrum. There are some other certifications associated with Agile development (Scrum Master, Scrum Developer, Scrum Coach etc.) which are of limited use in a Product Owner role. You can find more information on these with a simple Google search.

Alternatively, you can go for the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certification. This looks like a rigorous training with a lot of pre-qualifications before you apply for the certification. However, if you are already PMP certified, then it may be easier to get this certification. Personally, I am not in favor of product managers going for a PMP certification, for the simple reason that product managers have a different role that project managers.

If you are an old-timer in the industry, you might remember how Rational OOAD and UML was a pretty big thing at one time. And to get business analyst roles, you had to be well versed in those tools. Now with teams going agile, these certifications may give you the edge, when you are out there, looking for a product manager/product owner role.

Do understand your own career aspirations, the costs associated with these courses and then make an informed decision on either of these certifications.

Offshore Product Manager Recruitment Ad – 5

Druva Software has a job posting for a product manager on LinkedIn. This was created today, and it looks like one of the least informative job ads you can come across. However, Druva is one of the rare technology product startups in India, which also has good traction in the market, so it makes sense to understand the job requirements.

Here is some more information:

Location: Pune, India

Designation: Product Manager

Job Description: Drive product development – from conception to launch – at the #1 Endpoint backup company

The ad vaguely describes the role and responsibilities and ends with a description of Druva. However, you can consider the following points while applying for the role.

  • This is an offshore enterprise product management role, with some exposure to the Indian market.
  • The total work experience expected is not more than 5 years. So the salary offered would not be more than Rs. 6-8 lakhs (considering that Pune is a Tier 2 city), and Rs. 10 lakhs at the high end.
  • Only 1-2 years of actual product management experience is expected from candidates. As the company operates in a niche segment, you can apply with any enterprise product management background. Domain expertise is probably not important.
  • This is a very junior role and the work will be equivalent to that done by IT Business Analysts. Use case development and visual design will be useful skills here.
  • Druva had their 2nd round of funding in the middle of 2011, and they have launched few products since then. Do not expect to lead any product launches there initially.
  • The work could be mainly about enhancements to existing products and might include competitive analysis and market research.
  • Fresh MBAs and Senior software engineers can consider this position favorably. A top college MBA will probably be overkill, someone from Tier 2 MBA colleges or an engineering degree and a background in storage technologies will fit better here.
  • Since it’s a startup do not expect much career growth unless the firm grows substantially or is acquired. You can leverage this to join a larger technology firm later. However, you will have to spend a minimum of 3 years in this firm to get a good salary and a track record in product management. Otherwise you could move to a client facing or a solution sales role within the firm.

Disclaimer: I have a lot of respect for druva.com. This post is only provided to prospective PMs to help them to interpret job ads for product managers

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.