Effective product managers spend a significant amount of time in the market gathering requirements, monitoring trends, examining competitive activity, and evangelizing their product. Product managers are also expected to distill market information into actionable requirements and channel these requirements to the team developing the product. A product manager’s job increases in complexity as the organization grows. Product managers get stretched thinner and thinner by the ever-increasing volume of internal and external demands.
When this happens, product managers naturally turn their efforts toward either market-facing or product development activities. Although product managers are skilled at both, they typically prefer one over the other and allocate their time accordingly. Many pick market-facing activities. This bias toward one or the other, and the demands that company growth place on a product manager, ultimately causes the organization to feel the need to add a business analyst, or someone with similar skills, to the team.
The new team member is tasked with helping facilitate, communicate, analyze, and recommend business solutions as well as translating high-level requirements created by the product manager into implementable requirements. This need for translation necessitates a collaborative partnership between a product manager and business analyst.
The pairing of a strong business analyst with a market-facing product manager can result in a perfect partnership. The product manager assumes responsibility for guiding the product successfully through its life cycle and interfacing with the market. In concert with the product manager, the business analyst drives the effort to turn high-level market requirements into requirements that are implementable within the constraints and capabilities of the organization. Factors such as people, processes, and technology are all key considerations for success.
This division of labor leads to improved harmony with the principles on the core team of product managers, project managers, business analysts, and lead engineers. Most importantly, it places the right people in the right roles to create value for the organization, customers, and stakeholders.
The reality is that product managers are often faced with the nearly impossible challenge of spanning the market and the multitude of development activities. And like project managers, who steer complex and interdependent initiatives, product managers who want to succeed must rely heavily on influence and shared organizational objectives while interfacing with customers and coordinating the activities of a myriad of internal stakeholders. Many product managers get stretched to the breaking point trying to be jacks of all trades and end up struggling against unrealistic expectations.
By pairing business analysts with product managers at key points throughout the life cycle of a product’s development, organizations can optimize bandwidth, expertise, and interest-related challenges that allow both roles to do what they do best – create value.
Greg Geracie is a recognized thought leader in the field of product management and the President of Actuation Consulting, a global provider of product management consulting, training, and advisory services to some of the world’s most well-known organizations. Greg is also the author of the global best seller Take Charge Product Management. He is also an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on high-tech and digital product management.