Product Manager, Product Owner and Business Analyst — should you have all three in a Product Team?

Let's be clear about one thing: there is no standard industry definition of these roles or their responsibilities, and there’s no simple answer to the question I am posing here.

I am going to argue that:

You do not need a Product Manager, a Product Owner and a Business Analyst on a Product team because it introduces unnecessary overlaps and makes things way too confusing.

Product Owner and Product Manager are interchangeably used in the industry. For a startup or a small organisation with one product, and/or one or a few teams — there’s normally a Product Owner who is essentially doing Product Manager and Product Owner Role. For enterprises, the role is usually referred to as Product Manager.

Product Owner is a role defined by Scrum methodology as part of the Agile framework so we have a few good definitions to start with:

A Product Owner is part of the team working on the development of the product. A Product Owner prioritises the requirements in the backlog, specifies requirements ready for the next sprint and answers questions from development about the requirements that are being built. The focus is on optimising development and working with the Development team.

Having said the above, does the Product Owner really own the Product? Again, for startups or a small one product companies — yes, because they do NOT need a Product Manager generally. For enterprises, no — Product Manager owns the Product.

  • Having a Product Manager (who owns the Product) and a Product Owner (who don’t own the Product) will make it confusing and result in conflicts.

Based on the above definition of Product Owner, they are doing the Business Analyst role. Using only a few examples above, it’s pretty clear to see having all three roles on a Product Team makes things ridiculously complicated, none knows who is responsible for what and cross-functional teams will be in a limbo who to reach out to for various things.

Here are the two roles a Product Team needs IMO:

Product Manager: a broad oversight role owning the Product, responsible for product strategy, vision, roadmap and planning; feature prioritisation, cross functional leadership alignment, customer engagement, go to market activities and touchpoint with teams like sales, marketing etc

Business Analyst: responsible for day to day operational delivery, lead on Agile ceremonies, backlog readiness, requirements gathering, SME lead, Jira management. Takes input from Product Manager on vision and release plans, then delivers sprint by sprint.

With this, we have avoided the terminology complexity i.e. its clear who owns the Product and who runs the day to day operations.

What are your experiences and thoughts about this — let me know.

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