The difference between a Product Manager and a Business Analyst

Product managers and business analysts are seen to work closely together on projects, however they both have separate responsibilities that help individuals to distinguish between the two. They both have several names that they go by, for example, engineering manager, project manager, scrum master etc, which doesn’t help the confusion. The overlap between job titles can often leave both business analysts and product owners curious on why but there is a difference between a product manager and a business analyst.

Therefore, to settle the uncertainty, in the article below, each job title will be explained, pointing out some of their differences and similarities.

Business Analyst

The role of a business analyst is to identify a business needs and issues by improving and assessing its current systems. In other words, a business analyst is responsible for change in an organisation by defining needs and recommending solutions. When the changes involve software for example, business analysts will have to collaborate with other departments to discuss requirements. So, it is the business team that is initiating the changes but the technical team that is delivering the changes.

Business analysts are the people who are ensuring that everyone is on the same page when it comes to making these changes to meet the requirements. They are responsible for updating the business process throughout the project so everyone who has access to the process can keep up to date with what stage the project is at.

Product Manager

The role of a product manager is to successfully guide a cross functional team through a project. Product managers must be organised, especially in tech companies in terms of the roadmap, strategy and feature definition. In some ways, the product manager role can be similar to a brand manager role as they also may be responsible for marketing, forecasting and profit and loss.

Product managers must provide an expertise which is needed to lead an organisation to make strategic decisions. They can sometimes analyse market conditions and lay out a product vision that is unique and valued based on customers’ demands. The product manager is the person who decides the why, what and when of a product that the engineering or technical team will build, and it is here that some people can get confused between business analysts and product managers.

How they work together

If a project requires change in software or a new product, then typically, the business owner in the project becomes the product owner. As the business analyst works closely with the business owner on standard projects, this would mean that the business analyst and product owner would need to work together. They would need to communicate to ensure that requirements are understood and defined so all team members can build them.

The major similarities between product owners and business analysts is their main focus on requirements. They both need to develop an understanding of markets, users and business problems and opportunities to be able to build the right project. Both product managers and business analysts are responsible for communicating the desired requirements to their teams to ensure the project runs smoothly. If some members of the team do not understand what it required from them, then this can cause the project to have set backs which can cost the business time and money.

Product Manager and Business Analyst differences

Despite their similarities, there is a difference between a product manager and a business analyst, as they have noticeable differences in regard to their role and responsibilities.

The difference between a product manager and a business analyst is that product managers tend to look more at the market and interacting with customers to assess opportunities. Product managers’ main goal is the product itself and not how customers interact with the product. Although it is important to understand how customers will use the product, it isn’t a main priority for the product managers.

Whereas Business Analysts focus their efforts inside the company and their goals are aimed towards the processes, practices and internal systems. Their main priorities are based on building the best support for the product managers’ suggestions which are on behalf of the market. Business analysts also identify opportunities to automate processes and functions in a more IT based environment.

In terms for business requirements, the difference between a product manager and a business analyst product managers are responsible for finding the highest value problems to solve and ensuring that the team is creating a meaningful solution. The product managers focus on asking “why” throughout the project to determine the most appropriate solutions that will benefit the market and customers.

Whereas business analysts are responsible for gathering technical specifications to enable the product to be created. Business analysts essentially do the heavy lifting to determine the “how” of a solution from a user perspective. They mainly ask questions around internal business challenges that can have technical restraints on the project and finding actions that could lead to solutions.