Business Analyst to Product Manager: How to Transition

Updated on June 29th, 2021
Business Analyst to Product Manager: How to Transition

Becoming a product manager is often the ideal career goal for most business analysts today. Plus, the ease of career transition nowadays is a big reason why we’re seeing so many business analysts become product managers.

In this article, we’ll go over how you can make a career change from being a business analyst to becoming a product manager, what the role entails, as well as answering some of the common questions related to both roles.

Let’s get started.

How Do I Transition from Business Analyst to Product Manager?

Since both job titles are concerned with a product, an analyst can easily transition to a PM role, given that they take the right steps during the process.

Here is a complete roadmap for the BA to PM transition:

1)     Develop Product-Related Understanding

The first change that a BA has to implement in how they function is to develop an understanding of user stories, the ideal user experience, the market that houses said users, and the business opportunities within that market.

Since a product manager’s ultimate goal is building the ideal product for a given market, transitioning to the role requires a shift in the thought process. The journey from product capabilities to the product itself as a holistic entity.

2)     Learn Critical Decision-Making

The fundamental difference between a BA and a PM is how the latter is responsible for most of the critical decision-making regarding product features, scope, market impact, and ideal buyer persona, among others.

One of the core responsibilities of a PM is prioritizing among backlog items based on the market urgency and customer demand. An analyst has to learn to choose between high-priority items and those that can be accommodated in future iterations.

3)     Discover Product Roadmap Development

Another core PM task is thinking of, building, implementing, and improving a product roadmap. The ‘improvement’ part is more for agile product managers, compared to traditional ones. However, for the sake of clarity and modern reference, we’ll discuss the former.

Analysts should ask themselves the following questions:

  • What’s next regarding the product?
  • What new features can I introduce?
  • How can the product become a better market fit?
  • What’s the perfect business case for it?

Answering these questions over time will help them learn strategic roadmap development and develop better products.

4)     Move to a Smaller Startup (Optional)

This one is not mandatory, but if you have the option to move to a smaller company to start your PM journey without impacting your career too much, do it.

This is because a smaller product team will mean fewer people-management responsibilities, fewer ideas to decide on, and even smaller products. This doesn’t mean that you should take a pay hit or downgrade your career.

You could simply look for a company with a smaller team doing work that is just as significant in terms of scope. This way, you won’t lose out on critical learning opportunities and you’ll have more leeway for adjustment.

5)     Learn About Role Diversification

The PM role is more diverse in terms of responsibilities. You’ll essentially be moving to a role that requires you to perform tasks you haven’t learned on the job.

The ideal thing to do in this scenario would be to learn how to diversify your role without losing sight of the ultimate goal.

You can do that by requesting additional responsibilities while working as a business analyst. Nothing major, just an extra document to prepare, or an idea to judge. Start small and get a better understanding of what it feels like to multitask.

6)     Don’t Develop Massive Salary Expectations

According to Salary.com, the average salary of a product manager falls between $76,770 and $106,777. Chances are, you’ll be making slightly less as a business analyst.

In that case, don’t think too much about transitioning to a much higher salary. The job comes with good growth potential since it’s essentially a leadership role. Try to focus on the big picture, which is launching successful products.

7)     Understand Product Direction and Scope

A good way to understand a product is to know the direction it’s taking, the solutions it provides, and the overall scope of the product.

Both of these things are essential to learning how the product will position itself within the niche that the manager has set for it with their critical decision-making.

As an analyst, you’re generally used to deciding the business requirements pertaining to the product. However, in the PM role, you’ll have to set the scope for it while considering the company’s capacity to develop such a product.

Learn how to decide the optimal scope by observing competitor products as case studies.

8)     Read Into Customer-Facing Roles

Some companies have product managers in a more customer-facing role, rather than a role that is much more traditional for a PM. This is especially true for companies with more specialized people in the product team.

If you’re a BA in one of those companies or applying in one, read more about: How to excel at working with a customer, instead of via product owners and salespeople?

Can a Business Analyst Become a Product Manager?

With the right training and development, you can transition to almost any career within a similar business space.

The same goes for transitioning from a business analyst job to working as a PM managing the product roadmap from start to finish.

However, the transition can be a disaster if you don’t go about it in a well-thought-out and strategic manner.

Here are some of the precautions you should take to ensure success during the transition.

  • Get a product management certification to gain directly applicable skill sets. The Product Manager Certification Course certification is ideal for business analysts looking to learn project management, work with cross-functional teams, and developing a product vision based on end-users instead of sales targets.
  • Work under a product manager to gain valuable insight into how a PM operates in different scenarios. This is the ideal way to learn on the job. If your company has a tryout period option for transitioning employees, use it.
  • Ask key product team members and stakeholders for guidance on how to adjust to the new space without disrupting either your career or their jobs too much. This is important since you don’t want your transition to impact the product’s bottom line. That would be quite counterproductive for a product manager in the first place.

Additional Things to Keep in Mind

Along with the precautions listed above, keep the following points in mind too.

  • Aspire for the agile PM position and look up to the person currently at the PM position. You need to be passionate about the product as a whole, much on the same level as a product owner.
  • Become a people person. Managing other people and setting standards for operational performance is one of the prime responsibilities of a product manager. Once you develop a complete understanding of that and adapt to making decisions based on the ideas of others, you’ll grasp the essence of PM.
  • Basically, don’t worry too much! It’s natural to be nervous about moving to a position as vital to the success of a product as the product manager. However, it’s a very rewarding position, especially if you manage to create great products. If you’re already successful as a business analyst, you’re already close to succeeding as a PM.

In addition to the above, a PM has to be enthusiastic about solving a problem for the user. Without the drive to build solutions for people and creating a product that creates a significant impact in the market, you’ll have a hard time transitioning and succeeding.

FAQs

Is a business analyst similar to a product manager?

A business analyst is a member of the product team that the product manager leads. However, the product management and business analyst roles are different. A business analyst examines a new product domain, analyzes its main purpose, validates the business requirements, solves business problems through smart data and business analysis. The product manager’s role oversees the product strategy, backlog prioritization, development team progress, and product launches.

Which is better, business analyst or product manager?

These are two different roles that have different responsibilities, albeit in a similar department. The BA role involves looking at business needs and fulfilling them with innovative product features and processes. The senior product manager role involves solving problems that occur from project conception to completion while developing the best possible solution for the customer. Both roles are rewarding, and the choice of the ‘better’ career depends on a person’s qualifications and accumulated skills.

Is a product manager higher than a business analyst?

It depends on the company where both are employed. Traditionally, a product manager solves higher-level problems than a business analyst, and the latter may report to the former. It’s safe to assume that in most cases, the product manager will be above the business analyst, although some companies may have a different team structure in which the PM reports to the BA.

Does a product manager have more responsibilities than a business analyst?

Yes, a product manager has more diverse responsibilities. However, both roles are related to the product itself, and so both have a similar foundation. It is true, though, that being a product manager will mean taking on additional responsibilities, as compared to the duties of a business analyst.