If you’re on the outside looking in, the life of a product analyst may look like this…
Oh… did you think it was easy? The job of a Webonise product analyst, at least, is not limited to making calendars and assigning tasks… oh no! Sending an email that reads, ‘please see below’ does not bring people and solutions together.
A PA is actually the epicenter of activity in a web or mobile development project. He, or, in our case, many times ‘she’, is the all-knowing, all-seeing eye, anticipating the needs of team members and clients in advance.
We can vouch that product analysts are a balanced mix of project management and business analysis, of hard and soft skills, macro and micro assessing, thinking and acting and being proactive and reactive at the same time. Not many people see product analysts as having the same level of contribution as the other see the other project contributors – developers, designers, writers –but we, and our customers, know that is not the case. Seeing a project through requires consistent critical thinking. A product analyst researches, receives, processes, aggregates, and makes sense of tons of pieces of information at every step. Multitasking and organization is therefore the heartbeat of the job.
But what else does it take to make a product analyst great? From big brains to great empathy, they have to have it all.
1. The Researcher. Although product analysts have many, many responsibilities, this one may be the greatest. When a client presents a project, what happens next? It is the PA’s job to understand the whole scope of that project, including the product, the market and end users. Performing user studies, digging through usage data and finding ways to create the perfect UX for an audience early in the process is essential for a successful build. This also includes being the face of the company and serving as the all-knowing rock for a client to lean on.
2. The Analyzer. Constant analysis of a project is mandatory. Even with a rock-solid team and a stellar process in place, a project requires thoughtful attention. Assessing all of the moving parts, getting to the bottom of problems, and seeing through what appears to be happening to what is actually happening are just a few of the ways analysis comes into play.
3. The Strategist. As detailed as they have to be, PAs must be just as talented at high-level product thinking. This means looking at the product as if it has been zoomed out in order to visualize and plan the entire project roadmap. This also means understanding how to meet the needs of the client at certain phases and exploring the ‘trending’ ideas that will allow a project to evolve.
4. The Great Communicator. A product analyst knows how to intuitively communicate information in that way that makes sense to everyone involved. They are great communicators because they spend most, if not all, of their day doing just that, communicating: emails, phone calls, conversations, instant messages. That means constantly listening, translating, and re-communicating information to team members and clients.
5. The Cheerleader! Product analysts spend a good part of every day ensuring that things are moving along, and not just moving... moving in the right direction while doing things like preparing for upcoming iterations and scheduling sprints. They align people toward a common goal, adjust when things are veering off course and make sure people are going at the right pace. This all requires motivation. Of course, this will mean different things to different people, and having an arsenal of motivational techniques is important, but also knowing when to use them wisely and appropriately is a must.
6. The Fortune Teller. The product analyst needs to see where things are going before getting there and stay about three steps ahead of everyone else. Also, making a plan isn’t something they do once. Planning is something that needs to be done every day, because nothing ever goes according to the original plan. It’s critical to know how to react appropriately and make necessary adjustments when unexpected things happen, because the unexpected always happens.
7. The Politician. The best PAs are well respected. This is a job that is all about working with people. It’s simple: if the team enjoys being around the project lead, can trust him and has confidence in him, they’ll do better work. On the flip side, being able to connect and interact with the team makes it easier for the product analyst to communicate, collaborate and motivate while also maintaining a leadership role. Imagine that people are like padlocks. The right combination will unlock their potential, but if you don’t know the combination and you hammer too hard the lock will jam up. People work the same way – you can only hammer on them for so long before they stop working effectively.
The same mentality goes for client relations. PAs are the face that the client believes in and trusts to produce a quality product for their brand. Without respect and comfort, there is no trust, and the product will inevitably suffer.
8. The, ever so slightly, OCD one. Product analysts have to be the type of individuals that see, remember and address the details. They’re the people that capture everything and don’t let anything fall through the cracks. The mind of the PA is naturally drawn to reviewing things, double-checking info and trapping little details. Also, it’s crucial to be curious and present in their domain. This means more than being on Facebook, sending tweets and writing blogs (although that is a start). This means reading and learning about what is happening in the market and being acutely aware of current industry trends.
9. The Recruiter. What is a great product analyst without a great team? This one is obvious. PAs have to exude confidence and passion. They are sellers of a brand to potential employees and clients. If they believe in their products, others will too.
10. The Renaissance Man. If you haven’t seen enough, I think it is fair to say that these people can do it all. They are, as I mentioned earlier, the epicenter of a successful project. Never mind the fact that I didn’t even touch on some of their other responsibilities like having to answer endless questions, writing code, preparing presentations, discovering bugs and setting team goals.
All that being said, I, myself, am not a product analyst. However, I do sit side-by-side with a whole group of them for 8, 9, 10 hours a day (depending on the client :) ). These people are a tough bunch. What they don’t tell you about this job is that oftentimes you have to know how to say no, and it’s really hard. Sometimes you have to take the fall for mistakes and learn how to be as persuasive as a class action lawyer when discussing logo designs.
The ability to plan and present strategic ideas are invaluable; however, it is useless without the drive to take action. A GREAT product analyst commits, and that means doing whatever needs to be done for a project to succeed.