Not Just Another Fairy Tale

Finding the right levelTo paraphrase Lewis Carroll, if you don’t know what you want, you’ll never know when you get it. Some level of business analysis is necessary in the beginning of a project to define what you expect to have when it’s over. That, in a single sentence, is what business analysis to determine requirements is all about. Unfortunately, life is never as simple as a single sentence, is it?

If you even contemplate business analysis, your problems are just beginning. If you spend too much time in business analysis, you’re wasting your resources and you may run out of steam (read time or money) before you’re done. If you spend too little time in business analysis, you will end up with an unsatisfactory result which is frustrating for you and your customer. The goal, then, is to find the Goldilocks‘sche level of requirements determination. (OK, Goldilocks is not Lewis Carroll, but at least I stayed in the genre!) The challenge, of course, is recognizing what ” just right” is for you, your customer and your project. Projects, like life, are all about balance.

Anticipation versus Avoidance

So, what intelligent recommendation do we have to help you figure out when to quit analysis? A very simple one: good requirements make for a boring story. In line with the fairy tale analogy of this article, good stories rely on the unexpected to make them exciting, interesting and fun. Good projects, on the other hand, are based on avoiding the unexpected. You can achieve that either by anticipating anything that is remotely possible and planning on how to avoid it (a.k.a the structured approach); by rushing through to completion so as to not give anything unexpected time to develop (the Agile method); or by plain, old denial. Plausible deniability might be a desirable or even admirable trait in a politician; for business analysts, it stinks.

And Along Comes a Human Being

This leads to the question of the human element. We live to tell stories. We enjoy sharing the stupid, inexplicable events that shaped our lives. We often go so far as to embellish the events when they were too boring or simple just to make our stories (and ourselves) more interesting. So who wants to work on a boring project? You do!

Go ahead, business analysts of the world! Dare to be boring, at least while you’re actively involved on a project. And don’t worry, you can always add a lot o spice when you talk about how you deftly defied fate and foiled it’s attempts to derail your project by sticking to your plan: requirements first, design later. Requirements are King, long live the King. With good requirements, you have a much better shot at living happily ever after. And that’s the way every good fairy tale ends, isn’t it?