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Praveen Udupa
Praveen Udupa

"It should be black in color"

Yes, are right. This is an elephant. 

Well, no. This post is not about the elephant. The elephant is used only for symbolism. 

And you are right...there are a lot of other similar posts out there. This is my take on this topic. It is different from others.

So, what does the elephant stand for? Think of a client who is getting killed by that one persistent business challenge. For this client, the business challenge seems "mammoth". And so does the solution to this business challenge - it is mammoth.

I am a Business Analyst working for a company that produces a product - doesn't matter what the product is for the purpose of this blog post. It could be a robot, a software application, a piece of furniture - well, absolutely anything.

It so happens that the client has chosen to purchase my company's product, because their due diligence has indicated that our product is a good solution to their "mammoth" problem. 

As a BA, I am working with the client to understand what they "want" from the product. My conversation with the client flows as below:

Client: We have done our due diligence, and I know that your product is black in color. Right? We want one of the features of the solution as "black in color"

MeReflecting for a second. Sure, Sure... not a problem. It can be done.

Client: Good. Also, it needs to have rough skin. It must have four legs.

MeAgain, reflecting for a second. Not a problem at all. What else do you want?

Client: It needs to be able to carry cargo and passengers

Me: Sounds good! Not an issue.

Client: We cannot spend a lot on its maintenance. It must be herbivorous.

MeReflecting for a second again. Oh yes...true. Not a problem. Will be done.

Client: Oh, I almost forgot. It must have  long trunk

MeStumped. Oh! You want a trunk? Can you manage without the trunk?

ClientAppears flustered by that question. No, No, No...absolutely not. Trunk is extremely important. Very. It must have a trunk

MeTrying to salvage the situation. Alright! I will have it done. Anything else Sir?

Client: No, that will be all.

Me: Thanks much Sir. Could you sign off please? Right here on the dotted line. 

I then return to my office with the signed off specs. I transition the requirements to the PM. The PM is not too worried. He thinks that the trunk is the only missing piece. He appears confident to deliver the customized solution in about 10 weeks. 

I get a call in 6 weeks. The PM is super excited to show me the solution.

When the PM demo's the solution to me, I am super thrilled myself. I am ecstatic. I tell the PM that I will put in a glowing recommendation for her, and that I will personally deliver the product to the client.

So, here I am on my way to the client. 

(Image copyright belongs to the owner)

Once at the client location, I demo the product with much excitement. To my dismay, the client does not share the same excitement. In fact, the client has a shocked expression on his face.

Client: What is this? This is not what I wanted.

Me: Confused. Referring to the requirement secs. What do you mean? This is exactly per the specs. 

Client: Now getting agitated. I don't care what the specs say. This is not what I wanted.

Me: Trying to placate the client. Sir, I truly don't understand. You asked for four legs. There are four legs. You wanted herbivorous. I personally tested it, this is herbivorous. You wanted it carry cargo and passengers. Again, I personally rode on this thing. It is quite robust. You wanted it black. As you can see, it is black. You wanted one trunk. There is the trunk. 

Client: Now getting progressively more agitated.

Me: Desperately trying not to die. Sir, my company takes pride in customer satisfaction. I for one believe in nothing less than customer delight. I have made sure to offer you something as added value that you did not even ask for. Sir, my product gives you milk. You have one more revenue stream Sir!

Client: Bordering furious. Get out of my office!

What is it that I did, or did not do, that got me into such a fiasco? Let's review:

  1. You see, I did not do my job properly. Scroll up and review what my focus was while the client gave me his requirements. Did you catch it? Yes, that's it...that's what I am talking about. I was ONLY focused on reflecting whether my product already offered what the client was asking for. That doesn't seem like a right approach, does it? 
  2. Furthermore, I did not ever focus on WHY the client wanted whatever he was asking for. As a Business Analyst, my job is to first understand the WHY, and only then the WHAT. When the client asked for the trunk, I instantly realized that my product didn't offer the trunk out of the box. Instead of understanding why the trunk was required, what business purpose does the trunk serve, how it integrates with the rest of the solution, I was only focused on getting the client to relax the trunk requirement.
  3. "Why" seems to be such a natural question to ask, isn't it? Why do you need the trunk? Why is it such a mandatory requirement? Even so, I did not venture to ask that simple question. How come? Here is the tricky part...if I do ask why, and then realize that my company's product does not meet the client's needs, I would have put myself in a precarious position. I can neither tell the client that my product will not help them (and risk losing the sale), nor can I tell that to my company. Instead, I do what I did...take the easy way out.

As a BA, one should never forget that the most important question to ask is WHY. Understand the business first before getting to the business requirements.

This entry was published on May 06, 2016 / Praveen Udupa. Posted in Business Analysis. Bookmark the Permalink or E-mail it to a friend.
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Jijo posted on Friday, October 6, 2017 7:35 AM
Great read with valuable lessons!
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