Comments On - The Importance of the “Unhappy Path”

Today, I thought I'd jot down some notes on an Andrian Reed blog post titled The Importance of the “Unhappy Path”.

I had an assumption going in that some of the narrative could be on project sponsors and/or project managers that don't want the business analyst to spend much effort looking into exceptions. Exception discover and analysis are often shunned because they tend to link to issues, issues tend to lead to conflict and conflict can easily lead to personal/career risk. Additionally, documenting and analyzing paths other than the one most traveled takes time and most projects have some level of time sensitivity. 

Last weekend, lucky enough to take my wife to Orcas Island and part of her birthday celebration!

Last weekend, lucky enough to take my wife to Orcas Island and part of her birthday celebration!

Instead, the article focuses on other aspects of process documentation that is more clinical and less political. I really like the pair of sentences that make up the end of the second paragraph. "Just because something occurs infrequently doesn’t mean that it isn’t important.  In fact, some very ‘infrequent’ events might represent real ‘moments of truth’ where we have the opportunity to impress or frustrate the customer."

That is a viewpoint I would expect from someone working in a QA role and not a BA role. Although many of us know the roles are quite similar but they tend to focus on opposite ends of the project endeavor (BA / Front - QA / End). A business analyst that focuses too much on the exception discovery and analysis may expect to receive feedback such as "paralysis by analysis." Again, both the project sponsor and project manager might put pressure on the BA to hurry up and ignore exception discovery, documentation and analysis. This article can be used to effectively communicate the need for exception analysis. 

I was also impressed with the opening sentences of the six paragraph. "I suspect most organisations consider the frequency of the event or scenario when making this decision.  This is useful, but it is also important to consider the severity, strength of feeling or outcome." 

Anyone that has studied for a PM and/or BA certification has come across the risk analysis components of probability and impact. Project sponsors and project managers tend to focus primarily on probability, although a project sponsor that started on the ground floor and worked their way up is a notable exception. This is one of the many areas in which knowing more about your project sponsors background can be helpful in determining how far down the exception documentation rabbit hole the business analyst needs to explore. 

In summary, I really liked reading Adrian's take on the topic and enjoy his regular article posts. The topic of "the unhappy path" could easily be expanded to book chapter or even book section size. I'd even be interested in seeing some benefit realization analysis on the topic of documenting outside of the happy path. How much of the effort that was put into exception analysis, turned out to have significant value to the organization? The organization would have to have some way to establish measurements and indicators in order to adequately compare the former "as is" state and the post project state. Again, this would add another layer of effort to the overall endeavor and potentially tip into an actual "analysis by paralysis" position. 

© 2018 Dwayne Wright