The Family Business Analysis, or how to use your BA skills at home

As we enjoyed a nice extended week-end over here (thanks to Canada Day holidays), I tried not to think about my business analysis job, and tried to spend most of my time in or near the pool with the kids. After an exhausting day, my girlfriend and I were discussing about our changing our car while the kids were playing around the pool. It’s not like we had the choice, as our 4-year lease will end in April 2015. Since we only have one car and don’t want/need another one, we have both to agree on the next model.

She insisted on the available storage, I wanted an hybrid or electric model. She would like a 4-wheel drive system, I would enjoy BlueTooth connection to the sound system. I didn’t care about the color, but she didn’t want a white one. Our list of requirements was growing fast, but we knew that our budget would limit our possible choices.

I realized soon enough that even though I was trying to keep my job away during my vacations, I was still doing business analysis at home! When you think about it, our process to select a new car was not different from the process to implement a new business process or piece of software. Was I performing some Family Business Analysis?

The context & the limits

As for any decision regarding the family expenses, we had to consider our financial context to choose the best car. We also had to consider some scheduling issues; if we changed the car before next winter, we wouldn’t have to buy new snow tires. If we decided to wait until next spring, new tires would be required, and we would only use them for one season (which would not be a good investment!). Moreover, we had to consider that we were taking the decision for our entire family, including the kids.

This is not different from a business context. Getting a wish list of requirements is easy; prioritizing them considering the organizational context is harder. You have to take into account the financial context, but also the technical & human resources available, as well as any timeline that could make a decision required sooner than later. Any decision you take will not only impact the directly involved stakeholders, but also many other people inside and outside the organization.

The requirements, part 1: the car itself

We had requirements about the product (ie the car) itself. A lot of requirements. Some were essential, others were nice to have. Elicitation of these requirements was relatively easy, but prioritizing them wasn’t, even though we agreed on many requirements. We had many discussions on which requirements we though were absolutely required, and we agreed to postpone some of those requirements to a future “phase” (ie the next car) in order to take a decision regarding the best car for our needs at this time. By chance, there were only two stakeholders in this process (even though we had to consider the kids’ needs for the new car, especially since we travel a lot to visit our family spread across the province).

This situation is not very far from my day-to-day work as a Business Analyst. I have to work with various stakeholders (usually more than 2!) to elicit and prioritize hundreds of requirements, gradually sketching a solution to a business problem and defining implementation phases to meet the priorities of the organization.

The requirements, part 2: driving the car

Choosing a car based on its characteristics is only one part of the process. My girlfriend and I also identified various requirements about how we were going to use & maintain the car: fuel consumption, regular maintenance costs, car autonomy (battery life being an importance feature of an electric car), comfort and facilities for long distance runs, etc. These requirements were not specific characteristics of the car, but rather requirements on how we would like to use the car through its lifetime.

Non-functional requirements are also an important part of my work as a Business Analyst. Deciding on what the system should perform (functional requirements) is often easy to do, but defining the qualities of the system (ie the non-functional requirements) is also an important part of the reflexion.

The Family Business Analysis, or how to make your personal life easier

Buying a new car is only one example where your competencies in Business Analysis will help you in your personal life. Any large expense will follow a similar process (a new house, a new pool, a bathroom makeover, etc.); even your family activities will require a Business Analyst! Think about this when you will plan your next family vacations, you might think about useful work techniques that could help you go through the process.

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Have you experienced other personal situations where your Business Analysis competencies helped you? Do you know an expert in Family Business Analysis? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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Eric Provost

Making sense out of chaos as a BA & UX specialist

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