Assumptions as a Business Analyst

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Every area of life has assumptions. Sometimes, you may not even think about them. That’s just the nature of taking things for granted. Need proof? The first statement of this entry was an assumption and you agreed wholeheartedly.

To a business analyst, assumptions are the foundation on which good analysis is built. If the assumptions have been adequetly scrutinized, then this foundation is rock solid. If not, then it might as well be sand.

To illustrate this point, consider a case study for my recent experience with a car service center. I’m very particular about my car’s maintenance. When the odometer turned to 90,000 miles, it was time to shop around for one of the most expensive routine maintenance packages.

I called several service centers, including the one which formerly had my loyalty. While on the phone with my ex-shop, I explained that I wanted the 90,000 mile service. Spark plug replacement is included in the package, but I requested platinum spark plugs. After asking for the total price, the call handler made me a reasonable offer. Almost immediatly after this, she checked again, and increased the price by $35. Some computer somewhere told her that spark plug replacement on my car required an extra $35 from me to keep the ink on the balance sheet black. Since the price was still substantially lower than the competition, I made an appointment.

When the time came, I wished my car well as I dropped it off for the five hour procedure. After three hours, I received a call from the same person with whom I made the appointment. My delight for finishing ahead of schedule was quickly crushed by the news that my sparks plugs were “hard to get to” and it would be another $180 to install them. Of course, this pushed the total price higher than the other service centers. Additionally, they had waited three hours and done no work whatsoever. I had to fire them.

The problem was in the assumptions. The shop employee assumed that I would have told her that my car’s spark plugs are not easily accessability, the people responsible for the software assumed that the user would ask for this, and I assumed that the software would make this information available to the employee. In the end, the same thing happened that usually happens when you don’t check what you assume: you make an ass out of u and me.

So, be sure to check your assumptions.

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