The strangest things

Sometimes as a business analyst you'll hear some of the strangest requests. Things that will make you do a double take. "Excuse me, did you just say...?"

Some of the most odd requests I've heard are:

  • "I want you to put a little lightning bolt in the top right corner of the screen that indicates the application is still processing." At the time we were working on a web-based application, so we asked, "You mean like the little symbol that twirls in the browser?"
  • "In the older application, when I hit the ENTER button it tabbed to the next field. I want the new web-based version to do that as well." Of course my web developer looked at me incredulously and proclaimed, "I didn't build the damn thing (the browser!) So if ENTER is pressed to tab, what is the TAB button for?"
  • "I want you to run a pharmaceutical patient compliance program. We get the pharmacists to contact the patients and talk to them about the importance of refilling their medications. Oh yes, because of privacy concerns we cannot identify the individuals. You'll get an unique index for each person, but it is only unique within the same store." Needless to say at the end of the day, our data was very useless.

The important thing is how would you handle these requests?

  1. Suppress the urge to laugh out loud no matter how funny you think it is.
  2. Make sure it's not you! Make sure you're listening properly.
  3. Use active-listening techniques to see if that's actually what your client meant. Remember your objective is to foster understanding.
  4. Your client has told you what they want. Make sure you ask, "Why do you want it?" What is the business justification?

The greatest ignorance is to reject something you know nothing about.

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