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Airplane SeatsI recently had “another” airport experience. It is inevitable when you travel a lot. This time, the plane was switched for another plane due to equipment concerns. Now, whereas I am happy they were able to detect the reasons the plane should not fly, what happened next made me think there must be a better way. I tend to book my travel well in advance to ensure that I have both a seat up front, and that I am on the aisle. That is the perk if you plan well in advance. Hmm… planning well in advance… sounds like a good business analysis practice! After traipsing to the other end of the airport to the new gate and plane, we started the boarding process. As we were boarding, the attendant stopped me and informed me that my seat had moved because the size of the plane had increased. The additional seats had been sold or filled and the flight was full. Okay… but my seat was NOT moved to an aisle – they had moved me to the middle of a row! Needless to say I was not happy. Regardless of my discussion with the attendant, nothing was to be done and they pretty much let me know it was neither their issue nor did they care. A. Not great customer service. B. You never want a big man like myself sitting in the middle seat on a plane! That is why I book in advance: comfort and trying to be courteous to and conscious of my fellow seatmates. C. Would it not have made sense that whomever had an aisle on the old plane received an aisle seat on the new plane? People that decided to move from a later flight to my earlier flight were getting my aisle seats! So what does this have to do with business analysis you ask? A lot.

As business analysts, we often start off on our projects not knowing much about the product. As we elicit, analyze, and document we slowly become subject matter experts along the way. This is a natural and needed process to go through, as we have to communicate those requirements effectively, as well as educate/train others on how that product is going to work. Through this process we often find “missed opportunities.” I am not talking about missed requirements for the project you are on but rather new potential projects. New projects that would make the product run more efficiently, provide stronger customer service, and reduce costs and more. We find it in our process flows, prototyping, use cases, user stories and more. We have a unique opportunity to help make the product and services that our stakeholders use on a daily basis – better. As business analysts, we should take these “opportunities” forward through appropriate channels for evaluation and prioritization. What typically happens though is that people try to squeeze things in on the current project, creating scope creep, stress, and confusion. Now you may want to debate that if we can squeeze in these opportunities on the current project we should do so. There are a million reasons not to include your missed opportunity (new project idea) into the current project and that is the subject of a whole other blog some day. For now, let’s stick with finding those opportunities and shedding some light on them.

It was clear to me that the opportunity was to have a mapped out process that could be followed either manually or more hopefully, automate it so that it would ensure people on aisles, stayed on aisles. There were so many people complaining that it was clear neither process existed. You could say it is “common sense” but that is why we need to document business process. When common sense does not exist we have a process to follow. If any business analysts working for airlines are reading this, I would be happy to share my plan for this opportunity with you. I can give you my requirements and the logical process for how people with aisle seats retain aisle seats when switching out planes. It involves a couple of business rules, a couple of prototypes, a couple of assumptions (that will need validation), well… you get the picture. This is what we do! I am pretty sure that you know how this should work too. Do not be afraid to bring these opportunities up with your stakeholders. Get them in the pipeline. These ideas strengthen your product and good products equate to sales, then to happy customers, then retention of jobs. Take a “missed opportunity” and make someone’s day!

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