When I teach a class, I’ll ask the students to tell me what they consider to be their pain points and issues with performing analysis. One that seems to come up quite frequently is knowing when you are done. They’ll ask, “How much detail do you have to go to in order to get your point across?” and the answer I tell them is, “Just enough.”

Now I hate cop-out answers because they don’t really tell me anything, but in this case, it’s the only correct answer. The level of detail you go to depends on the project objectives, your audience and the level of effort you are able to expend based on your project financial constraints. Once you get to the point where your audience understands the requirements and you will get a solution to the real business problem, why keep analyzing? If your audience understands the process diagram you created, why go any deeper. You’re done.

Some of you may know I’m riding my bicycle from Boston, MA to Bar Harbor, ME this summer (and if you didn’t know, now you do). I am carrying all of the gear in panniers on the bike. I wanted to make sure my gear was packed with a pretty-balanced 50/50 weight distribution so I wouldn’t be unbalanced. So, like a good BA, I created an analysis tool. I built an Excel spreadsheet to calculate the weight of the object, and where it was being placed on the bike. It would then show my balance as a percentage, i.e. 47% left, 53% right. It was a rough estimate, but it works. Immediately I thought I could make this much cooler and add a 2×2 diagram showing my front to back ratio and side-by-side ratio. I could make the weight and balance appear like a Gartner Quad and showing exactly the center of gravity for the bike. I have to believe I am not the only one that could use such a tool. I could then upload it to bike touring sites so other bike enthusiasts could download it. I would create instructions and put in graphics, and format the table to look attractive. It would be awesome.

About 30 seconds into all of this brainstorming about how much “cooler” I could make this, I realized I was already done. The spreadsheet has accomplished what I wanted it to do. Most importantly the spreadsheet met my original objective. In effect, by trying to go beyond that objective I had already run a marathon, crossed the finish line, and kept running. I created JUST ENOUGH of a spreadsheet to give me my answer. It’s not pretty, and it’s not going to compete with Google in a customer satisfaction survey, but it works. Job done.

Do you find you keep analyzing long after the necessary work is done? Are you still running the race after crossing the finish line? Let me know.

Cheers!

Paul

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