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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A business analyst's bad idea backfires awesomely

Have you ever seen someone try to analyze a situation they've never actually experienced? It's brilliant. If you ever see it happening, grab a cold drink and pull up a chair, since it'll be quite a spectacle.

There was this one business analyst who arrived fresh at a certain company. She set out to do all sorts of important-sounding things by building dashboards and getting tons of numbers out of the customer support data.

She started trying to read things into the data based on a simple interpretation of it. That is, if the system said a ticket was a certain category, then she took it at face value. Even though that data is flawed as I wrote before, she just kept asking for more.

Then, one day, she made an epic request. It was amazing.

She wanted the programmers to add some code so that the system would mail her any time a ticket went idle for an hour. This was not a simple one-time-per-ticket, either. She wanted it any time it happened to that ticket.

Right about now, I hope some of my readers have started chuckling evilly. Have you ever seen that scene in Fantasia when things get completely out of hand? Yeah. That's what happened here.

They switched it on, and it started mail bombing her. Idle tickets were incredibly common! Further, her insistence that it mailed her more than once for any given ticket meant it wouldn't let up. It just kept firing mails at her over and over.

Obviously, her mailbox became completely useless. It was just flooded with garbage from the ticketing system. Whatever it was that she wanted to see was completely buried under the load. Also, any ordinary mail sent her way disappeared in the flood. This kept happening until someone finally did something about it and switched it off.

Nobody who had a feel for the way things really worked would have ever made such a ridiculous request. What's interesting about this case is that it's one of those times when the wayward analyst actually got to feel the pain they created. Normally, their meddling only harasses the people down at the bottom doing all of the work.

For once, the analyst was at the end of the fire hose. It was great.