Skip to main content

Beyond The Happy Path: One Size Does Not Fit All

Up until a few years ago, I used to spend a lot of time working ‘on the road’. I’d spend time traveling between different client-sites, and this would inevitably mean spending far too much time in airports. Business travel is one of those things that sounds really glamorous until you do it, but believe me it soon gets really boring.


When you are a regular traveler, you tend to become very familiar with certain airports and you know exactly how to transition through them quickly. If you’re ever at an airport, you can usually spot regular travelers as they tend to know exactly where they are going, and tend to move at pace.  This is completely different to the family who are checking in with three kids, who are having to refer to the signs, and might have even initially arrived at the wrong terminal. Quite understandably, they often need a little bit more help.

I used to joke that it would be good to have an entrance especially for regular travelers, as their needs are so different (I certainly wouldn’t be buying anything from the duty free store, not even one of those giant airport Toblerones that seem ubiquitous in Europe, but a family may well do). This wouldn’t be practical in airports, but it does highlight a point that has direct relevance for business and business analysis: sometimes you need two (metaphorical) entrances…


Understanding Different Usage Patterns

When defining a process, journey or set of features for an IT system, it’s common to think about one path or scenario through which users will navigate.  This main success scenario or ‘happy path’ is then often supplemented by exceptions and alternative paths which are essentially ‘branches’ from the main scenario.

Yet it is worth considering that different types of stakeholders might have different needs as they navigate through. There might even be benefit in having two entry points. Building on the airport analogy, an experienced traveler probably doesn’t need to be told about the security rules (unless they have changed recently). A new or less frequent traveler may well need to be informed in detail.

This translates to wider contexts too. An experienced user of an IT system probably won’t want lots of dialogue boxes popping up with hints and tips. A new user might need virtual hand-holding as they learn how the application works.  Someone who calls a call center once might need to hear that three minute Interactive Voice Response (IVR) message explaining all about the services they can access via phone, and letting them know which number to press.  Someone who calls every day as part of their job probably doesn’t need to listen to the whole three minute spiel every time they call… Understanding these usage patterns is key.




One Size Rarely Fits All

There is often a desire to standardize processes, journeys and customer experiences. There is benefit in doing this, but the benefit really surfaces when the different users and stakeholders are understood. Understanding whether users will be casual/occasional or regular is important, as is understanding what they are ultimately trying to achieve.

This relies on elicitation and customer research. This is an area where business analysts can add value by advocating for the customer’s perspective. Too often definition and design decisions are made by people in comfortable conference rooms who are detached from what the experience will actually be like. Sometimes those decisions are made by people who haven’t spoken to a real customer in a decade (or ever!).

In these situations we can ask important but difficult questions such as “what evidence do we have that customers want that?”,  “which types of customers does that appeal to most?” or “how do we know this will be a priority for our customers?”.  Using a technique such as personas, when coupled with proper insight and research, can make a real difference here.


As in so many cases, asking these questions can sometimes be uncomfortable. But if we don’t ask them, who will?

Adrian Reed

Adrian Reed is a true advocate of the analysis profession. In his day job, he acts as Principal Consultant and Director at Blackmetric Business Solutions where he provides business analysis consultancy and training solutions to a range of clients in varying industries. He is a Past President of the UK chapter of the IIBA® and he speaks internationally on topics relating to business analysis and business change. Adrian wrote the 2016 book ‘Be a Great Problem Solver… Now’ and the 2018 book ‘Business Analyst’ You can read Adrian’s blog at and follow him on Twitter at