CC Fever

When you join a project as a business analyst, I think it’s useful to note the extent to which people in the customer’s organisation copy others unnecessarily on e-mails. I am sure many of you, if not most, have been on projects where everyone gets copied on everything. What does that suggest?

To me, it suggests that there may be an element of unease in the organisation. Perhaps roles and responsibilities are poorly defined with the result that people don’t know who to include in an e-mail. It could be that there is a lack of direction and discipline in the organisation. Copying everyone might be a symptom of what I call Four Monkeys Syndrome, so it might not even occur to the people involved that it could be a problem.

ccmailThe organisation of a business and how it communicates are pertinent to the work of the business analyst. Spotting CC Fever early on in your analysis is important because it could be a symptom of deeper problems that might impact your work. But what can you do about?

The first thing is to keep your eyes and ears open and observe relations within the organisation. Are people tetchy and defensive in meetings? Do they spend longer than you would expect trying to figure out who is responsible for what? Are more junior staff fearful of those above them?

Ask about the structure of the organisation. Ask to see some documentation about roles and responsibilities. Ask why everyone is copied on every e-mail. These are legitimate requests when you are trying to understand the business architecture.

Speak to your own people. Perhaps the manager who owns the customer relationship can shed some light, or maybe the project manager. Ask advice as to how they want you to tread if you suspect there are problems.

Considering that a lot of the applications we develop are workflows, it is important to get to the root of CC Fever. It’s the business analyst’s job to help the customer move towards more efficient processes so that later requirements analysis is based on solid foundations. If the customer’s organisation is suffering from CC Fever and it goes unchecked, they may no longer know how to communicate well (or never did) and that could ultimately lead to cumbersome workflows.

In cash terms, the customer pays the price for less than thorough analysis if we are on time and materials, but we do if we are on fixed price.

Either way, we ultimately pay the price (in that we don’t develop good analysis habits) if we do not address this issue, or if the customer does not let us address this issue.

Kind regards,

Declan Chellar

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