Thursday, September 11, 2008

Business Analysis and Quantum Physics

I recently read In search of Shrödinger's cat. It's a wonderful introduction to quantum mechanics; The basic (and intriguing) problem of the elusive electron acting as a wave and a particle at the same time.

Analysis is very much like observing the electron in the classic two slit experiment. The business domain is like a wave traveling through the two slits. But the moment we analyze, we make it boil down to one reality by asking it How, What, When and Who.

Waves give you a probability distribution, while particles give you one of the possibilities as a reality. Looking at a business problem, in the wave form is better since it let's you choose a reality that solves the problem well.

For Example: Let's say the business problem is "I want to let my customers know of the new offers I have so that they can take advantage of the offers and I can make money"

This is the problem in it's wave form. The reality can be one or more of email, website updates, RSS feed of offers, people going door-to-door, mobile advertisement vans and a million other options including telepathy, albeit with low probability perhaps.

The problem is that clients come and say "I want to let my customers know of the new offers I have by email so that they can take advantage of the offers and I can make money" and it takes a while to get into a mode where you challenge every reality and go back to the wave form, by asking "Why"? Why is the only question that let's you go back to the wave form.

The more we procrastinate our observation, the better will the chosen reality suit our problem. Agile takes this approach with the concept of the last responsible moment for a decision. It let's future remain future and hence full of possibilities.


  1. Very interesting analogy Akshay. I recognized it immediately from experience too, though in a slightly different form. As the BA performing the communication conduit between development and product owner, I have to be able to view the central issue that is being developed (the user story). Development sees it in particle form, the product owner sees it in wave form. The BA has to perform the two slit operation so that each side can see it.

  2. This is also applicable to the logical versus physical viewpoints. All too often the logical view is ignored in favour of the physical thus removing the opportunities for alternative solutions. This is key to the BA role. The BA must champion the logical making the physical designers and builders justify the corruption / denormalisation of the logical view rather than having a license to run rampant. Not many BAs can a)establish the logical view and b)be strong enough to defend it against the pressures of project delivery.

  3. Very interesting. Never thought that a parallel with Quantum physics can be drawn in such a way. Come to think about it.... Duality is built in the Fabric of this world.. not only in physical properties down upto basic element (particle / strings) but in human emotions as well... happy => unhappy... stressed => relaxed.. love => hatred and since business governed by material needs as well as human emotions... the effects of this duality are bound to appear in the discipline of business analysis..

    very good..
    (do visit us)

  4. Nice analogy, especially if you think about the lengths scientists go to expose the "reality" of the "multiple possibilities". This is a great thought experiment for the work we perform as business analysts...really threading from the business statement of the problem, to the real problem, to potential solutions.

    Nice post. Thanks.