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Author: Elizabeth Larson

Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, CSM, PMI-PBA is a consultant and advisor for Watermark Learning/Project Management Academy, and has over 35 years of experience in project management and business analysis. Elizabeth’s speaking history includes keynotes and presentations for national and international conferences on five continents. Elizabeth has co-authored five books and chapters published in four additional books, as well as articles that appear regularly in BA Times and Project Times. Elizabeth was a lead author/expert reviewer on all editions of the BABOK® Guide, as well as several of the PMI standards. Elizabeth enjoys traveling, hiking, reading, theater, and spending time with her 6 grandsons and 1 granddaughter.

Innovation in the Age of Pandemics

Pandemics are devastating. There are losses of loved ones. There are economic and societal losses.

Pandemics disrupt most aspects of our lives. But throughout the ages, pandemics have also ushered in new technology and ways of doing things. From the Plague in Athens (429 BC) to the current Covid-19 coronavirus, innovation has followed.[i] Below are examples of innovations that stemmed from two pandemics–the Black Death and the 1918 Influenza.

Black Death

The 14th century plague pandemic, known as the Black Death, was actually a combination of 3 pandemics and lasted for over 100 years. It eventually wiped out about 50% of the population in Europe[ii][iii]. As devastating as this pandemic was, it also contributed to many innovations, just a couple of which are listed here.

Clocks and other time pieces. Because so much of the population was killed, manual labor became scarce and those who survived worked more. It became critical for both workers and their bosses to track the longer hours worked. As a result of this need, mechanical clocks and hourglasses, which helped workers and bosses keep better track of time, were invented.

Eyeglasses. Until the invention of eyeglasses in the 14th century (perhaps earlier on a very limited basis), much of the potential workforce could not see well, either because they were near- or far-sighted or because as they approached midlife, their eyesight worsened.[iv] With much of the population reduced by the pandemic, there was an increased need for productivity not just for those performing manual labor and the burgeoning middle classes, but also church-related workers like priests and scholars. Eyeglasses, then, significantly increased productivity by allowing more people to work longer.

1918 Influenza Pandemic

An ad for dixie cups reads: “This is the sanitary age — the age of dixie cups… touched only by you.”[v] We might think that this ad appeared recently, reflecting our concern about the spread of Covid-19. But dixie cups were introduced in 1907, and these words were from an ad shortly thereafter. At that time, the use of paper cups was limited mainly to railway stations and trains. By the end of the next decade, however, single-use cups were ubiquitous–in theaters, hotels, retail stores, and casual restaurants. What triggered the change? There were many factors, but the 1918 flu pandemic was instrumental. Here’s why. Before paper cups, most people drank water from public water pumps or reusable community cups  that were passed from person to person, along with any germs which were also spread. The 1918 pandemic raised the concern about the spread of germs and that in turn, made the need for single-use cups more attractive.

Paper cups weren’t the only innovation accelerated by the pandemic. The 1918 influenza brought many changes particularly in the field of medicine. Blood transfusions were one example. It also introduced innovations related to vaccines, such as the identification of viruses, (“very small agents).” New vaccine tools that were created at this time led to the development of vaccines from fertile chicken eggs, which according to the CDC are used today. [vi]

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A discussion of pandemics would be incomplete without discussing the controversy surrounding wearing masks. Take an article, for example, which read: “A draft resolution led to a heated city council debate, with one official declaring the measure ‘autocratic and unconstitutional,’ adding that ‘under no circumstances will I be muzzled like a hydrophobic dog.’ It was voted down.” As with the paper cups, we might think that this quote was recent. Actually, it’s a quote about the “mask slackers” during the 1918 pandemic.[vii] There were, of course, arguments on both sides. On the one side were proponents. There was a massive campaign to convince citizens (mostly men and boys) to wear masks to avoid spreading the flu germs. “Coughs and sneezes spread diseases.” “Wear a mask. Stamp out the Spanish Influenza.” “Wear a mask and save your life.” But as noted above, not everyone was convinced. Some viewed masks as “feminine” or intrusive as this poster read: “The new symbol of tyranny—muzzle.” And then there’s this headline: “Three shot in struggle with mask slacker.” Regardless of the root causes of dissention, convincing populations of the importance of following a new direction has never been easy.

Lessons for business analysts and project managers.

Influencing. It’s always difficult to effectively persuade people who feel strongly about an issue to change their mind, their feelings, or their actions. But as project professionals, we are called upon to do just that. It’s never easy to get resistant stakeholders and project team members on board. Influencing, though, is part of our project life. As BAs and PMs, we need to be able to influence people over whom we have no authority. What we can learn from the mask example is that trying to use rational persuasion, that is, the use of facts, figures, data, and science alone to influence is rarely effective unless we add an emotional component as well.

Innovation. Pandemics, as devastating as they are, can be a time of great innovation. This current corona virus pandemic is a time for reexamining how to best work remotely, how to lead and interact with virtual teams, how to teach and learn effectively and safely, not just in our schools, but also in classes ad at conferences. And now’s a good time to reexamine our work, including our processes, our technology and new ways to influence and build trust.


We are living in “interesting” times, filled with disruption and uncertainty. It is this type of environment, however, that is fertile ground for change. New ideas and processes that will surface as a result of the current pandemic are sure to move us in a new direction. These changes will be more than uncomfortable for most of us. However, as business analysts and project managers we need to lead our stakeholders and project teams through these challenges. That has always been part of our job. And our organizations will look to us to help them take advantage of innovations



[ii] The current pandemic has already changed vaccine development, for example.

[iii], Different articles put the number between 25 and 75% and the length of these pandemics from 4 and 120 years. I think the difference is due to the definition of the Black Death. For example, if we include just the bubonic plague, the number of years is much shorter.





Failing Fast in the Age of Pandemics

When I first heard the phrase “fail fast, fail often,” I was horrified. It was cited as a mantra by the early adopters of Agile methods.

But I didn’t understand what it meant in those relatively early days of Agile. The expression conjured up missed deadlines, broken promises, and an undisciplined approach to software development. I found the term threatening—it went against everything I believed in as a project manager. This quote by a CIO in a recent article summarizes how I felt back then: “I really don’t like the term ‘fail fast.’ I don’t like the term ‘failure.’ It’s got so much laden on it. I understand the folks in Silicon Valley; they mean something different.”

As I learned more about Agile and became certified in 2010, I came to understand that in many respects failing fast was a reaction against the “do it right the first time” slogan of the quality movement of the 80s and 90s. I learned that failing fast does not refer to a lack of success—simply a different meaning of success. Failing fast is a way to experiment quickly and be OK with throwing away unsatisfactory results. It‘s also a way to ensure that “sunk costs,” money already spent, is not a factor in future decisions.

So what exactly does it mean to fast?

Most definitions of ‘fail fast fail often’ include some of these elements:

  • Speed of execution. A project where the “speed of execution is a lot more important than perfect execution.[i]” In other words, it’s more important to get results quickly than to get perfect results. A feature of the old quality models, which required doing things right the first time, was having zero defects. Having implemented several large projects right after this kind of quality training, I now realize that the teams spent an inordinate amount of time trying to ensure that every aspect of the project would work perfectly. Back then even small defects were discouraged. In other words, the cost of preventing defects was far greater than the benefit of an earlier implementation.
  • Taking a large project, breaking it into small pieces, and time boxes (iterations) mean that more features can be completed in shorter amounts of time.
  • Experimentation and extensive testing. This includes trying new things, learning from these trials, and refining the inputs and/or tests in order to achieve different results. The number of tests is less important than learning from the results and making changes.

Failing fast in the age of pandemics

But let’s get back to the topic at hand—the need to fail fast, particularly as it relates to Covid-19. Many in the health care industry are realizing the advantage and even the necessity of “failing fast.” This is particularly true in the area of vaccine development. Vaccines usually take anywhere between 2 and 5 years or longer to develop, test, manufacture, and distribute. There are many reasons for this. Before being approved for manufacturing, vaccines typically go through many phases from animal trials to extensive testing on a variety of different human demographics.[ii] What, then, makes epidemiologists think that a Covid-19 vaccine can be made to fail fast and come to a successful conclusion? Here are some examples of how this is being done.

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  • One of the best examples of failing fast is by concurrently developing vaccines at the same time manufacturing and distribution channels for that vaccine are created. For this to work, several things are necessary. Industry and scientific leaders, regulators, and others, groups who do not always work well together have to do just that. And they have to share rather than withhold information–internationally.
  • Traditional thinking in vaccine development was that the creation, manufacturing, and distribution of that vaccine happened sequentially rather than concurrently. There was too much financial risk in thinking about manufacturing and distribution before the vaccine went through all the trials and was approved. Since most vaccines never make it to human trials, let along through all the trials to approval, why incur the huge cost to manufacture and distribute something that was going to get thrown away? That’s different with Covid-19.

Failing fast requires organizations to assume risk that was not thought possible in the past when it was too great a cost to develop these channels before vaccine approval. According to Dr. Fauci, this concurrent development can shave many months off the time that it typically takes to develop vaccines.[iii] Because of the need for speed and financial benefit, this kind of unprecedented international collaboration has begun.[iv]

  • Partnering with other organizations to develop the same vaccine. This is what’s happening in the development of the Covid-19 vaccine. Unlike vaccine development in the past, many organizations are working together on the same vaccine in order to speed up development and approval.[v]
  • Using AI to study the disease’s mutation patterns. This new coronavirus probably mutated from animals to humans and continues to mutate. Most of these mutations appear to be minor, but new evidence suggests that newer mutations help the virus better penetrate the body[vi]. Trials need to take these mutations into account and AI speeds up this process.
  • Using AI to determine what an infected cell looks like. AI can look at the many and complex cell attributes by looking at the problem holistically and predicting which potential vaccines are most likely to succeed in clinical trials. Humans are not good at understanding what a sick cell looks like.

All these fail-fast measures require strategic and innovative thinking, strong executive leadership, and a commitment to work collaboratively rather than competitively. But in a world-wide pandemic, failing fast and failing often is exactly what’s needed.


[i] Forbes, Sunnie Giles, 4/30/18,

[ii] Rob Grenfell & Trevor Drew, The Conversation, February 17, 2020,


[iv]World Economic Forum, Charlotte Edmond, May 14, 2020.,


[vi], Sara Kaplan and Achenback, June 29, 2020.

The Virtual Leader Part 3 – The 3 Most Important Qualities for All Virtual Leaders

With all the emphasis on working from home, I’ve wondered if it takes a different kind of leadership to manage virtual teams than it does to manage a more traditional, collocated team.

That sparked the first two parts of this series on the virtual leader. Part 1 dealt with building trust virtually, Part 2 on virtual communications. In this article, Part 3, I will describe what I consider to be the 3 most important leadership qualities and why they are needed in the virtual environment: strength of character, adaptability, and competence.

1. Strength of character

The concept of character has been described in a variety of different ways, many of which center around having the confidence to do the right thing, particularly when no one is watching.[i] describes it as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual[ii], which is close to what I think of character–our core, our moral compass. We can have a strong or a weak character. Having a weak character leads to being out of integrity and its consequence, a complete lack of trust. True leaders have a strong character. But what does that mean and why is it important in the virtual world?

I think strength of character is needed by all leaders. We all face situations in which our character is tested to a greater or lesser extent. In extreme cases, we might be told to do something shady, like fudge a report or exaggerate results. Fortunately, however, that is rare. More often we show a weak character by going along with bad ideas or not speaking up when the organization is heading in what we think is the wrong direction. Sometimes it’s being asked to get a project done by a date that we know we can’t meet, yet we say nothing or agree to that date.

A strong character allows us to empathize, to listen to others and try to understand their world. It gives us the courage to recommend the right thing for the organization. It gives us resilience. When we get knocked down (which happens to all of us), resilience and courage allow us to admit our mistakes, learn from them, and start anew.

All leaders need strength of character. But it’s harder to recognize what the right thing is. It’s even harder to get executives, your team, and your colleagues on board, when you’re all working remotely. It may take longer and be more frustrating. Nevertheless, it’s essential for everyone in the org to perceive you as a person of strong character. That’s how we build trust and credibility.

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2. Adaptability

Being adaptable means adjusting to new environments, and there are many ways adaptability applies to the virtual leader. I’ll touch working from home, a quick note on Agile, and our comfort level with chaos.

Several articles have suggested that one of the key leadership traits in the “post-covid-19” world is adaptability.[iii] They cite the need to adapt to the new world of working from home and having to learn to use new technology like video-conferencing.

To be sure adapting to the virtual world is essential, and if we have not already adjusted to using Zoom or GoToMeeting or WebEx technology, we certainly need to do so. But adaptability is much more. We need to be flexible with staff who have competing demands of family and work. We need to adjust to barking dogs, interruptions by kids, spouses, roommates, and partners. One article in Fast Company Journal even suggested that people are more productive with a 4-day work week.[iv] Perhaps we need to adjust our thinking about how much work is enough. Also important is the whole nature of productivity and how to measure it. Many in our industry have already adapted to similar changes, but for those project managers who need structure and want staff to be available throughout the “traditional” workday and work week, these changes are going to be difficult.

In addition, effective virtual leaders are comfortable with having the team create plans, as well as revise them as often as needed. Which brings me to Agile. If we’re going to survive as virtual leaders, we need make Agile work remotely. A few of the Agile principles may be harder to implement when the team is working from home, but they can and need to be adapted to the remote workplace so that the essence of the principles remains intact.

Effective virtual leaders are comfortable with ambiguity and create order when no one seems to know what order looks like. Certainly, it’s easier to recognize that our environment has become chaotic when we’re collocated. But leading virtually means creating structures for recognizing early warning signs and for getting our projects back on track. Chaos will remain part of our lives, work and otherwise, so virtual leaders, if they are true leaders, will figure out how to thrive in it themselves but minimize it for the team.

3. Competence

The virtual leader can create structures to build trust and maximize communications. But unless that leader is competent, these structures will not hold up. Leaders, virtual and not, typically require competence of team members. And the team needs to be able to count on the competence of the virtual leader. Competent virtual leaders know what they’re talking about. They understand project management, business analysis, Agile, and other project disciplines. They also know how to navigate the political waters.

Competent virtual leaders ask good questions and provide advice, both of which require an understanding of the topic at hand. Effective virtual leaders ask for the team’s input, so they need to understand whether or not the input moves both the team and the organization forward. They also have a solid understanding of what’s happening not just on the team, but within the organization, so that they can communicate to the team transparently.

To be effective the leader needs to be viewed as competent not just by the team, but by the organization at large. Teams suffer when led by leaders who are not well-respected by their colleagues, their teams, and Management. This is particularly true in a virtual environment. For example, when team issues arise that require resources beyond the team, the team will suffer if the leader can’t procure them. Resolving issues and thus establishing credibility is harder when we can’t meet immediately and face-to-face. It’s almost impossible when we don’t know what we’re doing.

Successful virtual leaders have these three qualities—strength of character adaptability, and competence. Virtual leaders without these qualities are apt to manage more and lead less. They are more likely to rely their authority rather than inspiration. Some will abdicate, pushing everything onto the team, thus not leading at all. Virtual leaders will be tested more, and without these three qualities they risk being ignored, disrespected, or perhaps even replaced.




[iii] 7 Leadership Traits for the Post-Covid Workplace, Dana Brownlee, Forbes, May 7, 2020,

[iv] Fast Company, May 13, 2020,

The Virtual Leader Part 2 – 3 Keys to Effective Communications

Effective communications skills are required whether or not we’re working in a virtual environment.

It’s just that communicating, even with technologies like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Webex and others, is harder to do virtually. As noted in the sixth principle of the Agile Manifesto, face-to-face communication is most effective[i]. In the ideal world, then, we have a greater chance of successful communications when we’re together. Many of us, though, are working from home, so we need to maximize tools and techniques that will enhance communications in our less-than-ideal world.

Here are three keys the virtual leader can use to promote effective communications:

1. Emphasize the power of community

Teams usually function better when they have a sense of community, of belonging to group whose purpose is to complete a common objective. When we’re focused more on what both the team and the organization need to accomplish than on our own individual needs, we tend to have less conflict and greater productivity.

It’s easier to establish sense of community when the team is housed in the same building or on the same campus than when the team is spread across a city or worse, across a region or a country. And when the team is international, it becomes even more difficult. Time zones, for example, make it harder to get the team together frequently. Cultural and language differences can diminish the team spirit. The farther away the team members are from each other, the more difficult it is to establish that sense of belonging. However, this difficulty can be mitigated by:

  • Frequent meetings with all the team members. It’s even more important to have frequent team meetings virtually than when the team is together. Team members working from home can find themselves feeling isolated and unproductive. The virtual leader can help by meeting:
    • Initially with the purpose of getting to know something about each member personally and to ensure everyone understands the project objectives and constraints.
    • On an on-going basis. It is important to take a few minutes at the beginning of each meeting for small talk about family, vacations, activities, entertainment, etc. However, it’s also extremely important to ensure the project is on track. Sharing status and issues helps reinforce the sense that the team is working together to meet objectives and solve problems, knowing that if they get stuck, the leader or other team members will help them move forward.
    • As needed to solve problems. Solving problems together creates a sense of unity. When a leader steps in to solve all the problems, the benefits are short-term. And not all problems require the involvement of all the team members. Having subgroups solve problems and report back to the larger group is also effective.
  • Meetings with individual team members
    • During initiation to learn about their individual wants, needs, concerns, issues, etc.
    • To resolve individual issues and conflicts, rather than trying to do so in a group meeting
  • When trying to assess level of commitment

As virtual leaders, we need to emphasize and reinforce this sense of community, keeping in mind that the team itself is part of a larger set of communities.

2. Establish communications protocols and norms

Protocols establish norms for how we want to engage with each other. Although important for collocated teams, they are obligatory for successful virtual teams. They help ensure that the team becomes and stays cohesive and productive. All projects are subject to unproductive time related to resolving conflict among team members. As a project manager, I tracked this time for about 15 years. On average about 5% of the project total was spent on HR-related issues. Having more communications protocols might not have prevented conflict, but they would certainly have helped to bring these issues to light sooner.

Ideally, when the team is in the process of “forming” during initiation, it establishes these norms within organizational and technical constraints. Where possible, the team meets to recommend appropriate protocols. Virtual leaders need to take these recommendations seriously without rubber-stamping them. Effective leaders ask questions about the reasoning behind the protocol recommendations to ensure they further the team’s goals. If they do not, virtual leaders need to provide direction and guidance without being heavy-handed. This balancing act is tricky and difficult, but necessary.

The following are some topics to consider for communications protocols:

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  • Types of meetings. These might include status, celebrations, milestone checkpoints and decisions, and issues newly identified and/or resolved.
  • For each meeting as appropriate,
    • How often to meet, keeping in mind that more frequent check-ins are necessary when leading virtual teams
    • Duration of meeting
    • Meeting time and venue
    • Whose input is required, desired, and optional
    • Format
    • Topics
    • Use of videocam and muting
    • Frequency of breaks
    • Handling questions and interruptions
  • Preferred technology, if choices are available
  • Response time – maximum wait time to respond to other team members and stakeholders.

These protocols are included in the communications plan and can, of course, be updated as needed

3. Clarify communication preferences.

I remember years ago I had a sponsor who said to me, “Elizabeth, why do you send me emails instead of coming to see me? Are you upset with me?” We were a mere floor apart from each other. At the same time, I had a boss who, when I stopped by with what I thought was an urgent issue, told me to just send an email. His cubicle was right across from mine.

We all have our communication preferences. The virtual leader should discuss preferences with team members and appropriate stakeholders.Here are some considerations that may affect preferences:

  • Stakeholder and team member stated preferences may not always be practical. If the preferences result in risk or will have a negative impact to the project, they should be discussed and negotiated.
  • Priority, urgency, and importance of resolving issues. An issue, for example, might become urgent if not dealt with by some future date, but the urgency is not immediate.
  • Nature of conflict. Interpersonal conflict requires a one-on-one, preferably through video or teleconferencing.
  • Impacts and risks of delayed communications.

Effective communications are important for all teams. However, because of the inherent difficulties communicating virtually, the virtual leader needs to carefully plan how the team will communicate not just within the team, but with key stakeholders as well. By focusing on the three keys discussed above, the virtual leader can minimize the confusion, contention, and feelings of isolation that often prevent virtual teams from being successful.


[i] Enable face-to-face interactions– Communication is more successful when development teams are co-located.”

[ii] [ii] What FDR, Churchill, and Shackleton can teach us about leadership during the coronavirus crisis, 4-3-20, Fast Company Nancy Koehn,

AI in the World of Pandemics

A Twitter meme reads as follows: Question: Who led the digital transformation in your company? Answer: COVID-19

Every day during the Covid-19 pandemic US governors emphasize the need to use data to combat the spread of the virus. They look closely at various simulations to predict such things as the peak of the outbreak by location, the potential rate of recovery, death rates, and which works better, lockdowns or extensive social distancing. Such predictions and the ability to analyze massive amounts of data would have been impossible before AI (artificial intelligence). “These are the numbers behind genetic sequencing and artificial intelligence. To a degree never before possible, they give us power to understanding a pandemic even as it races to kill us.[i]

Recently when I was researching BA trends in the world of AI, I read several articles on the use of AI and quantum computing in healthcare, in particular drug development.[ii] One article even suggested that it would help predict pandemics.[iii] At the time that notion seemed far-fetched. Today AI is being used expensively to predict and try to stop the pandemic. Recent articles have cited numerous examples of the use of AI, HPC (high performance computing), and quantum computing[iv] and how they can help during this difficult time. Here are just a few ways these technologies are being used:

  • Diagnosis, treatment, and vaccines to distinguish between pneumonia and COVID-19
  • Identification of COVID-19 antibody candidates
  • Examination of cell membranes to determine how the virus proliferates
  • Predicting the path of disease spread
  • Distribution of vaccines and personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and ventilators, as well as medical personnel based on what is and will be needed and where
  • Analysis of social media to predict where outbreaks will occur
  • Analysis of geographic anomalies in body temperatures to predict the path of the virus
  • Prioritizing patients with more urgent need and recommending individualized treatments

This is interesting and important information that will certainly help with future waves of this particular coronavirus, as well as future viruses. But what does this have to do with our world of projects? Plenty.

Need for accurate data

Since organizations began undertaking large AI initiatives, they have realized the importance of having not only massively large amounts of data, but of having that data be accurate. Here’s why. At its most fundamental level, machines use historical data (big, big data) to learn and improve. As new data becomes available, machines categorize it, learn more, improve, and make better and better predictions. Their algorithms depend on good data. If the data is unreliable, the outcomes will be less than useful and perhaps even harmful.

BAs have always been involved in helping organizations ensure that their data is accurate. They help organizations develop a business case for deciding whether or not to undertake the effort to cleanse the data, often a large and expensive undertaking. BAs can explain that while the cost to cleanse data is high, the risk of not doing so is also high. BAs can point to study after study of organizations that use inaccurate data and the disappointing results they have gotten from their AI efforts.

In addition, BAs can help organizations with this cleansing effort by doing such things as:

  • Analyzing data to determine how much needs to be cleansed
  • Developing cleansing implementation plans
  • Facilitating conversations to help resolve the conflict related to, for example, who owns the data, where the data comes from, and which source of the data is the one that should be used
  • Analyzing the results of AI simulations and questioning anomalies

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BA as Data Translators

More and more organizations are recognizing the need for data translators. This is a perfect role for BAs who have always been good at translating technical complexities into language a variety of business stakeholders can understand. This is harder than it sounds. Stakeholders usually have their own language, acronyms, and idioms—think hospitals, insurance companies, doctors, nurses, medical staff, patients, first responders, and the community at large. BAs can help organizations figure out a way to communicate AI results to various stakeholders so that the communication is understandable and relevant to their specific needs.

In addition, BAs can help by:

  • Looking at AI results and identifying trends, explaining the impacts of those trends, and explaining the importance of the assumptions used to come up with the results (see below for more on assumptions).
  • Helping ensure that the results of simulations and predictions make sense to various stakeholder groups.
  • Helping ensure that the results are visually understandable. Ill-defined and confusing charts and graphs are not useful for decision-making.
  • Helping shape AI strategies as well as helping to implement them.

Strategic, experienced, and well-informed BAs can be consultants to their organizations, resolve conflicts between stakeholder groups, and balance competing needs among them.

Correcting faulty assumptions

BAs are good at questioning assumptions. We know that every assumption is a risk and that we need to be aware of and document them, so that when they change, we can easily change our plans. Take the simulations used in dealing with Covid-19. Since no one simulation provides enough information, multiple ones are being used. Some are based on assumptions about social distancing, although that is just one. Here are just a few more examples of assumptions that have been recently used in predicting the pandemic outcomes[v]:

  • Everyone has the same chance of catching the virus from an infected person because the population is perfectly and evenly mixed, and that people with the disease are all equally infectious until they die or recover.
  • Dividing the population above into smaller groups by age, gender, health status, employment, and so forth.
  • The percentage of infected people vs those who died
  • The number of days before an asymptomatic but infected person spreads the virus to others.
  • That the data being used was accurate. For example, most simulations used data that came from China, which turned out to be inaccurate and therefore skewed the results.

As Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, “What we do is that every time we get more data, you feed it back in and relook at the model. Is the model really telling you what is actually going on?. . . Models are as only as good as the assumptions you put into them, and as we get more data, then you put it in and [the results] might change.”

BAs can help ensure that stakeholders understand the assumptions that are used and the effect of assumptions on the results. They can encourage running many simulations and looking at ranges of predictions based on different assumptions and communicating which assumptions were used for which results. And as tempting as it sometimes is, BAs can point out the risk of letting AI make decisions based on the results when assumptions are used.   



[ii] Shohini Gose, Ted Talk A Beginner’s Guide to Quantum Computing, Nov 2018,

[iii] Matt Swayne, March 4, 2020, How Quantum Computers an Be Used to Thwart a Future Pandemic, Wire, March 12, 2020

[iv], Global Supercomputer is Mobilizing Against Covid-19

[v] The Simulations Driving the World’s Response to Covid-19, David Adam, Nature, April 2, 2020,