Gaining Knowledge about ‘What If” Analysis

explore your options


“What If” analysis happens to be a creative process of brainstorming that is mainly used for identification of hazards along with analysis of qualitative risks. Its main purpose is to add some sort of structure to the experimental and intuitive expertise of persons who possess both practical and operational experience. “What If” analysis is mainly a flexible technique of review when may easily be applied to any kind of system, project, process or operation with the intention of identifying risks.

Understanding “What If” Analysis

Commonly referred to as sensitivity analysis, the “What If” analysis can be defined as a process of brainstorming in order to understand how projected performance can be molded according to the changes present in the assumptions. The “What if” analysis is sometimes, used in order to compare various scenarios along with their possible outcomes, depending on the shifting conditions. “What If” analysis is generally used in the case of scientific research and in relation to economic and business risk assessments and it can be applied to almost every sort of system or activity. It needs to be clearly understood that there are plenty of factors that are capable of affecting the costs along with the ultimate decision. Through the use of sensitivity analysis, it becomes possible to consider all of the different options and this in turn leads the way to an improved decision.

Nuances of the Process

“What If” analyses are most commonly carried out by an expert team which is capable of asking all the right sort of questions connected to certain aspects of the design intent, such as the leaks, blockages, vibration, corrosion, partial failures, external events and vibration. In its original form, what is analysis seems to be a relatively unstructured form of analysis where the members of the team are encouraged to raise questions that ask “What if” at the time of a sequential review of the process or operations in the system. Therefore, it can basically be defined as a process of analysis which tends to encourage the use of the intuition and imagination of the members of the team.

Integral Benefits of “What If” Analysis

The process of conducting a “what if”, framework can be advantageous in several different ways. Not only does it help in making better and more informed decisions through the changing assumptions and estimating or observing the outcomes, it also assists in the improved prediction of the outcome of the decisions. Apart from providing a short glimpse of the future, “What If” analysis is capable of leading to quicker decisions.

Alternative Questions

Though the discussion can begin with the words “What if”, there are lots of other forms for the purpose of initiating the pertinent questions, such as “How could”, “Is it possible” among others. Generally, the most appropriate method is to pose all of the questions in the manner of a brainstorming session prior to beginning to attempt to answer them.

It becomes possible to improve the structure as well as the quality of the analysis in case the experience of the members of the team happens to be supplemented with a checklist analysis that is capable of filling in all of the gaps that might have been overlooked before. A well prepared “What If” checklist method makes use of a structured checklist in order to outline the ‘what if’ discussions in a simple yet effective manner. Under normal circumstances, it is the duty of the chairman of the analysis to come up with pertinent checklists. However, each of the participants from the workshops is urged to come up with a personal checklist before the main analysis session can even start.

Recommended Steps

Since the analysis is ideally performed by a group of people who happen to be familiar with the equipment, not only will it be entirely impractical or unhelpful but using a generic “What If” check list is completely wrong. Instead, it is always recommended that a custom made checklist be used.

At times, the ‘What if’ analysis may be carried out in connection to a regular document, detailing the method of Quality Assurance. In such a case, a common checklist might not only be developed, encapsulating both QA and “What If” aspects, it is capable of ensuring a structured and unified approach

Article signup banner

Use of the “What If” Analysis

In a regular setting, the “What If” questions are all used to cover most of the pertinent operational and hazard groups, such as influence by external factors, material problems, operating error as well as other human factors, malfunction of instrumentation and equipment, utility failures, emergency operations, process upsets of unspecified origin, loss of control or integrity failure etc. Therefore, in order to gain results which are more relevant and focused, the questions must also be limited to just one or more of these categories.

The conclusion of every single kind of “What If” question can be recorded with the help of a standard table format and the main factors to look out for includes concern, number, safeguards, recommendations and possible consequences.

A complete and thorough qualitative analysis of the risks involved in every single scenario may turn out to be totally helpful during the time of prioritizing the recommendations. A regular combination matrix can be used in order to achieve the end result. It is possible to add several columns to the existing table with the headings for consequence, evaluation of frequency, and/or the assessed risk.

Summarizing “What If” Analysis

It is highly recommended that the process of risk evaluation be conducted once the meeting is entirely over since the main intention behind the “what if” analysis is, after all, hazard identification. In a workshop or a meeting, the process of risk evaluation will sometimes lead to long and hard discussions concerning the possible scale of the outcomes and the frequency of the occurrence, taking time from the activity of risk identification. Beginning and managing a new business always involves risk and uncertainty but by asking “What If” questions and running an economic simulation, it becomes possible to make improved decisions and then demonstrate the strength of the business plan to the investors.

Other tools you might find interesting