Before Proposing Solutions, Identify the Problem

In our previous article, we looked at ways that Business Analysts generate value for organizations. Whether approaching scenarios as a problem solver or strategist (or both!), BAs can help action-based companies improve efficiency, optimize procedures, and streamline processes so they can meet their goals.

For most of us, when we’re faced with a problem, our first instinct is to apply a solution as quickly as possible. And for some issues, that may work just fine. But in the business world, to find real and sustainable solutions to problems, you’re very likely going to need to dig a little deeper to identify the core issues that need to be addressed.

Where There’s a Problem, There’s a Solution

hand adding the last missing wooden block into place. Business success concept.

Let’s set the stage: a company you work for wants to hit a financial projection or an inventory forecast within a specified timeframe. This is where you, the Business Analyst, come in to address an issue that could hinder this goal and create a strategy to fix it.

So, you’ve met with your company’s business executives and they’ve explained their goals for the next six months. You might think, ‘I can imagine several ways to hit that projection.’ But before you start brainstorming solutions, slow down. You first need to identify the problem and from there, you should drill down deeper and get to its root cause. If a problem isn’t properly identified it could cost a company significant revenue, and without performing a thorough assessment, you could end up delivering zero value.

This is true of many everyday scenarios. For example, if you discover that your car has a leak and you take it to a mechanic, he won’t immediately replace your brake fluid line. Instead, he’ll look under the hood and likely run some diagnostic tests first to find the source of the leak. You don’t want to invest in a new brake line if the leak is coming from another source. That would be an unnecessary replacement that costs money and doesn’t fix the problem. Just like the mechanic, a Business Analyst must also follow steps to get to the core issue to avoid wasting time and money.

A successful Business Analyst follows five key steps before starting a project:

  1. Define the problem
  2. Find the root cause of the problem
  3. Determine the value of fixing the problem
  4. Create a project proposal
  5. Gain approval from stakeholders for the proposed project

Gaining project approval is your end goal. 

Identifying the Root Cause

There are many issues that can arise within a company that a Business Analyst can solve, and those problems can originate from many different sources. Sometimes, company executives identify existing problems or see obstacles to potential new profits. Employees can experience pain points in their daily work that impacts production. A board of directors could want to expand the business into another industry. A CEO may want to develop a new in-demand product line. The IT Manager might learn the software used for an operational function will no longer be supported or is outdated.

Those are all scenarios identified by outside sources – executives, employees, a board of directors, you get the picture.

You, as the Business Analyst, also could come across opportunities. Maybe customer service reviews on your company’s website indicate the business is averaging poor ratings. Perhaps you overhear colleagues complain about a certain process. Or maybe you hear something about a competitor. The possibilities are endless.

This is why Business Analysts are so important to the health of organizations. Your business analysis skills can deliver many benefits to your company, including time efficiency, increased profits, enhanced employee morale, and increased customer satisfaction.

Business Analysis is All About Generating Value

To help you identify a problem and its root cause, you can use multiple techniques and tools. In my next post, I’ll introduce you to the Observation Technique, which includes Active, Passive, and Participatory observations. 

If you’re interested in learning more about insightful techniques that assist with discovering the root cause of problems, check out my online course Identify and Define the Problem. This is the first course in my Business Analysis Process Series. While I have a suggested course order, this is a great place to start for both beginners and more advanced BA’s. Happy learning!

– Written by Jeremy Aschenbrenner, The BA Guide

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