Why is Problem Solving Important to the Business Analyst
The expression problem solving refers to the intellectual process that people go through to uncover, analyse and solve problems. Problem solving is a major discipline within business analysis. You’ll often hear business analysts state that the thing they love about their work is solving problems. This makes sense because as a business analyst, your role is to identify and solve problems in an organisation.
Examples of Business Analysis Problem Solving
Here are some examples of problem-solving scenarios that a business analyst might face:
- Process Improvement: This is about improving a organisation’s manufacturing or operational processes. You would gather data on current processes, identify bottlenecks, and work with the team to design and implement a more efficient workflow.
- Decreasing Sales: You would be determining why a company’s sales have been decreasing. To solve this problem, you would analyse sales data, conduct customer surveys, and review competitors’ strategies to determine the root cause of the issue.
- Customer Retention: This where you would be be tasked with improving customer retention rates. You would conduct surveys to gather feedback, analyse customer data, and work with the marketing team to develop targeted retention strategies.
- Cost Reduction: You are asked to reduce costs for a company by analysing the budget, identifying areas where costs can be reduced without compromising quality, and work with the team to implement cost-saving measures.
- New Product Development: This is where you are asked to assist in developing a new product. You would conduct market research to determine customer needs, develop product specifications, and work with the product development team to ensure that the product meets customer requirements.
These are just a few examples of the types of problems that a business analyst may solve. The key is to approach each problem with a structured, analytical mindset and work collaboratively with stakeholders to find the best solution.
Process Improvement Example
To further expand on this here is an example of how you could could solve a process improvement problem.
Problem: A manufacturing company is experiencing delays in production due to bottlenecks in their production process.
- Define the problem: Gather data on the production process and identify the specific bottlenecks causing the delays.
- Analyse the process: Use process mapping tools to visually map out the production process and identify areas for improvement.
- Identify solutions: Work with the production team to brainstorm solutions to the bottlenecks identified in the process analysis. Possible solutions could include streamlining the process flow, improving the quality of raw materials, or upgrading equipment.
- Evaluate alternatives: Evaluate the potential impact of each solution and determine the most effective solution based on the resources available to the company.
- Implement the solution: Work with the production team to implement the chosen solution and monitor the results to ensure that the bottleneck has been successfully resolved.
- Continuous improvement: Continue to monitor the production process and make adjustments as needed to ensure that the process remains efficient and effective.
By using a structured approach to problem-solving, you can help the manufacturing company to identify and solve bottlenecks in their production process, resulting in improved productivity, reduced costs, and increased customer satisfaction.
Problem Solving Techniques
There are many techniques that you can use to help solve problems in a business environment. Here are some common tools that can be used for problem-solving. These techniques can be used in brainstorming sessions / workshops or as personal thinking tools.
This tool helps to generate new ideas and solutions to a problem by encouraging open discussion and collaboration.
This tool helps to visually map out the current process to identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and areas for improvement.
Root Cause Analysis
This tool helps to identify the underlying cause of a problem by looking at the relationship between various factors. Root Cause Analysis is another common technique and assumes that systems and events are interrelated. An action in one area triggers an action in another, and another, and so on. By tracing back these actions, you can discover where the problem started and how it grew into the symptom you are now facing. There are three basic causes of problems: physical, human and organisational.
The Five Whys
The Five Whys technique is simply the process of asking “why” enough times that you eventually get to the root cause of a problem. It is an effective way to solving problems that can be used by any business analyst to improve a business process or write better requirements. Learn more about this questioning technique in “Why” is the How of Getting to the Root Cause of a Problem.
This visual technique is used to outline information around a central word or phrase. This central concept may form the known issue that may be causing the problem. Learn more about Mind Mapping in How to Explore a Problem Using a Mind Map and 6 Strategic Categories.
This tool helps to identify the various factors that contribute to a problem by creating a diagram that looks like a fishbone. Like Mind Mapping, Fishbone Analysis is a visual technique for exploring a central problem or concept. This tool is also called the Ishikawa Diagram as it was first used by Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa of the University of Tokyo in 1943. Learn more about this technique in How to Identify the Likely Causes of a Problem with a Fishbone Diagram.
This tool helps to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing a business.
This tool helps to identify the most important factors contributing to a problem by plotting them in a bar chart.
This tool helps to evaluate the costs and benefits of different solutions to a problem to determine the most effective option.
This tool helps to compare different options by evaluating various criteria and assigning weights to each criterion.
CATWOE can be used as a stand-alone tool or can be combined with other techniques to ensure that the identified problem has been given full consideration, i.e. you don’t have a problem statement that is really a solution instead. CATWOE allows you to look at the issue from a variety of perspectives: customers, actors, transformation process, world view, owner and environmental constraints.
These are just a few examples of the tools and techniques that can be used by a business analyst to solve problems. The key is to select the most appropriate tool for the specific problem at hand and use it to guide the problem-solving process.