The Business Analyst Problem Solving Framework

Business Analyst Problem Solving

Previously I have discussed the Business Analyst mindset and the important factors required for delivering value to your organisation.

As a starting point for developing this mindset I identified 3 areas that will assist you in your daily work.

The things to adopt are:

  1. A ‘problem solving’ focus as opposed to an implementation focus (which does not necessarily solve the problem).
  2. An audience focused approach that clearly communicates solutions to complex business problems.
  3. A clear communication style that helps you manage expectations and maintain transparency.

With so many methodologies and technologies, developing competency in these 3 areas will help you stay relevant as a Business Analyst.

I believe 100% that great business analysis is more about mindset, and less about skills.

Because without having the right kind of mental framework for affecting change, it is difficult to deliver true value.

From having the right mindset, you can then develop the right skills and qualities to be most effective in your role.

Mindset is about ‘how’ you go about doing things that makes the real difference in this profession.

Developing the right mindset can only be developed through experience and awareness.

This awareness gives you an understanding of how to direct yourself towards a success-oriented mindset.

‘Hard’ skills such as tools and techniques are easily taught and learned.

Mindset is developed through ‘soft’ skills and tacit knowledge, which is difficult to teach in books and classroom settings.

But you can have a framework for developing a successful business analyst mindset.

This will focus your approach to problem solving and communicating in a way that delivers excellent results for your organisation.

It will also help you create better career opportunities as you are communicating from a viewpoint of the things that create true value, and not just your hard skills and certifications.

A very good starting point for developing your BA mindset is to gain an awareness of 3 things in your mental framework.

Adopt a problem solving focus to delivering results

With so many methodologies and technologies, developing a problem solving focus will help you stay relevant as a Business Analyst.

Adopting a problem solving focus means that you are striving towards delivering real results with measurable value.

You are not just ticking a box so you can say that you got something delivered.

You are truly aligned to the organisational mission and your stakeholders’ vision.

Problem solving primarily requires problem identification, elicitation skills and stakeholder management.

Problem identification

Supported by good elicitation techniques, problem identification includes methods such as root cause analysis, mind mapping, five whys, and fishbone analysis.

The real value in business analysis is understanding the problem. You gain true experience in engaging with your stakeholders, understanding their issues, and aligning with their needs.

When you have defined the problem then you can make a difference. You can narrow down and choose the right tool and use it to analyse and communicate the problem and articulate a possible solution.

This way there is less overwhelm, and you can produce better results.

Elicitation

Elicitation is important because the discovery of business requirements is almost never readily available at a business analyst’s fingertips.

Types of elicitation are:

  • Brainstorming
  • Document Analysis
  • Focus Groups
  • Interface Analysis
  • Interviews
  • Observation
  • Prototyping
  • Requirements Workshops
  • Survey/Questionnaire

One of the first problems a business analyst needs to solve when starting a new project is how to elicit to the requirements. This goes together with how you go about engaging your stakeholders.

This is because there are several variables that need to be taken into consideration when planning the work needed to gather all necessary information.

Each project is different and will require a different way of approaching elicitation.

The importance of elicitation cannot be overstated, for it is the linchpin to any requirements project.

Stakeholder engagement

Stakeholder engagement is essential to build relationships, foster ownership, influence outcomes, gather information and facilitate the resolution of problems.

Cultivating good relationships is very important.

Stakeholders are more willing to answer questions, show up for meetings, review documentation, and help the business analysis process to go more smoothly if the business analyst has established good stakeholder rapport.

Essentially, projects are about people, and success is about creating value for those people.

Adopt an audience focused approach to problem solving

Adopt an audience focused approach that clearly communicates solutions to complex business problems.

Adopting a problem solving focus as opposed to an implementation focus will help you be truly successful in your business analyst career.

However, adopting an audience focused approach will help you clearly communicate solutions to complex business problems.

This means that you know your audience and you know how to present information to them for optimum clarity.

Who are your stakeholders?

What are their challenges?

What decisions do they need to make?

What information do they need from you?

What is the best way to present that information?

A large part of the Business Analyst’s work requires engagement to gather data about their stakeholders’ issues and needs, and then clearly and concisely present that information back to them.

Therefore, it is important to understand who your stakeholders are and what they need from you.

Adopt a clear communication style to align with your stakeholders

Develop a clear communication style that helps you manage expectations and maintain transparency.

Developing a clear communication style that helps you manage expectations and maintain transparency.

It’s important to:

  • Always be prepared and don’t waste stakeholder time.
  • Respond to feedback, don’t react.
  • Listen, listen, listen.

Always align yourself with your stakeholders’ vision. Converse with them in a way that fully considers how they do their job and the issues that are impacting on them.

Use simple language and avoid jargon to ensure that people understand what you are saying.

Don’t make assumptions and always ask questions to clarify concepts and stay on course.

If you say you’re going to do something on a certain day, then do it. Otherwise communicate a new expectation before that time.

I use the OARS technique (open questions, affirmation, reflective listening, and summary reflections).

This is a client centred interaction technique that invites others to “tell their story” in their own words without leading them in a specific direction. It is an excellent way to build rapport with stakeholders.


In addition to the top 3 business analyst skills and qualities I have wrote about, there are many other supporting qualities such as self-belief, curiosity, integrity, self-reflection, motivation, initiative, resourcefulness, connectedness, professionalism, trustworthiness, and courage.

This is your start towards a new awareness on how you can become a great business analyst.

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