Keep PROBLEMS separate from SOLUTIONS.

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People tend to think in the mode of solution and often confusingly take a solution as their problem. It is not their fault, its just human tendency.

As a skilled Business Analyst, you need to reiterate to your stakeholder (as they tend to flow back to solution mode), the purpose of your 1st stage of work – that is, to understand the PROBLEM (or in some cases opportunity).

In 2nd stage – you analyse problem and device SOLUTION OPTIONS. It doesn’t mean that there has to be separate meetings to discuss the two stages of analysis.

So how do you capture the REAL PROBLEMS?

Simple – Use a lot of ‘WHY?‘, ‘WHAT?‘ ‘SO WHAT?‘ and a few ‘HOW?‘.

Let’s illustrate this with an example

A Business Stakeholder > “I need to automate printing of cheques.”
Business Analyst >> ‘Why?’
> it will save our time – we won’t have to write cheques manually.
>> ‘What’ will happen if we don’t do this?
> we will continue to spend a lot of time.
>> ‘So what?’
> Our team members will not feel happy
>> ‘why?’
> We work until 7pm every day because of huge workload.

<<<< ****PROBLEM = Team members are overloaded with work.****


>> ‘what’ does your team members usually do?
> We take claim calls from customers, we do fact finding and investigation for the claims, we settle claims, we write cheques.
>> ‘what’ is the most time consuming activities among these?
> well it varies but perhaps fact finding & investigation takes most time on average.
>> ‘Why?’
> We have to call various agencies, pay them money to send us reports, record the information, check reports when we receive those and record the information and assess whether the claim is fraudulant, follow up with the claimants.
>> Do you measure ‘how’ much time you spend in each of these activities?
> No
>> May be we need to, in order to find out ‘what’ is the most time taking task that we can improve.

<<<< ****DATA COLLECTION ****


>> ok. Tell me in more detail about ‘what’ you do during fact finding and investigation, step by step.



> So we do this, we do that, and after that we do that…
>> ‘How’ do you pay the agencies?
> By cheque for each request that we make.
>> So for each claim, you write a few cheques to your agencies and finally a cheque to caimant for settlement?
> Yes
>> Do you know how many cheques on an average you have to issue per claim to these agencies?
> Totally depends on the nature of the claim, but varies from 2-4.
>> And how many claims do you handle per month?
> Last month we had settled 200 claims.

<<<< ****DATA COLLECTION ****


>> Right. So last month you sent around 600 cheques (200 claims times 3 cheques on average) to the suppliers. Lets assume it takes 5 mins between request to dispatch of cheques. That’s 3000 mins = 50 hours = over 6 working days of full time effort from one person every month, just writing and dispatching cheques! Plus the effort for 200 settlement cheques which is another 1000 mins.
> Right – didn’t think about that.
>> You were originally asking about automating cheque requesting that would save lets say 3 mins for each cheque that we create – 600 cheques for agencies and 200 settlement cheques. A total saving of 2400 mins which is good. But we still have 1600 mins to spend.

<<<< ****SOLUTION OPTION 1 ****


>> I think there could be another option to solve the problem of high workload… lets say if we could set up an arrangement with the investigation agencies that instead of sending a cheque for each claim, we would keep track of all the payments due over a month and send one cheque per month, our effort would be reduced by almost 3000 mins; we would just need to write 1 cheque per claim for settlement. How would you react to that?
> Sounds good. Never thought of that!

<<<< ****SOLUTION OPTION 2 ****


>>What is the trend on the number of claims that we get every month over last few years? Is it same all over the year?
> Its normally higher in summer.
>> Do you have any supporting data for say last 5 years?
> I can send the MI reports from archive.
>> Yes please, that would be great.

<<<< ****DATA COLLECTION ****


>>I am thinking if staff workload is a problem only in peak months, one solution could be to employ temporary staff during those months every month – which may turn out to be easier than changing the payment process that can be costly and time consuming.



This conversation can go on for a while. But you see how the BA questioned the SOLUTION that the business user was asking for to start with; identified the PROBLEM and then arrived at various SOLUTION OPTIONS; which could be fleshed out after ANALYSING THE DATA that the stakeholder has agreed to supply.
This is a fictitious example. I hope this would be useful in tackling your real job. Good luck and see you soon on this website.


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