Analytical and Problem Solving Skills

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Many words have been written about the process of business analysis and how it can be performed on different types of projects. There are a multitude of tools and techniques which can be used plus methodologies and frameworks to suit a wide variety of circumstances. This makes it all too easy to get absorbed in the day-to-day detail and forget about the real purpose of business analysis – to fix a problem or provide the organisation with a new capability.

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Quite simply, root cause analysis is a technique designed to unearth the real, often unknown reason why a business problem is happening, and then to propose a viable solution to fix it. BABOK explains that root cause analysis “can help identify the underlying cause of failures or difficulties in accomplishing business analysis work”[1] [emphasis added] and further clarifies that it is “used to ensure that the underlying reason for a defect is identified, rather than simply correcting the output (which may be a symptom of a deeper underlying problem).”

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As businesses acknowledge the value of business analysis – the result of the absolute necessity to drive innovation through projects – they are struggling to figure out three things: (1) What are the characteristics of their current BA workforce, and how capable does their BA team need to be?  (2) What is needed to build a mature BA Practice?  (3) How are we going to get there?

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“…The Analyst will [...] facilitate the identification, design and implementation of business and systems solutions in a rapidly growing and evolving business…”   What strategic initiatives might a business analyst as described above discover, and how will they deliver the “business and systems solutions” in today’s 21st Century competitive environment?
 

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I was very intrigued with this concept when I read it in the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK). This concept is so powerful and if used more in organizations can produce remarkable events; however, I have found that Systems Thinking can only be utilized to its fullest potential if the culture of the organization allows for that. However, as business analysts this is a concept that we should have in our arsenal of tools...

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Facilitation is one of the most critical soft skills of the business analyst, as well as one of the most difficult to master. Working with various stakeholders requires tremendous preparation, insight and finesse in addition to an understanding of key principles of the facilitation process.

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Over the years I have noticed that we, as Americans, seem to possess a knack for attacking the wrong problems which I refer to as the “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” phenomenon. I see this not only in the corporate world, but in our private lives as well. Instead of addressing the correct problems, we tend to attack symptoms.

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In a process improvement project, the analysis team needs to model and examine several aspects of the current (AS-IS) value chain under study. The purpose of the analysis is to create a visual diagram of the value chain along with its associated text and metrics and determine if there are possible areas of improvement (e.g., reductions in cost or time). If improvements are identified, the team constructs a modified value chain model (TO-BE) with the improvements and then conducts a gap analysis on how to transition to the new value chain. This article focuses on the analysis of the current value chain by providing a method for structuring the AS-IS and TO-BE process improvement discussion.

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Regretably, many of today's Systems Analysts are still glorified programmers in sheep's clothing.  I recently came across some job postings under the title, "Systems Analyst," and it occurred to me people still do not know what it means. In the postings I saw things like "seeking a Systems Analyst with 4 - 6 years experience... Candidate must have experience with JAVA and the ATG application framework."

 

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 Ever had to interview your boss – or a divisional general manager – or the managing director of a key customer? What about a politician or a senior executive in a government department? All these scenarios can be nerve racking, yet they’re something a business analyst may be required to do on a regular basis.

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In this final paper of the series we look at decision making techniques – how to select the best idea from the many we’ve come up with – and how to justify our recommendation to our client, manager and peers.
 

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For almost every analyst, the day comes when you write a set of requirements that causes engineers to bemoan a recent development project that they just coded. "If only we'd known that you wanted to build this, we would have made the last project more flexible. Now we've hardcoded in changes that will take days to rebuild."

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A lot of people think that coming up with solutions to business problems is the hardest part about being a business analyst – particularly when working with a client who knows more about the business than you ever will. Don’t believe it, after all you’ve already made considerable progress in understanding the problem – and your understanding is based on level-headed analysis rather than a potentially emotional interpretation by your client.

Now it’s time to look for solutions – to be creative and think outside the square. In this paper we’ll offer a few tips and techniques for getting the creative juices flowing. We’ll show you that anyone can be creative and that solutions can come from the most unexpected places – you don’t have to be a subject matter expert to come up with valid, workable solutions to business problems.

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Like all professions, business analysis has its golden rules – rules that are fundamental to the design of successful business systems. They might seem like common sense but it’s surprising how often we forget them and get ourselves into hot water.

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If Agile is to become the next zeitgeist for development, what will become of the traditional Business Analyst?

We all know the traditional waterfall mantra: analyze, design, build then test... underpinned by the common belief that the more you analyze up front the more you save in maintenance later on. This has had a huge impact on the way we organize our teams: separating functions and putting a heavy emphasis on theoretical modeling.

When a project kicks off, the classic Gantt chart dictates that analysts are on-boarded early for a lengthy requirements analysis stage. Once the requirements specification is 'signed off' the analysts are often relieved of their posts for the design crew to take over. The 'sign off' fest continues until eventually the user community is (invariably) force fed a UAT phase and the fledgling product is launched; all the while resources are inhaled and exhaled as the project plan demands. The project then becomes more of a way to co-ordinate a set of individual skill sets and activities.

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