How To Investigate Business Problem?

Big or small, being in Business we all experience business problems. They may relate to process, policy, technology, people, management or combination of them. We all have our way to look at business problems and their solutions too. For instance, if the Call centre is not functioning correctly, the Operations Manager may propose to provide more training to staff. In contrast, Executive member may offer outsourcing Call centre function altogether. However, before jumping to any solution, we must understand the problem first.

Problem Investigation Reference Model
Problem Investigation Reference Model

Business should rely on ‘Analyst’ (individual undertaking professional
analysis work; holding any position/title)
to investigate Business
problems. Analysts investigate the root cause of problems and provide a 360-degree
view to stakeholders. It helps decision-makers to make informed decisions.

Following framework will help Analysts to develop an approach for
investigating Business problems.

The Framework

Framework

  1. Problem – The first step is to get initial information about the problem. Following questions must be answered in this step:
    1. The customer – For whom you are investigating the problem? It can be an individual, team, company or outside body (regulator, auditor)
    1. Time allowed – How much time is allowed to investigate problem
    1. Budget allowed
    1. Quality expectations
    1. Resources available – What are the resources available to you. They include people, tool, systems, documentation and infrastructure.
  2. Domain – Identify the different angles/perspectives you need to look at the problem. For example, in the Call centre problem above, you may want to investigate domains of Call centre operations, Sales, Customers, Products and Management.
  3. Stakeholder – Identify critical stakeholders (Subject Matter Experts-SME) in each of the identified domains. Identify the relationship between stakeholders, reporting structure and position. Try to introduce yourself to them personally. Understand their personality types, personal preference for engagement, viewpoint. This will help you to plan for the next step.
  4. Information – Gather information from identified stakeholders and document their stories. From stories, distinguish and confirm what are the Assumptions, Risks, Concerns, Dependencies, Limitations, Constraints and Needs/Requirements. Consider different techniques (e.g. Workshops/One-on-Ones/Surveys) for information gathering based on Business environment and problem under investigation.

Some tips

  1. Understand Environment – You must understand the environment in which you are operating. Your environment influence on anything you do, so proactively be aware of that!  Refer to the diagram for specific components of the environment.
  2. Experience tools in Action – During the investigation, do not merely trust words. See things (processes, systems) in action yourself.
  3. Get facts – Try to support your observations with statistical facts, published report and research papers.
  4. Existing Assets – Do not recreate the wheel! Look for previous work done, related projects and current documentation.
  5. Stop solution thinking – You will find people will tell you solutions rather than the problem. Steer discussion towards problem. Finding a solution is the next step. So, stop thinking about it.
  6. Do not forget Customer – Remember you are investigating problem for your customer. At the end, you must meet your customer needs.
  7. Ask the same question – Ask the same question to different stakeholders (SMEs) and if possible, to the same stakeholder at different times. The chances are that you will find different answers which will lead to more questions.

I hope you have find this helpful. I appreciate your time!

Please drop a line and provide some feedback.

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