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:

  • A ‘problem solving’ focus as opposed to an implementation focus (which does not necessarily solve the problem).
  • An audience focused approach that clearly communicates solutions to complex business problems.
  • 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 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
  • 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.

problem solving business analyst

MBA059: Problem Solving for Business Analysts

by Dave Saboe | Feb 16, 2016 | Podcast , Start | 0 comments

Problem Solving for Business Analysts

In this episode, Matt Fishbeck shares a six step problem solving framework that can help you to address the right problem and come up with the best solution for your organization and customers.

After listening to this episode, you'll understand:.

  • Why the skill of problem is so critical
  • How to apply a 6 step problem solving framework
  • How to apply problem solving techniques
  • Defining the problem statement
  • Defining scope
  • Elicit information & resolving ambiguity
  • Identifying associations and relationships
  • Root cause analysis
  • Solution proposal

The Problem Solving Process Start by creating the problem statement.  The problem statement is a well-defined statement or question to frame the context. After you have a clear and unambiguous problem statement, define the scope of the effort.  The scope definition is probably the most important stage since it basically whether or not the problem can be solved satisfactorily.  Scope is defined to apply constraints to the domain of consideration. When we have scope we know what to consider and what not to consider.  Therefore, all possible solutions are directly dependant on the information within the scope. Once the scope is defined, you can move on to eliciting information & resolving ambiguity.  Perform a stakeholder analysis and elicit information from all known stakeholders/sources as a basis for investigation.  You can use workshops, focus groups, interviews, document analysis, and other approaches to elicit information. When we elicit information, we try to remove ambiguity as ambiguity represents the unknown, liability, and risk.  To reduce ambiguity, we need to consider the taxonomy of ambiguity to provide a frame of reference to how we will resolve it.  Ambiguity may be:

  • Missing information
  • Incorrect information
  • Duplicate information
  • Conflicting information
  • Incomplete information

The above provide a basis to ask questions concerning all information that is within scope, to challenge this information to be reliable and suitable for use.  Context diagrams and domain diagram can help resolve ambiguity. Next, we identify associations and relationships to organize the information so we can derive meaning from it.  Information needs to be structured, aligned, and associated that provides an additional level of meaning. This is the basis for traceability. The linking of concepts. It’s not just solely used for requirements. Once we thoroughly understand the information, we can move on to performing a root cause analysis.  A root cause analysis helps you to understand the underlying cause of the problem so you can address it instead of addressing a symptom of a greater issue. There are many techniques for root cause analysis including 5 Whys and Fishbone diagrams. Now that we understand the real root cause, we can propose solutions that will address that root cause.  When identifying proposed solutions, consider the scope, constraints, and relative cost and value of each option.   Problem solving is not some illusive black art; it’s an analytical process that can be broken down, quantified, and analyzed to identify the root cause to give rise to a viable solution. Listen to the full episode to hear all of Matt’s examples and tips for problem solving.

Your Homework

  • Begin applying Matt’s six-stage problem solving approach.  Often, the most difficult part of problem solving is knowing where to start.
  • Start learning the root cause analysis techniques in the Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK).  The techniques will give you more tools to help in your problem solving efforts.

Links mentioned in this episode:

  • Matt’s Problem Solving article on

Matt Fishbeck

Senior Business Analyst and Writer

Thank you for listening to the program


  • Think Like a Freak to be a Trusted Advisor - […] BAs solve the right problem with the right solution among multiple possible options.  We’re able to see work that…

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Problem-Solving in Business Analysis: Key Skills

Problem-solving is an important skill in business analysis. It helps professionals identify and address issues within an organization. From analyzing data to developing strategies, problem-solving is crucial for success.

In this article, we’ll explore the key skills needed for effective problem-solving in business analysis. We’ll also discuss how developing these skills can help professionals make valuable contributions to their organizations.

The Essential Role of Problem-Solving for Business Analysts

Business analysts play a crucial role in solving problems for businesses. They identify and analyze challenging issues to provide effective solutions. Methods like brainstorming, process mapping, and SWOT analysis help them address complex challenges. These techniques enable analysts to define problems, generate solutions, and identify the best one. They work collaboratively with stakeholders to ensure valuable solutions meet client needs.

Continuous improvement of problem-solving skills is important for effectively navigating work challenges.

Demonstrating Problem-Solving in Action: Business Analysis Scenarios

The business analyst uses brainstorming, process mapping, and root cause analysis to solve complex business challenges. They collaborate with stakeholders and subject matter experts to identify potential issues and conduct in-depth analysis.

For example, during a recent project, the business analyst facilitated a brainstorming session with the project team to generate innovative solutions for a critical business problem. This resulted in the development of an effective action plan to address the identified issues.

Strategic visualization, like mind mapping concepts, is used to visually organize and prioritize various ideas and concepts, providing a clear and structured approach to identifying potential solutions.

Additionally, the use of structural tools and frameworks, such as the fishbone diagram, SWOT analysis , and Pareto chart, has helped the business analyst systematically analyze data, identify key areas for improvement, and prioritize actions based on the impact.

For instance, the business analyst used the SWOT analysis to assess the company’s competitive position. This enabled the identification of specific strategies to capitalize on strengths and opportunities while addressing weaknesses and threats.

Key Techniques to Address Complex Business Challenges

Business analysts use investigative methods to uncover core issues in complex business challenges. They apply structured problem-solving techniques and various tools like root cause analysis, the Five Whys technique, SWOT analysis, and Pareto chart to aid in problem resolution. These tools help in identifying and analyzing the root causes of problems and making informed decisions based on data.

Additionally, techniques like brainstorming and process mapping can be employed to generate innovative ideas and visually represent the steps and key elements of a process. By approaching problems with a structured, analytical mindset and collaborating with stakeholders, business analysts can effectively enhance their problem-solving skills and provide valuable solutions to clients.

Investigative Methods: Uncovering the Core Issues

Brainstorming ideas.

One way to generate and brainstorm new ideas for complex business challenges is by using techniques like mind mapping , the Five Whys, and root cause analysis. These methods help business analysts visualize concepts, identify patterns, and come up with innovative solutions.

Mind mapping helps analysts visually organize ideas and concepts, leading to a better understanding of complex issues and potential solutions. The Five Whys and root cause analysis techniques allow analysts to explore the underlying causes of a problem and develop creative strategies to address it. By asking sequential “why” questions, analysts can uncover the root cause and brainstorm solutions.

These methods help develop problem-solving skills in business analysis by providing structured tools to collaboratively address complex business challenges effectively.

Process Mapping for Clarity

Process mapping is a helpful tool for business analysis. It visually represents a series of events and actions within a process. This helps analysts find inefficiencies, redundancies, or bottlenecks that affect operational performance.

By using process mapping, analysts can emphasize the importance of having a clear visualization of the operational process. This helps stakeholders understand the process better. It also helps analysts uncover core issues and address complex business challenges by identifying areas for improvement and innovation.

Additionally, process mapping aids in strategic visualization and problem resolution. It creates a framework for analysts to examine the flow of work, inputs, and outputs. This enhances decision-making and problem resolution within the organization.

Digging Deeper: Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis is a valuable tool for business analysts. It helps uncover the core issues in complex business challenges. By using techniques like the fishbone diagram or the Five Whys technique, they can find the underlying causes of a problem rather than just its symptoms.

For example, if a retail company faces a decrease in sales, a root cause analysis may reveal that it’s due to a shift in consumer preferences or increased competition, rather than just ineffective marketing strategies.

The Five Whys technique empowers business analysts to go beyond surface-level symptoms by repeatedly asking “why” to get to the root cause. These techniques help them dig deeper and find long-term solutions to complex business problems.

To conduct an effective root cause analysis, business analysts must use various techniques such as brainstorming, process mapping, and SWOT analysis. Each technique provides a unique perspective and helps uncover the underlying issues. These structured approaches ensure that the root cause is accurately identified, allowing for the development of targeted and effective solutions.

For example, by using SWOT analysis , business analysts can assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats associated with a problem, guiding their analysis to uncover the root cause.

Incisive Inquiry: The Five Whys Technique

The Five Whys Technique helps uncover the root cause of a problem in business analysis. It involves asking “why” repeatedly to reveal the true source of the issue. This approach is important for addressing complex business challenges, as it allows analysts to dig deep and identify the fundamental cause. The technique contributes to problem resolution and decision-making by providing a systematic approach to problem-solving.

It enables analysts to develop effective solutions that target the rootcause instead of just treating the symptoms. For instance, if a business deals with recurring customer complaints about a product defect, the Five Whys Technique can pinpoint the specific flaws in the production process that need addressing for a permanent resolution.

Strategic Visualization: Mind Mapping Concepts

Strategic visualization through mind mapping is a helpful tool for problem-solving in business analysis. It helps in organizing information visually, allowing analysts to see how different aspects of a problem relate to each other.

By using this technique, analysts can map out key factors, stakeholders, and potential solutions in a structured way. This encourages creativity and flexibility when approaching challenges.

Incorporating mind mapping in addressing complex business challenges involves methods like brainstorming, process mapping, and SWOT analysis. These approaches offer a systematic way of exploring and evaluating solutions, fostering collaboration with stakeholders and an analytical mindset.

Strategic visualization through mind mapping helps in uncovering core issues by focusing on critical factors and relationships. It aids in identifying patterns and potential causes, leading to a deeper understanding of the problems at hand and more informed decision-making.

Structural Tools and Frameworks for Problem Resolution

Using fishbone diagram for cause and effect.

The Fishbone Diagram is a helpful tool for business analysts. It helps identify the causes and effects of a business problem. Analysts use this technique to visualize the different factors contributing to an issue. This can help understand the root causes.

The key steps involved in using the Fishbone Diagram include:

  • Defining the problem.
  • Brainstorming potential causes.
  • Categorizing causes into major groups.
  • Analyzing the relationships between them

This process helps to organize and prioritize the key factors affecting the problem.

Moreover, the Fishbone Diagram aids in visualizing and understanding complex business challenges. It provides a structured approach to problem-solving. This enables stakeholders to identify the interdependencies between various contributing factors.

This visual representation facilitates a better understanding of the problem. It leads to effective solutions and informed decision-making.

Assessing Scenarios with SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis is a helpful tool for evaluating business scenarios. It identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to the current business situation. By looking at these aspects, analysts can gain a better understanding of how different factors might impact the business. They might find internal strengths to use in taking advantage of external opportunities or spot weaknesses to address potential threats.

This analysis informs strategic plans and helps with making informed business decisions.

Pareto Chart: Prioritizing Issues for Maximum Impact

The Pareto Chart is a powerful tool for business analysts. It helps prioritize issues for maximum impact. By focusing on the most significant issues, analysts can allocate resources and make strategic decisions. When using a Pareto Chart, it’s important to gather and analyze relevant data. This helps identify common or severe issues affecting the business. The chart visually represents the frequency and impact of various issues.

This aids analysts in making informed decisions about which issuesto address first.

As a result, resources can be allocated more effectively, and solutions can deliver maximum value to the business and its stakeholders.

Quantitative Decisions: Cost-Benefit Analysis Process

Quantitative analysis helps businesses make cost-benefit decisions. It looks at the costs and benefits of a decision to see if it is feasible and profitable.

For example, a manufacturing company might use it to decide if new machinery will save money and increase productivity over time. Key steps include identifying all costs and benefits, adjusting for the time value of money, and making sure all relevant factors are included. By considering both tangible and intangible factors, such as environmental impact and employee satisfaction, businesses can make better decisions. Applying this process to different scenarios helps with things like choosing a profitable market, finding a cost-effective supplier, or evaluating the return on investment for a new product or service.

Decision Matrix: Evaluating and Prioritizing Business Options

When evaluating and prioritizing business options using a decision matrix, business analysts should consider several relevant factors. These include cost, risk, potential return on investment, timeline, and resource requirements.

This approach allows for a comprehensive assessment of each option’s pros and cons, enabling them to make well-informed decisions.

A decision matrix can effectively compare and contrast various business options by assigning weights to each factor and scoring each option accordingly.

By summing up the scores, analysts can identify the most viable option that aligns with the organization’s objectives.

Implementing a decision matrix involves several key steps. These include determining evaluation criteria, gathering input from stakeholders, assigning weights to criteria, scoring each option, and calculating the final scores.

This meticulous process ensures a thorough evaluation and prioritization of business options, leading to strategic and successful decision-making.

Advanced Problem-Solving: Employing CATWOE as a Tool

CATWOE is a useful tool for business analysts. It helps analyze complex business problems thoroughly. By using CATWOE, analysts can consider the broader context of the problem and understand stakeholders’ perspectives. This includes Customers, Actors, Transformation Process, World view, and Owner/Employer. This ensures that all viewpoints are carefully examined.

For instance, if a business is facing a decline in customer satisfaction, CATWOE can help in understanding not only customer perspectives, but also the impact on employees, the transformation process, and other relevant aspects. This helps in addressing the root causes of issues rather than just symptoms.

CATWOE empowers business analysts to develop strategic and sustainable solutions for complex business challenges. This enhances their investigative and decision-making methods, leading to more effective problem-solving.

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Six problem-solving mindsets for very uncertain times

Great problem solvers are made, not born. That’s what we’ve found after decades of problem solving with leaders across business, nonprofit, and policy sectors. These leaders learn to adopt a particularly open and curious mindset, and adhere to a systematic process for cracking even the most inscrutable problems. They’re terrific problem solvers under any conditions. And when conditions of uncertainty are at their peak, they’re at their brilliant best.

Six mutually reinforcing approaches underly their success: (1) being ever-curious about every element of a problem; (2) being imperfectionists , with a high tolerance for ambiguity; (3) having a “dragonfly eye” view of the world, to see through multiple lenses; (4) pursuing occurrent behavior and experimenting relentlessly; (5) tapping into the collective intelligence , acknowledging that the smartest people are not in the room; and (6) practicing “show and tell” because storytelling begets action (exhibit).

Here’s how they do it.

1. Be ever-curious

As any parent knows, four-year-olds are unceasing askers. Think of the never-ending “whys” that make little children so delightful—and relentless. For the very young, everything is new and wildly uncertain. But they’re on a mission of discovery, and they’re determined to figure things out. And they’re good at it! That high-energy inquisitiveness is why we have high shelves and childproof bottles.

When you face radical uncertainty, remember your four-year-old or channel the four-year-old within you. Relentlessly ask, “Why is this so?” Unfortunately, somewhere between preschool and the boardroom, we tend to stop asking. Our brains make sense of massive numbers of data points by imposing patterns that have worked for us and other humans in the past. That’s why a simple technique, worth employing at the beginning of problem solving, is simply to pause and ask why conditions or assumptions are so until you arrive at the root of the problem. 1 This approach was originally developed by Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota.

Natural human biases in decision making, including confirmation, availability, and anchoring biases, often cause us to shut down the range of solutions too early. 2 Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow , New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. Better—and more creative—solutions come from being curious about the broader range of potential answers.

One simple suggestion from author and economist Caroline Webb to generate more curiosity in team problem solving is to put a question mark behind your initial hypotheses or first-cut answers. This small artifice is surprisingly powerful: it tends to encourage multiple solution paths and puts the focus, correctly, on assembling evidence. We also like thesis/antithesis, or red team/blue team, sessions, in which you divide a group into opposing teams that argue against the early answers—typically, more traditional conclusions that are more likely to come from a conventional pattern. Why is this solution better? Why not that one? We’ve found that better results come from embracing uncertainty. Curiosity is the engine of creativity.

We have to be comfortable with estimating probabilities to make good decisions, even when these guesses are imperfect. Unfortunately, we have truckloads of evidence showing that human beings aren’t good intuitive statisticians.

2. Tolerate ambiguity—and stay humble!

When we think of problem solvers, many of us tend to picture a poised and brilliant engineer. We may imagine a mastermind who knows what she’s doing and approaches a problem with purpose. The reality, though, is that most good problem solving has a lot of trial and error; it’s more like the apparent randomness of rugby than the precision of linear programming. We form hypotheses, porpoise into the data, and then surface and refine (or throw out) our initial guess at the answer. This above all requires an embrace of imperfection and a tolerance for ambiguity—and a gambler’s sense of probabilities.

The real world is highly uncertain. Reality unfolds as the complex product of stochastic events and human reactions. The impact of COVID-19 is but one example: we address the health and economic effects of the disease, and their complex interactions, with almost no prior knowledge. We have to be comfortable with estimating probabilities to make good decisions, even when these guesses are imperfect. Unfortunately, we have truckloads of evidence showing that human beings aren’t good intuitive statisticians. Guesses based on gut instinct can be wildly wrong. That’s why one of the keys to operating in uncertain environments is epistemic humility, which Erik Angner defines as “the realization that our knowledge is always provisional and incomplete—and that it might require revision in light of new evidence.” 3 Erik Angner, “Epistemic humility—knowing your limits in a pandemic,” Behavioral Scientist , April 13, 2020,

Recent research shows that we are better at solving problems when we think in terms of odds rather than certainties. 4 Annie Duke, Thinking in Terms of Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts , New York, NY: Portfolio/Penguin, 2018. For example, when the Australian research body Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), which owned a core patent on the wireless internet protocol, sought royalties from major companies, it was initially rebuffed. The CSIRO bet that it could go to court to protect its intellectual property because it estimated that it needed only 10 percent odds of success for this to be a good wager, given the legal costs and likely payoff. It improved its odds by picking the weakest of the IP violators and selecting a legal jurisdiction that favored plaintiffs. This probabilistic thinking paid off and eventually led to settlements to CSIRO exceeding $500 million. 5 CSIRO briefing to US Government, December 5, 2006. A tolerance for ambiguity and a willingness to play the odds helped the organization feel its way to a good solution path.

To embrace imperfectionism with epistemic humility, start by challenging solutions that imply certainty. You can do that in the nicest way by asking questions such as “What would we have to believe for this to be true?” This brings to the surface implicit assumptions about probabilities and makes it easier to assess alternatives. When uncertainty is high, see if you can make small moves or acquire information at a reasonable cost to edge out into a solution set. Perfect knowledge is in short supply, particularly for complex business and societal problems. Embracing imperfection can lead to more effective problem solving. It’s practically a must in situations of high uncertainty, such as the beginning of a problem-solving process or during an emergency.

Good problem solving typically involves designing experiments to reduce key uncertainties. Each move provides additional information and builds capabilities.

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3. take a dragonfly-eye view.

Dragonfly-eye perception is common to great problem solvers. Dragonflies have large, compound eyes, with thousands of lenses and photoreceptors sensitive to different wavelengths of light. Although we don’t know exactly how their insect brains process all this visual information, by analogy they see multiple perspectives not available to humans. The idea of a dragonfly eye taking in 360 degrees of perception 6 Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner, Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction , New York, NY: Crown, 2015. is an attribute of “superforecasters”—people, often without domain expertise, who are the best at forecasting events.

Think of this as widening the aperture on a problem or viewing it through multiple lenses. The object is to see beyond the familiar tropes into which our pattern-recognizing brains want to assemble perceptions. By widening the aperture, we can identify threats or opportunities beyond the periphery of vision.

Consider the outbreak of HIV in India in the early 1990s—a major public-health threat. Ashok Alexander, director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s India Aids Initiative, provided a brilliant example of not just vision but also dragonfly vision. Facing a complex social map with a rapidly increasing infection rate, he widened the problem’s definition, from a traditional epidemiological HIV transmission model at known “hot spots,” to one in which sex workers facing violence were made the centerpiece.

This approach led to the “Avahan solution,” which addressed a broader set of leverage points by including the sociocultural context of sex work. The solution was rolled out to more than 600 communities and eventually credited with preventing 600,000 infections. The narrow medical perspective was sensible and expected, but it didn’t tap into the related issue of violence against sex workers, which yielded a richer solution set. Often, a secret unlocks itself only when one looks at a problem from multiple perspectives, including some that initially seem orthogonal.

The secret to developing a dragonfly-eye view is to “anchor outside” rather than inside when faced with problems of uncertainty and opportunity. Take the broader ecosystem as a starting point. That will encourage you to talk with customers, suppliers, or, better yet, players in a different but related industry or space. Going through the customer journey with design-thinking in mind is another powerful way to get a 360-degree view of a problem. But take note: when decision makers face highly constrained time frames or resources, they may have to narrow the aperture and deliver a tight, conventional answer.

Want better strategies? Become a bulletproof problem solver

Want better strategies? Become a bulletproof problem solver

4. pursue occurrent behavior.

Occurrent behavior is what actually happens in a time and place, not what was potential or predicted behavior. Complex problems don’t give up their secrets easily. But that shouldn’t deter problem solvers from exploring whether evidence on the facets of a solution can be observed, or running experiments to test hypotheses. You can think of this approach as creating data rather than just looking for what has been collected already. It’s critical for new market entry—or new market creation. It also comes in handy should you find that crunching old data is leading to stale solutions.

Most of the problem-solving teams we are involved with have twin dilemmas of uncertainty and complexity, at times combined as truly “wicked problems.” 7 A term coined in a now famous 1973 article: Horst W. J. Rittel and Melvin Webber, “Dilemmas in a general theory of planning,” Policy Sciences , 1973, Number 4, pp. 155–69. For companies ambitious to win in the great unknown in an emerging segment—such as electric cars or autonomous vehicles, where the market isn’t fully established—good problem solving typically involves designing experiments to reduce key uncertainties, not just relying on existing data. Each move (such as buying IP or acquiring a component supplier) and each experiment (including on-road closed tests) not only provides additional information to make decisions but also builds capabilities and assets that support further steps. Over time, their experiments, including alliances and acquisitions, come to resemble staircases that lead to either the goal or to abandonment of the goal. Problem-solving organizations can “bootstrap” themselves into highly uncertain new spaces, building information, foundational assets, and confidence as they take steps forward.

Risk-embracing problem solvers find a solution path by constantly experimenting. Statisticians use the abbreviation EVPI—the expected value of perfect information—to show the value of gaining additional information that typically comes from samples and experiments, such as responses to price changes in particular markets. A/B testing is a powerful tool for experimenting with prices, promotions, and other features and is particularly useful for digital marketplaces and consumer goods. Online marketplaces make A/B testing easy. Yet most conventional markets also offer opportunities to mimic the market’s segmentation and use it to test different approaches.

The mindset required to be a restless experimenter is consistent with the notion in start-ups of “failing fast.” It means that you get product and customer affirmation or rejection quickly through beta tests and trial offerings. Don’t take a lack of external data as an impediment—it may actually be a gift, since purchasable data is almost always from a conventional way of meeting needs, and is available to your competitors too. Your own experiments allow you to generate your own data; this gives you insights that others don’t have. If it is difficult (or unethical) to experiment, look for the “natural experiments” provided by different policies in similar locations. An example would be to compare outcomes in twin cities, such as Minneapolis–St. Paul.

It’s a mistake to think that your team has the smartest people in the room. They aren’t there. They’re invariably somewhere else. Nor do they need to be there if you can access their intelligence via other means.

5. Tap into collective intelligence and the wisdom of the crowd

Chris Bradley, a coauthor of Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick , 8 Chris Bradley, Marin Hirt, and Sven Smit, Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick: People, Probabilities, and Big Moves to Beat the Odds , Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2018. observed that “it’s a mistake to think that on your team you have the smartest people in the room. They aren’t there. They’re invariably somewhere else.” 9 For more from Chris Bradley, in a conversation with Rob McLean, see “ Want better strategies? Become a bulletproof problem solver ,” August 2019. Nor do they need to be there if you can access their intelligence via other means. In an ever-changing world where conditions can evolve unpredictably, crowdsourcing invites the smartest people in the world to work with you. For example, in seeking a machine-learning algorithm to identify fish catch species and quantities on fishing boats, the Nature Conservancy (TNC) turned to Kaggle and offered a $150,000 prize for the best algorithm. This offer attracted 2,293 teams from all over the world. TNC now uses the winning algorithm to identify fish types and sizes caught on fishing boats in Asia to protect endangered Pacific tuna and other species.

Crowdsourced problem solving is familiar in another guise: benchmarking. When Sir Rod Carnegie was CEO of Conzinc Riotinto Australia (CRA), he was concerned about the costs of unscheduled downtime with heavy trucks, particularly those requiring tire changes. He asked his management team who was best in the world at changing tires; their answer was Formula One, the auto racing competition. A team traveled to the United Kingdom to learn best practice for tire changes in racetrack pits and then implemented what it learned thousands of miles away, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The smartest team for this problem wasn’t in the mining industry at all.

Of course, while crowdsourcing can be useful when conventional thinking yields solutions that are too expensive or incomplete for the challenge at hand, it has its limitations. Good crowdsourcing takes time to set up, can be expensive, and may signal to your competitors what you are up to. Beware of hidden costs, such as inadvertently divulging information and having to sieve through huge volumes of irrelevant, inferior suggestions to find the rare gem of a solution.

Accept that it’s OK to draw on diverse experiences and expertise other than your own. Start with brainstorming sessions that engage people from outside your team. Try broader crowdsourcing competitions to generate ideas. Or bring in deep-learning talent to see what insights exist in your data that conventional approaches haven’t brought to light. The broader the circles of information you access, the more likely it is that your solutions will be novel and creative.

Rookie problem solvers show you their analytic process and math to convince you they are clever. Seasoned problem solvers show you differently.

6. Show and tell to drive action

We started our list of mindsets with a reference to children, and we return to children now, with “show and tell.” As you no doubt remember—back when you were more curious!—show and tell is an elementary-school activity. It’s not usually associated with problem solving, but it probably piqued your interest. In fact, this approach is critical to problem solving. Show and tell is how you connect your audience with the problem and then use combinations of logic and persuasion to get action.

The show-and-tell mindset aims to bring decision makers into a problem-solving domain you have created. A team from the Nature Conservancy, for instance, was presenting a proposal asking a philanthropic foundation to support the restoration of oyster reefs. Before the presentation, the team brought 17 plastic buckets of water into the boardroom and placed them around the perimeter. When the foundation’s staff members entered the room, they immediately wanted to know what the buckets were for. The team explained that oyster-reef restoration massively improves water quality because each oyster filters 17 buckets of water per day. Fish stocks improve, and oysters can also be harvested to help make the economics work. The decision makers were brought into the problem-solving domain through show and tell. They approved the funding requested and loved the physical dimension of the problem they were part of solving.

Rookie problem solvers show you their analytic process and mathematics to convince you that they are clever. That’s sometimes called APK, the anxious parade of knowledge. But seasoned problem solvers show you differently. The most elegant problem solving is that which makes the solution obvious. The late economist Herb Simon put it this way: “Solving a problem simply means representing it so as to make the solution transparent.” 10 Herbert Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial , Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1969.

To get better at show and tell, start by being clear about the action that should flow from your problem solving and findings: the governing idea for change. Then find a way to present your logic visually so that the path to answers can be debated and embraced. Present the argument emotionally as well as logically, and show why the preferred action offers an attractive balance between risks and rewards. But don’t stop there. Spell out the risks of inaction, which often have a higher cost than imperfect actions have.

The mindsets of great problem solvers are just as important as the methods they employ. A mindset that encourages curiosity, embraces imperfection, rewards a dragonfly-eye view of the problem, creates new data from experiments and collective intelligence, and drives action through compelling show-and-tell storytelling creates radical new possibilities under high levels of unpredictability. Of course, these approaches can be helpful in a broad range of circumstances, but in times of massive uncertainty, they are essential.

Charles Conn is an alumnus of McKinsey’s Sydney office and is a board member of Patagonia and former CEO of the Rhodes Trust. Robert McLean is an alumnus of the Sydney office and is the advisory-board chair of the Nature Conservancy Australia. They are the authors of Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything (Wiley, 2018).

This article was edited by David Schwartz, an executive editor in the Tel Aviv office.

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An Overview of the Analytical Thinking and Problem Solving Soft Skill

An Overview of the Analytical Thinking and Problem Solving Soft Skill

But BABOK[1] has further defined this soft skill into four specified sub-skills that an analyst can strive to attain. All of these are essential to help analysts transcend the mere absorption and repetition of information and to instead offer knowledgeable, in-depth assessments and confidence-inspiring solutions. They are:

Creative Thinking

In the world of business analysis, creative thinking is more than just thinking outside the box. BABOK defines the creative thinking portion of the problem solving skill as not only “generating new ideas” but also “finding new associations between existing ideas and concepts.” An analyst’s role is not just to take the entire burden of coming up with solutions on herself, but to use enterprise analysis, interviewing skills, and other tools to spur her colleagues and stakeholders to come up with new ideas. As BABOK notes, “In addition to identifying . . . alternatives, the business analyst can be effective in promoting creative thinking in others by asking questions and challenging assumptions.” Creating thinking in the business analysis realm, therefore, includes helping others to stretch beyond their normal boundaries when soliciting their thoughts, and having the logical skills to make appropriate connections between different ideas.

Implementing the Creative Thinking Skill

To gather raw input that can spur creative thinking, consider a brainstorming session . You can also glean information from a larger group of stakeholders or customers by using open-ended survey questions. A focus group (even online) will enable you to prompt participants and follow up on ideas. Once you have data from your survey or session, your goal is to formulate a concrete solution from the data. Mindmapping   diagram tools can be helpful in not only documenting brainstorming sessions and open-ended conversations, but in making connections between data and tracing how that information can be applied to organizational solutions. Once you present this information to stakeholders and management, even if you can’t think of every possible solution, the research you gathered from participants will give credence to your conclusions.

How do you know when you’re succeeding at creative thinking? BABOK defines success measures as generating and applying innovative ideas, as well as getting full buy-in from stakeholders on your ideas—more easily done when their ideas are solicited and fully considered as well.

Decision Making

Whenever an analyst or a project team is faced with more than one (seemingly viable) potential solution, it’s time to make a decision. Effective decision making requires strong research skills; when pertinent information is not available, decision making becomes guesswork. BABOK notes, “Decision analysis includes gathering information . . . breaking down the information . . . making comparisons and tradeoffs between similar and dissimilar options, and identifying the option that is most desirable.” Many problems such as gold-plating and scope creep can come in when new decisions about a project are made. BABOK also notes that analysts “must be aware of the traps . . . including the tendency to accept the initial framing of a problem, the sunk cost fallacy[2] , and the tendency to place greater weight on evidence that confirms existing impressions.” In other words, effective decision making includes removing one’s emotions—whether excitement about an out-of-scope addition or dread over a re-design—from the equation.

Implementing the Decision Making Skill

To help effectively analyze each proposed solution, consider a flowchart tracing each proposed solution’s pathway from inception to completion. Get input from all stakeholders on each solution, and then share the flowcharts. Confirm (or at least identify) any assumptions so that the charts have greater validity. Then ask stakeholders if this is really where they want to go.

How can you measure if you’re exercising good decision-making? BABOK defines measures of success in this area as having stakeholders’ confidence in the decision-making process and in having the final decision solve the problem.

Learning for business analysis is not like other learning. For a business analyst, good learning skills encompass not only absorbing new information but effectively applying that information in innovative ways. It’s gaining knowledge that has the flexibility to be stretched over different applications. BABOK notes that “once learning about a domain has reached the point where analysis is complete, the business analyst must be able to synthesize the information to identify opportunities to create new solutions and evaluate those solutions to ensure that they are effective.”

Implementing the Learning Skill

When faced with any new process, system, business, or business application, develop the habit of engaging the five Ws (who, what, when, where, and why) when gathering information. Keep asking the last question—why—until you find the real need for the system or application. Also, it’s essential to keep taking in relevant information to ensure your thinking processes do not become routine. If your organization cannot swing a continuing education or conferences due to budget constraints, ask whether your department can swing a lower-budget library of just a few business analysis books and magazines each year. Also, don’t forget to take advantage of free online webinars . 

According to BABOK, you’ve successfully learned your business domain when you can identify problems that relate to each other from various parts of the domain and when you can quickly take in and apply new information.

Problem Solving

Here is an area where your discovery skills come into play. For an analyst, successful problem solving means not only gleaning the information that everyone gives you (and commonly assumes), but digging for the “real, underlying problem” (as BABOK puts it). An analyst must call assumptions what they are, address “conflicts between the goals and objectives of stakeholders,” and list alternative solutions. The process should give all stakeholders the opportunity to voice their objectives and concerns, and document these (even if only in meeting notes).

Implementing the Problem Solving Skill

Before you can solve a problem, you must first define it clearly and be sure that everyone agrees on it. A fishbone diagram (and the accompanying root cause analysis that often accompanies them) may help you identify the true problem. In your research for the analysis, be sure to include interviews, problem reports, enhancement requests, and use case scenarios as they are applicable. Share your research to ensure that all stakeholders understand the true nature of the problem. Then, solicit and brainstorm possible solutions. (Before you choose or recommend one to implement, you’ll want to make use of your Decision Making skill!)

How do you know when you’re solving problems well? BABOK defines some measures of success in this area as being able identify and offer solutions that solve the real problem as well as establishing a problem-solving process framework that leaves politics out of the problem-solving equation.

As you’ve probably surmised, these soft skills will closely integrate with a myriad of business analysis techniques, any combination of which can ensure your success. Honing these soft skills —and choosing and implementing the right accompanying tools and techniques—can help you negotiate roadblocks and bottlenecks to your project.

Author:  Morgan Masters, Business Analyst, Modern Analyst Media LLC

Morgan Masters is  Business Analyst  and Staff Writer at , the premier community and resource portal for business analysts. Business analysis resources such as articles, blogs, templates, forums, books, along with a thriving  business analyst community  can be found at  

IIBA®, the IIBA® logo, BABOK® and Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® are registered trademarks owned by International Institute of Business Analysis. CBAP® and CCBA® are registered certification marks owned by International Institute of Business Analysis. Certified Business Analysis Professional, Certification of Competency in Business Analysis, Endorsed Education Provider, EEP and the EEP logo are trademarks owned by International Institute of Business Analysis.

[1] A Guide to the Business Analyst’s Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide), Version 2.0, International Institute of Business Analysis, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, ©2005, 2006, 2008, 2009.

[2] The sunk cost fallacy is the reasoning that since time and resources are already “sunk” into a project’s current direction, that time and those resources will be wasted if one changes course—even to correct the course—halfway through.

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Definition of business analysis, what are business analysis techniques, best business analysis techniques, do you want to become a business analyst, top effective business analysis techniques.

Top 10 Most Effective Business Analysis Techniques

Business analysts are such an essential element for an organization’s survival and success today. By using different structured business analysis techniques, these analysts help companies identify needs, root out flaws, and sift through a flood of data and options to find the right actionable solution.

We’re here today to explore some of the top business analysis techniques and how they are successfully leveraged for an organization’s success. There are many of these proven business analysis problem-solving techniques to choose from. Still, the ones highlighted here are the more commonly used methods, and it’s reasonable to infer that their popularity stems from their effectiveness. Here is the list of the top business analysis techniques:

Business Process Modeling (BPM)

Brainstorming, moscow (must or should, could or would), most (mission, objectives, strategies, and tactics) analysis, pestle analysis, swot analysis, six thinking hats, non-functional requirement analysis, design thinking.

Business analysis is an umbrella term describing the combination of knowledge, techniques, and tasks employed for identifying business needs, then proposing changes and creating solutions that result in value for the stakeholders. Although a significant number of today’s business analysis solutions incorporate software and digital data-based elements, many professionals in the field may also end up advising on organizational changes, improving processes, developing new policies, and participating in strategic planning.

So, business analysts spur change within an organization by assessing and analyzing needs and vulnerabilities and then creating and implementing the best solutions. Much of the information used to draw these conclusions comes from data collected by various means, often falling under the term “big data.”

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Business analysis techniques are processes used to create and implement plans necessary for identifying a company’s needs and delivering the best results. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” technique because every business or organization is different.

Here are the top business analysis techniques. Keep in mind that business analysts who want to be project managers should be familiar with most, if not all, of them.

1. Business Process Modeling (BPM)

BPM is often used during a project’s analysis phase to understand and analyze the gaps between the current business process and any future process that the business is shooting for. This technique consists of four tasks:

1. Strategic planning

2. Business model analysis

3. Defining and designing the process

4. Technical analysis for complex business solutions

Many industries, especially the IT industry, favor this technique because it’s a simple, straightforward way to present the steps of the execution process and show how it will operate in different roles.

2. Brainstorming

There’s nothing like good, old-fashioned brainstorming to generate new ideas, identify a problem’s root causes, and come up with solutions to complex business problems. Brainstorming is a group activity technique that is often used in other methods such as PESTLE and SWOT .

CATWOE identifies the leading players and beneficiaries, collecting the perceptions of different stakeholders onto one unified platform. Business analysts use this technique to thoroughly evaluate how any proposed action will affect the various parties. The acronym stands for:

  • Customers: Who benefits from the business?
  • Actors: Who are the players in the process?
  • Transformation Process: What is the transformation at the core of the system?
  • World View: What is the big picture, and what are its impacts?
  • Owner: Who owns the impacted system, and what’s their relation?
  • Environmental Constraints: What are the constraints, and how do they impact the solution?

4. MoSCoW (Must or Should, Could or Would)

MoSCoW prioritizes requirements by offering a framework that evaluates each demand relative to the rest. The process forces you to ask questions about the actual necessity of any given element. Is the item a must-have or a should-have? Is the demand something that could make the product better, or is it something that would be a good idea in the future?

5. MOST (Mission, Objectives, Strategies, and Tactics) Analysis

MOST is a robust business analysis framework—considered one of the best techniques for understanding an organization’s ability and purpose. This technique includes conducting a detailed, complete internal analysis of the organization’s goals and how to approach them. The acronym stands for:

  • Mission: What is the organization’s purpose?
  • Objectives: What are the key goals that help achieve the mission?
  • Strategies: What are the options available for achieving the objectives?
  • Tactics: What are the methods that the organization will follow to carry out the strategies?

6. PESTLE Analysis

Business analysts use the PESTLE model (sometimes called PEST) to identify environmental factors that can influence their company and how best to address them when making business decisions. Those influences are:

  • Political: Financial support and subsidies, government initiatives, and policies.
  • Economic: Labor and energy costs, inflation, and interest rates.
  • Sociological: Education, culture, media, life, and population.
  • Technological: New information and communication systems technologies.
  • Legal: Local and national government regulations and employment standards.
  • Environmental: Waste, recycling, pollution, and weather.

By analyzing and studying these factors, analysts gain a better understanding of how they will influence the organization’s narrative. This understanding, in turn, makes it easier for analysts to develop strategies on how to address them.

7. SWOT Analysis

One of the most popular techniques in the industry, SWOT identifies the strengths and weaknesses in a corporate structure, presenting them as opportunities and threats. The knowledge helps analysts make better decisions regarding resource allocation and suggestions for organizational improvement. The four elements of SWOT are:

  • Strengths: The qualities of the project or business that give it an advantage over the competition.
  • Weaknesses: Characteristics of the business that pose a disadvantage to the project or organization, when compared to the competition or even other projects.
  • Opportunities: Elements present in the environment that the project or business could exploit.
  • Threats: Elements in the environment that could hinder the project or business.

SWOT is a simple, versatile technique that is equally effective in either a quick or in-depth analysis of any sized organization. It is also useful for assessing other subjects, such as groups, functions, or individuals.

8. Six Thinking Hats

This business analysis process guides a group’s line of thinking by encouraging them to consider different ideas and perspectives. The ‘six hats’ are:

  • White: Focuses on your data and logic.
  • Red: Uses intuition, emotions, and gut feelings.
  • Black: Consider potential negative results, and what can go wrong.
  • Yellow: Focus on the positives; keep an optimistic point of view.
  • Green: Uses creativity.
  • Blue: Takes the big picture into account, process control.

The six thinking hats technique is often used in conjunction with brainstorming, serving as a means of directing the team’s mental processes and causing them to consider disparate viewpoints.

9. The 5 Whys

This technique is commonly found as often in Six Sigma as it is in business analysis circles. While journalism uses the “Five W’s” (Who, What, When, Where, and Why) in reporting, the 5 Whys technique just operates “Why” in a series of leading questions, this approach helps business analysts pinpoint a problem’s origin by first asking why the issue exists, then following it up by asking another “why?” question relating to the first answer, and so on. Here’s an example:

  • Why? Because the wrong models were shipped.
  • Why? Because the product information in the database was incorrect.
  • Why? Because there are insufficient resources allocated to modernizing the database software.
  • Why? Because our managers didn’t think the matter had priority.
  • Why? Because no one was aware of how often this problem occurred.
  • Countermeasure: Improve incident reporting, be sure managers read reports, allocate budget funds for modernizing database software.

10. Non-Functional Requirement Analysis

Analysts apply this technique to projects where a technology solution is replaced, changed, or built up from scratch. The analysis defines and captures the characteristics needed for a new or a modified system and most often deal with requirements such as data storage or performance. Non-functional requirement analysis usually covers:

  • Performance
  • Reliability

Non-Functional Requirement Analysis is commonly implemented during a project’s Analysis phase and put into action during the Design phase.

11. Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a business analysis technique that is primarily used for problem-solving and innovation. It's a human-centered approach that emphasizes empathy, collaboration, and creative thinking to develop solutions that meet user needs and create positive user experiences. Design Thinking is often employed to address complex, ambiguous, or user-centric problems by focusing on understanding the end-users' perspectives, motivations, and pain points.

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Problem solving in business analysis

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Problem solving is one of the core competencies of an effective business analyst.

They describe and solve problems to ensure that the root cause of a problem is well understood by all stakeholders and resolved by the solution.

Describing the problem involves ensuring that the type of problem and any underlying issues connected to the problem are clearly understood by all stakeholders.

In order to do this the stakeholders viewpoints need to be understood and well communicated to avoid any conflicts between the goals and objectives of the different stakeholders groups.

Assumptions also need to be recognized and confirmed.

The goals and objectives which are to be met by the solution needs to be explicitly stated, and alternative solutions need to be considered and possibly developed.

There are some performance measures of effective problem solving which include the following:

1. The confidence of the stakeholders in the problem solving process.

2. The selected solutions must meet the defined enterprise objectives and solve the root cause of the problem.

3. The new solution options must be effectively evaluated effectively using the problem solving process which avoids making decisions based on invalidated assumptions, preconceived notions, or other traps that may cause the wrong solution to be selected.

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Through great strides in technology and an increase in available data, harnessing the power of analytics in business is easier than ever. And as more companies look to data for solutions, business analytics professionals fill the  growing need for data expertise . But there are particular hard and soft skills you need to have a successful analytics career and thrive in the world of big data.

We’ll explore the top technical and non-technical skills for a business analytics professional. But first, let’s address what a business analytics professional actually does.

What is the difference between business analysts and business analytics professionals?

The difference between a business analyst and business analytics professional is their focus and approach when it comes to problem solving. Job hunters and recruiters alike tend to confuse these two different, but similar-sounding professions. Let’s break down the differences:

Business Analyst

Business analysis has less to do with data and instead focuses on analyzing and optimizing the processes and functions that make up a business. They analyze what a business needs to function optimally and what it needs to improve, and then work to implement solutions. This may include improving processes, changing policies or introducing new technology.

For example, a business analyst may work with both the client, who has a particular requirement in their business, and the development team, which either builds a product or delivers a service to fulfill that requirement.

Typically, they will coordinate between these two parties to make sure the solutions created by development meet the client’s requirements, and that they are adapting solutions as these needs change. They may also act as a technical project manager and collaborate with stakeholders to design and implement the service or product and ensure it’s solving the client’s problem.

Business Analytics Professional

Business analytics  focuses on data, statistical analysis and reporting to help investigate and analyze business performance, provide insights, and drive recommendations to improve performance.

They may also work with internal or external clients, but their focus is to improve the product, marketing or customer experience by using insights from data, rather than analyzing processes and functions.

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Core business analytics skills.

The big data landscape has changed drastically, making it tough for professionals to know where to focus their growth. However, despite this changing field, there are a number of core business analytics skills that form the foundation of any solid business analytics career. 

A great business analytics professional could be described as:

A good communicator

Being able to present findings in a clear and concise manner is fundamental to making sure that all players understand insights and can put recommendations into practice. People working in analysis must be able to tell a story with data through strong writing and presentation skills. 


People in this field should have natural curiosity and drive to continue learning and figuring out how things fit together. Even as analysts become managers, it’s important to stay in touch with the industry and its changes.

A problem solver

Professionals in analytics use a combination of logical thinking, predictive analytics and statistics to make recommendations that will solve problems and propel a business forward. In a profession that seeks to turn data into solutions, being a natural problem solver helps connect the dots.

A critical thinker

Business analytics professionals need to think critically about not only the implications of the data they collect, but about what data they should be collecting in the first place. They are expected to analyze and highlight only the data that can be helpful in making decisions. 

A visualizer

Disorganized data doesn’t help anyone. To create worth from data, analytics professionals need to be able to translate and visualize data in a concise and accurate way that’s easy to digest.

Both detail-oriented and a big picture thinker

While business analytics professionals have to be able to handle complex data, they also need to understand how their recommendations will affect the bottom line of a business. There’s no point in having access to large quantities of information without knowing how it can be harnessed to analyze and improve tactics, processes and strategies.  

Technical Skills for Business Analytics

In a business landscape quickly becoming governed by big data, great analytics professionals are fulfilling the demand for technical expertise by wearing the hats of both developer and analyst. 

Having both a conceptual and working understanding of tools and programming languages is important to translate data sources into tangible solutions.

Below are some of the top tools for business analytics professionals:

SQL  is the coding language of databases and one of the most important tools in an analytics professional’s toolkit. Professionals write SQL queries to extract and analyze data from the transactions database and develop visualizations to present to stakeholders.

Statistical languages  

The two most common programming languages in analytics are R, for statistical analysis, and Python, for general programming. Knowledge in either of these languages can be beneficial when analyzing big data sets, but is not vital.

Statistical software

While the ability to program is helpful for a career in analytics, being able to write code isn’t necessarily required to work as an analytics professional. Apart from the above languages, statistical software such as SPSS, SAS, Sage, Mathematica, and even Excel can be used when managing and analyzing data.

The Four Types of Analytics

These soft and hard business analytics skills can be utilized across different facets of business analytics, including:

Descriptive Analytics

What’s happening to my business right now?

By mining and aggregating raw data through a real-time dashboard, analytics professionals are able to gain comprehensive, accurate, in-the-moment analytics. While the practice of data mining is considered the least useful part of the big data value chain, it can still be helpful in identifying patterns of behavior that might influence future outcomes.

Diagnostic Analytics

Why is it happening?

Diagnostic analytics look at the past performance of campaigns and processes to determine what happened and why. It isolates all confounding information to identify an accurate cause-and-effect relationship.

Predictive Analytics

What’s likely to happen in the future?

Statistical models and forecasting techniques can be used to predict likely scenarios of what might happen based on insights from big data. This form of analytics can be used to support complex forecasts.

Prescriptive Analytics

What do I need to do to succeed?

Prescriptive analytics focuses on what actions should be taken. Where big data analytics can shed light on an area of business, prescriptive analytics gives you a much more focused answer to a specific question. 

Regardless of which type of analytics you’re working in, being able to offer the above hard and soft skills makes a business analytics professional an invaluable part of any business. 

As company leaders come to realize the potential impact of data on business strategy, so the number of jobs involving data analytics grows, creating strong demand for people with these talents. Business analytics professionals’ mix of technical and non-technical skills makes them uniquely qualified to provide businesses with the competitive edge so badly needed in a big data world.

business analyst mentor

The 5 Steps in Problem Analysis

problem analysis

One technique that is extremely useful to gain a better understanding of the problems before determining a solution is problem analysis .

Problem analysis is the process of understanding real-world problems and user’s needs and proposing solutions to meet those needs. The goal of problem analysis is to gain a better understanding of the problem being solved before developing a solution.

There are five useful steps that can be taken to gain a better understanding of the problem before developing a solution.

  • Gain agreement on the problem definition
  • Understand the root-causes – the problem behind the problem
  • Identify the stakeholders and the users
  • Define the solution boundary
  • Identify the constraints to be imposed on the solution

Table of Contents

Gain agreement on the problem definition.

The first step is to gain agreement on the definition of the problem to be solved. One of the simplest ways to gain agreement is to simply write the problem down and see whether everyone agrees.

Business Problem Statement Template

Opens in a new tab.

A helpful and standardised format to write the problem definition is as follows:

  • The problem of – Describe the problem
  • Affects – Identify stakeholders affected by the problem
  • The results of which – Describe the impact of this problem on stakeholders and business activity
  • Benefits of – Indicate the proposed solution and list a few key benefits

Example Business Problem Statement

There are many problems statement examples that can be found in different business domains and during the discovery when the business analyst is conducting analysis. An example business problem statement is as follows:

The problem of  having to manually maintain an accurate single source of truth for finance product data across the business, affects the finance department. The results of which has the impact of not having to have duplicate data, having to do workarounds and difficulty of maintaining finance product data across the business and key channels. A successful solution would  have the benefit of providing a single source of truth for finance product data that can be used across the business and channels and provide an audit trail of changes, stewardship and maintain data standards and best practices.

Understand the Root Causes Problem Behind the Problem

You can use a variety of techniques to gain an understanding of the real problem and its real causes. One such popular technique is root cause analysis, which is a systematic way of uncovering the root or underlying cause of an identified problem or a symptom of a problem.

Root cause analysis helps prevents the development of solutions that are focussed on symptoms alone .

To help identify the root cause, or the problem behind the problem, ask the people directly involved.

problem analysis fish bone diagram

The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question “Why?” . Each answer forms the basis of the next question. The “five” in the name derives from an anecdotal observation on the number of iterations needed to resolve the problem .

Identify the Stakeholders and the Users

Effectively solving any complex problem typically involves satisfying the needs of a diverse group of stakeholders. Stakeholders typically have varying perspectives on the problem and various needs that must be addressed by the solution. So, involving stakeholders will help you to determine the root causes to problems.

Define the Solution Boundary

Once the problem statement is agreed to and the users and stakeholders are identified, we can turn our attention of defining a solution that can be deployed to address the problem.

Identify the Constraints  Imposed on Solution

We must consider the constraints that will be imposed on the solution. Each constraint has the potential to severely restrict our ability to deliver a solution as we envision it.

Some example solution constraints and considerations could be:-

  • Economic – what financial or budgetary constraints are applicable?
  • Environmental – are there environmental or regulatory constraints?
  • Technical  – are we restricted in our choice of technologies?
  • Political – are there internal or external political issues that affect potential solutions?

Conclusion – Problem Analysis

Try the five useful steps for problem solving when your next trying to gain a better understanding of the problem domain on your business analysis project or need to do problem analysis in software engineering.

The problem statement format can be used in businesses and across industries. 

requirements discovery checklist pack business analysis templates

Jerry Nicholas

Jerry continues to maintain the site to help aspiring and junior business analysts and taps into the network of experienced professionals to accelerate the professional development of all business analysts. He is a Principal Business Analyst who has over twenty years experience gained in a range of client sizes and sectors including investment banking, retail banking, retail, telecoms and public sector. Jerry has mentored and coached business analyst throughout his career. He is a member of British Computer Society (MBCS), International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), Business Agility Institute, Project Management Institute (PMI), Disciplined Agile Consortium and Business Architecture Guild. He has contributed and is acknowledged in the book: Choose Your WoW - A Disciplined Agile Delivery Handbook for Optimising Your Way of Working (WoW).

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The Art of Problem Solving for Business Analysts

As a business analyst, have you ever been in a situation where a problem has appeared and is expected to be solved promptly are you wondering how to increase the speed at which you acquire your solutions here are helpful solutions that could assist with success, and help you understand the art of problem solving in business., the art of problem solving in business:, thinking through solutions.

P roblems that affect the business could have drastic consequences. When problems occur, they need to be solved fast and accurately. However, it is imperative to ensure that there is a balance between the time and accuracy.  Often when solutions are provided fast they are not always thoroughly thought out. This can lead to them being referred to as “work arounds”. As the name suggests, the objective of the solution is to work around the problem that is currently present.

This solution does not fix the problem, it simply puts a band aid over the issue to allow the business to continue. Ideally, these can be an asset in order for business to flourish. Unfortunately, this is no guarantee that the work arounds won’t cause new problems in the future should an actual solution come in and fix the root cause, the true problem, but not be compatible with the work around being used. This is why it’s crucial to take the time to sustain the chaos created by the problem and focus on acquiring a solution that can fix everything the first time it is given.

At the start of a problem it is completely natural for stress to occur throughout the team. Its imperative to remain calm in situations like these. Embracing the emotions that stress brings can hinder a Business Analysts capability of being able to dissect the problem to find the root cause. It is important to invest a good amount of time breaking down the problem to its core.

art of problem solving in business

When problems are first acknowledged, there is usually a good amount of information that is still missing when the information is finally given to the Business Analyst. Therefore, it is important for an Analyst to gather the information personally. This will enable them to validate information that was provided previously and to update any information accordingly.

In our podcast, we explore the art of problem solving in business:

“A solution is meaningless if not properly implemented”

The Importance of Focus

A pillar in the art of problem solving is the ability to remain focused. If your mind is not completely attentive to the problem at hand, the solution that will be generated may not be the best solution possible. Remember, the objective of a solution is to ensure that the problem goes away permanently not temporarily. Solutions should avoid creating other problems when implemented. This problem usually occurs when a symptom is mistaken as the main cause of the problem. After reviewing the topic for 30 minutes to an hour, it is best to take a break.

Breaks are important because they allow a Business Analyst to rejuvenate and view the problem from a different perspective. One approach would be to ask a peer with experience in the area of the problem for their interpretation. One could use this new information to gain insight on how to approach the problem from a different angle. This allows for the focus on the subject to be maintained to derive a solution.

The Process

Since designing a solution is essential to fixing the problem, let’s go through a process that would help derive one.

By having options, a Business Analyst can readily respond to constraints that may arise during the execution phase. After that, weigh the designed solutions accordingly based on specific criteria. Typically, it is best to use criteria that would provide an efficient way to identify which solutions designed would have the best impact on performance for all stakeholders affected by the problem. This thought process is vital to ensure the correct solution is selected.

Leading with a Solution

Once the solution to a problem is identified, the next step would be implementation of the solution. Solution execution is important because it confirms to the client that the time spent on solving the problem was, ultimately, successful. To ensure the success of execution, a Business Analyst needs to identify any constraints that would delay implementation.

Some examples of this could be system dependencies, time constraints, and complexity of the implementation. To overcome this scenario, it is important that proper documentation of the solution is created. The documentation will enable the team to execute the implementation accordingly should delays halt the flow of process. Remember, a solution is meaningless if it cannot be properly implemented.

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problem solving business analyst

What does a business analyst do?

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New innovations are being developed every day, and companies are placing big bets on whether their products will be the future. Apple’s Vision Pro or Elon Musk’s Neuralink are two examples of that today. 

But what’s in common behind virtually every major decision being made at businesses small and large—and across industries: the reliance on business analysts. 

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The Online MS in Business Analytics from Pepperdine

Business analytics involves the identification of data trends and their application to business decision-making. And with more companies relying on this data to power their biggest endeavors, business analysts are in high demand.

Based on Fortune analysis of online job board platforms LinkedIn and Indeed, there are thousands of business analyst jobs open at companies small and large and across all types of industry—from McDonald’s and Lego to Amtrak and Harvard University.

With the professional on average promising close to six-figure salaries, the field is an enticing one for individuals interested in the intersection of technical skills with business acumen. Plus, they’re increasingly quintessential to a successful enterprise.

“Every business needs business hours, I always think about business analysts as a Swiss army knife,” says Yao Morin, chief technology officer at JLL .  “And you have to be curious as to running all kinds of business problems across different industries, because you are needed everywhere.”

While a business analyst job can sound enticing, the field centers around one main idea: problem solving. 

On the daily, a business analyst may read dashboards, interpret data, and mold data into narratives that fit into a company’s objectives. Jan Ackerman, senior vice president of global recruiting at Oracle, adds that business analysts are effective communicators and data visualizers.

For example within the recruiting arm of an organization, like Ackerman oversees, business analysts may focus on how the company can make their recruiting services faster, smarter, and cheaper.

But it’s also important to keep in mind that in reality, a business analyst’s responsibilities may differ depending on the company and your seniority. 

A junior analyst, for example, may start out by focusing on simply identifying business needs that could be benefited from analytics, and over time, you may work more with the data itself.

“Believe it or not, the analysis is the shortest part of it. The biggest part is finding the business problem, finding the value that you can add, getting and sourcing the data and understanding if the data is correct and accurate for your need,” says Devanshu Mehrotra, curriculum developer and lead instructor at General Assembly, with a background in analytics.

Mehrotra adds that an individual’s interaction with data isn’t just “playing around with data until you find something cool,”—adding value to a company is of the utmost importance. 

Ackerman reiterates this by noting that above all, business analysts’ main objective is to solve business problems.

Where do business analysts work?

To keep it simple, business analysts work everywhere, especially at large companies. And even when there may not be a namesake business analyst, it is likely that someone is performing business analyst tasks anyway.

Even the International Institute of Business Analysis admits that the exact role of those in business analysis is difficult to pinpoint. Those conducting business analyst tasks could hold titles like business analyst, project manager, business systems analyst, product owner, or consultant. 

In its 2023 Global State of Business Analysis Report , over 1 in 4 business analysis professionals reported having a title that does not fit into one of those five buckets.

How much do business analysts make?

Business analysts earn an estimated $93,482 in total pay in 2024, according to Glassdoor . But again, salary may differ based on company, location, and experience level. 

Education experience may also play a factor, especially when it comes to raises and promotions. IIBA’s report notes that 39% of business analysis professionals hold a master’s degree. 

If obtaining an advanced degree in business analytics is something for you, Fortune has narrowed the choices for you in our ranking of the best online master’s in business analytics . If you are looking for something a little less intensive, checking out a business analytics course or certification program may be an easy way to learn the ropes or upskill with the most up-to-date skills.

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Business Analyst Career Guide: What You Should Know

Companies and organizations across all industries rely on knowledgeable business analysts to help them make informed business decisions. If you are interested in a career path that allows you to put your critical thinking and analytical skills to use, then working as a business analyst could be an ideal fit. As modern businesses continue to evolve and collect more data than ever, the need for business analysts to derive valuable insights from that data will continue to increase by 10% (more detail below).

The University of Minnesota's certificate in business analysis is a great starting point for those interested in a business analyst career. This fully online program can be completed in as little as three months and provides the foundation you need to identify key business metrics, confidently analyze financial data, and develop actionable insights to drive business growth.

Still wondering whether a career in a business analyst role is right for you? With a better understanding of the key responsibilities of a business analyst, as well as the skills required and growth opportunities available, you can more confidently decide if this is the path best suited to your professional goals.

Core Responsibilities of a Business Analyst

What exactly is a business analyst, and what do these professionals do as part of their daily work? Specifically, a business analyst is a professional who helps a business, company, or organization make data-driven decisions.

The exact roles of somebody in this position can vary significantly, depending on the given industry and company by which an analyst is employed. However, some of the most common business analyst responsibilities include:

  • making sense of large amounts of data (including data visualization) using any number of data analysis techniques and business analyst tools.
  • identifying problems and issues within a business and proposing solutions.
  • communicating results and findings to others within a business.
  • forecasting potential outcomes of business decisions.
  • aligning business activities and decisions with the overall company goals and mission.
  • collaborating with developers and other team members.

Business analysts also tend to be responsible for leading and spearheading special projects within a company, especially during periods of transition or change. During these times, business analysts have a particularly important responsibility to carry out responsible change management while effectively collaborating with and coaching other team members.

Skill Set Required for Business Analysts

To execute common business analyst responsibilities, these professionals must possess several technical and soft skills as well. On the technical side of things, business analysts need to be proficient in various different tools and programs employed in data analysis (such as PowerBI or SAS). Proficiency in database software would serve business analysts well in this type of role.

Other skills business analysts should have include:

  • Mind mapping
  • SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat) analysis
  • PESTLE (political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental) analysis
  • Wireframing to communicate vision for a product
  • Use of a customer relationship management system

In addition to hard skills, business analysts must possess some soft skills that are crucial to success on the job. For example, business analysts need strong cross-functional team collaboration skills, meaning they should be able to work independently while remaining team players. Likewise, solid problem-solving skills go a long way in this line of work, as business analysts are constantly identifying problems and brainstorming ways to solve them for the sake of the business.

Last but not least, effective communication and people skills come in handy. Whether presenting findings to higher-ups or being able to "translate" complex jargon into novice terms, verbal and written communication are a must in the business analyst field.

Industries and Sectors Hiring Business Analysts

Businesses across all industries require skilled and knowledgeable business analysts. To make sense of increasing quantities of data and use it to make sound business decisions, companies are turning to strategic business planning professionals and business analysts.

This is perhaps particularly true in industries where data collection has seen an increase in recent years. Examples of these include manufacturing and transportation. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),  35 percent of business analysts or management analysts work in professional, scientific, and technical services. From there, the most common industries hiring these professionals include:

  • Government (17 percent)
  • Finance and insurance (12 percent)
  • Management of companies and enterprises (4 percent)

It is worth noting, too, that an estimated 14 percent of business analysts are self-employed, meaning they may work as independent contractors for any number of private clients.

Career Path and Growth Opportunities

So, how do you get started working as a business analyst, and what does the typical progression look like in this career? In most cases, businesses prefer hiring candidates with at least a bachelor's degree in business or a related field. From there, having additional credentials (such as a certificate in business analysis) could help you stand out from other job applicants while potentially qualifying you for more jobs in the field. 

According to the BLS, the median business/management analyst salary in 2022 was  $95,290 per year , with the highest 10 percent of earners in this field making more than $167,650. Meanwhile, the demand for these professionals continues to rise, with the projected job outlook  expected to grow by 10 percent between 2022 and 2032 alone. That's much faster than the national average for all occupations.

Impact of Technology on Business Analysis

There's no denying the role evolving technology plays in the business analyst profession. In many ways, innovations in technology and software are making the job of the business analyst easier in the sense that data can be more readily processed, analyzed, interpreted, and even visualized. At the same time, however, the role of the business analyst has become progressively complex with these new advancements as the ability to collect  more and more data has risen. Today, business analysts are expected to work with a greater volume of data than ever before—so knowing how to use the latest software and tools to process and analyze data is a must.

Networking and Professional Development

Even with the necessary credentials and skills, aspiring business analysts also need to be committed to networking and professional development if they seek success in this career path. As is the case in numerous industries, encountering opportunities for growth and advancement in business analysis is very much about who you know. Going out of your way to build professional connections could help improve career prospects down the road.

The same applies to ongoing professional development. To stay ahead of the latest advancements and innovations in this dynamic field, business analysts need to be proactive about learning new skills and staying on top of change. With this in mind, a lifelong commitment to learning and growing is a must if you want to find success as a business analyst.

  Learn More, Today

Working as a business analyst could be a rewarding career path for those who enjoy making sense of vast sets of data while making a real difference when it comes to strategic business planning and business process optimization.

Whether you are looking to develop business analyst skills or in need of formal business analyst certificate to take your career to the next level, the University of Minnesota's  Business Analysis Certificate could help you achieve your goals. With courses developed in alignment with the Guide to Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK™), we are proud to be an Endorsed Education Provider (EEP) with the IIBA®.

To learn more about our online business analysis certificate,  reach out to our team. If you're ready to get the ball rolling, you can also  enroll today.

Additional Sources

  • Business Analyst Career Path: What's the Trajectory? (Forage)
  • Business Analyst Career Explained (Villanova University)
  • What Does a Business Analyst Do? An Overview of Roles and Responsibilities (Indeed)

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    A helpful and standardised format to write the problem definition is as follows: The problem of - Describe the problem. Affects - Identify stakeholders affected by the problem. The results of which - Describe the impact of this problem on stakeholders and business activity. Benefits of - Indicate the proposed solution and list a few key ...

  21. The Art of Problem Solving for Business Analysts

    This problem usually occurs when a symptom is mistaken as the main cause of the problem. After reviewing the topic for 30 minutes to an hour, it is best to take a break. Breaks are important because they allow a Business Analyst to rejuvenate and view the problem from a different perspective.

  22. 11 Business Analysts Skills (With Definition and Examples)

    Some of the most important business analyst skills include problem-solving, critical thinking and communication. Understanding the competencies and technical skills individuals in this field possess can help you determine if this career is right for you. In this article, we discuss what a business analyst is, 11 skills they typically possess ...

  23. What does a business analyst do?

    While a business analyst job can sound enticing, the field centers around one main idea: problem solving. On the daily, a business analyst may read dashboards, interpret data, and mold data into ...

  24. Business Analysts Help Make Data-Driven Decisions

    Business analysts also tend to be responsible for leading and spearheading special projects within a company, especially during periods of transition or change. ... Likewise, solid problem-solving skills go a long way in this line of work, as business analysts are constantly identifying problems and brainstorming ways to solve them for the sake ...

  25. Boosting Teamwork in Business Analysis

    2 Foster Culture. Creating a culture that values teamwork is essential. Encourage an environment where all team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions. Promote open ...

  26. What Is Data Analysis? (With Examples)

    Explore four types of data analysis with examples. Data analysis is the practice of working with data to glean useful information, which can then be used to make informed decisions. "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly, one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts," Sherlock ...