Interview Questions for Business Analysts and Systems Analysts

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What techniques do you use to ensure that you have identified the principle problem or requirement?

Posted by Chris Adams

Article Rating // 15060 Views // 4 Additional Answers & Comments

Categories: Business Analysis, Requirements Analysis (BABOK KA), Analytical and Problem Solving Skills, Elicitation (BABOK KA)


Problem solving and problem resolution is a common part of a business analyst’s role.  But before you spend time figuring out resolutions to the problem, you should be sure that you’re solving the right problem or that you have the true requirement.

Problem Restatement is one category of techniques that can be used to determine that the principle problem has been identified.  Some problem restatement techniques are:

  1. Problem Paraphrasing – Alter the wording of the problem statement just slightly resulting in a new problem statement which is very similar in meaning.  Repeat the process until you have arrived at the principle problem.
  2. 5W + 1H (Who, What, When, Where, Why, + How) – Create multiple variations of the problem statement beginning each statement with one of the 5W + 1H keywords.
  3. Repeatedly Ask Why – Starting with the original problem statement, ask ‘Why’ to identify a new problem statement.  Continue to ask why to each new problem statement until you arrive at what is clearly the principle problem.



upperna posted on Friday, May 8, 2009 9:40 AM
Very appropriate, would aid the ability to relate to when stated with an example problem.
Nathan Caswell posted on Wednesday, June 24, 2009 1:29 PM
There is a difference between 'problem solving' and facilitating problem solving. The techniques here are useful for facilitating a group of SME's to a consensus solution.

Providing alternate solutions and determining solution validity requires understanding of the problem domain and application of completeness and consistency tests.

With a basic model of the entities in the domain, their relationships, and their dependencies basic critical thinking skills and tools such as TRIZ (adapted to domain appropriate parameters) can be applied.
Nathan Caswell
K Lewis posted on Tuesday, July 14, 2009 9:29 AM
Overlooked in this answer is "listening". You can ask all the questions you want, but if you don't listen, you will miss what the business person sees as the problem to be solved. To verify the understanding of the problem to be solved, sometimes a picture can be worth a thousand words.
K Lewis
Robin Goldsmith posted on Friday, January 14, 2011 9:08 AM
Cited techniques are helpful but by no means ensure that you have identified the principle problem or requirement. In fact, it's very common that the REAL problem is not understood, which virtually assures it's solution will be wrong. The REAL requirements are the business deliverable _whats_ that when delivered/satisfied/met solve the problem. That is, requirements are not synonymous with the problem.

My Problem Pyramid™ tool systematically follows six disciplined steps to first get the REAL Probem right and then the REAL business requirements _whats_, followed by the product, system. software requirements _how_ to achieve the _whats_. It is described fully in my book, Discovering REAL Business Requirements for Software Project Success.

A briefer introduction can be found in my Modern Analyst featured article,
BAs Will Falter Until They Learn to Discover REAL, Business Requirements
Robin Goldsmith
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Do your homework prior to the business analysis interview!

Having an idea of the type of questions you might be asked during a business analyst interview will not only give you confidence but it will also help you to formulate your thoughts and to be better prepared to answer the interview questions you might get during the interview for a business analyst position.  Of course, just memorizing a list of business analyst interview questions will not make you a great business analyst but it might just help you get that next job.



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