Interview Questions for Business Analysts and Systems Analysts

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Explain the difference between strategic and tactical as it relates to a business.

Posted by Chris Adams

Article Rating // 144438 Views // 5 Additional Answers & Comments

Categories: Leadership & Management, General


The terms strategic and tactical are typically used in a business environment to refer to the two main types of planning, thinking, or actions that takes place.  Plainly stated, strategic refers to "what” and “why" the business chooses to do something and tactical refers to "how” they plan to accomplish it. 

Strategic thinking, planning, and actions are rooted in a company’s ability to understand the environment they operate within, recognize developing patterns and trends within the industry, anticipate issues that may arise within the current operating environment, predict outcomes of planned initiatives and how they might impact the company’s direction, and develop sound fallback plans to mitigate the risk of a miscalculation. Strategic planning in particular deals with the mission and purpose of the organization, its value proposition, i.e., what value it delivers to the customer, as well as the company’s future direction and growth.

Tactical refers to how the company or manager plans to get the job done or achieve the particular strategic objective.  Tactical thinking and planning considers the resources available (time, money, people) along with the risks or challenges that may be encountered, and determines the most efficient way to use those resources to achieve strategic goals while delivering quality results.

Some often remember the two concepts by using the mnemonic device, “strategic is doing the right things—tactical is doing things right”.

Chris Adams
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Adrian M. posted on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 12:33 AM
Posted by Michael Wright on LinkedIn Group:

I personally love interview questions, so thanks for contributing this.

I don't see that as an especially strong question, as it's basically about memory and formal knowledge as well as the candidates ability to explain something in an articulate way. Useful, but in the limited time of an interview, a better question might be to ask a candidate:

In your last job, what contributions did you make that were strategic, and what contributions did you make that were tactical? What immediate tactical or strategic benefit to you think you can bring us?


Which do you excel at the most, strategic contributions, or tactical? Please provide evidence to support this.

Both of these questions also rely on the candidate having the factual knowledge of the differences in the first instance between strategic / tactical, but also draw out competency/motivation and results-orientation.
Adrian M.
Adrian M. posted on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 11:38 AM
Posted by Posted by Rami Mäkelä on LinkedIn:

First of all, I think this is a good question. It is a question that captures many basic viewpoints essential to any business. Having said that, the usefulness will be determined by the context. Therefore it might be better to follow the ‘story-based’- approach stated by Mr. Wright. I would agree that this approach tells more about the candidate, since it requires a good command of the specific business domain and keeps the discussion on a more practical level.

Now, about the question it self, I would say that strategy is something that is essential for the success of any business. Tactics are the means for deploying the selected strategy into real business cases. Tactical decisions can be made faster and tactics can be changed continuously. However the strategy has to designed and developed wisely –otherwise tactics will not work. Having said this, I agree with Mr. Deoras in that strategy is more involved with senior management or at least the design of it is. As a summary I think that in the modern business environment the strategy has to be present in everyday tactical decisions and that is why the two terms are coming closer together. But they still mean two very different things.
Adrian M.
Jenee Mate Prasangi posted on Friday, December 18, 2009 1:26 AM
Something I have learnt in six-sigma way of problem solving - tactical solution is something like a quick fix, whereas strategic solution is something for which you would like to develop DMAIC or DMADV methodology.
Jenee Mate Prasangi
Adrian M. posted on Sunday, December 27, 2009 2:31 AM
Posted by Ken Hansen on LinkedIn:

Good idea to see if the candidate can recognise and promote their actions as tactical or strategic - explanation of the latter will tell identify the candidate's scope of vision and understanding. It definitely needs to be anchored in examples of deliverables.
Adrian M.
Adrian M. posted on Sunday, December 27, 2009 2:31 AM
Posted by Frederick Lange on LinkedIn:

To introduce an architectural perspective, strategies are generally thought of as "what" needs to be done by the enterprise and tactics are "how" the strategies are achieved.

There is also an organizational character to strategies and tactics. That is, the board of directors and C level executives are thought of as strategists; while the operational managers of the enterprise are considered to be tacticians.

For BI purposes, strategic information is what directors and top executives use to measure their objectives as reported to the shareholders and other major enterprise stakeholders. Tactical information is what operational managers use to measure the success of their functional processes in carrying out the enterprise strategies.
Adrian M.
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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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