Sometimes I find it difficult to explore new pieces of work in a structured way. When given a new challenge / piece of work it’s easy to jump straight into a solution. However as BAs we first need to understand the problem area better.
I’ve been reading several UX books and a blog post by a former colleague (Ben Holliday) that give advice about how to explore and frame new pieces of work.
Most of the UX books I’ve read recommend 5 key questions to ask when framing a problem. They don’t agree exactly on the wording of the 5 questions, so I’ve created my own list which I hope helps!!
These are 5 questions to ask when given a problem / new piece of work to investigate. These questions can be explored on your own, however this is best done as a group brainstorming activity.
FIVE KEY QUESTIONS
1. Why are we doing this?
This is the most important question to ask. Why are we doing a piece of work? What is our motivation for it?
Reasons could include: legislation, strategy, a new opportunity in the marketplace. There’s probably several reasons! These need to be identified in order to give you the best chance of solving the real problem.
Here’s a few add on questions to help identify the drivers for a piece of work:
a. Why should this product/project exist in the first place?
b. What’s driving us to build it?
c. What need will it fulfil?
d. Why will anyone care that it exists?
2. Who are we doing this for?
We’re probably doing this work for a number of users & organisational stakeholders. It’s important to identify both groups of people. They’ll be important when you start to build a solution.
Here’s a few questions to help you identifying the key people:
a. Who are the people that will use this product?
b. Who are the stakeholders on the business end?
3. What value does it provide?
For the users you have identified above - what value are you hoping to provide? Think about user value and outcomes.
a. What value will it provide to users?
b. What outcome will users get from the product?
c. What value comes back to the business (e.g. money)?
4. How will we measure success?
How will we measure the success of this product? This is an important part of benefit realisation and it will also help with prioritisation further down the lifecycle. We need to quantify whether success is 2,500 or 250,000 subscribed users.
Key questions to include?
a. What do we need to measure to ensure we’re delivering value?
b. What are our KPIs?
c. What does good look like for them?
5. What can we realistically do?
This is where we can move from framing the problem to “solutionising”. However it can be a useful question to ask when considering the above questions.
Knowing what we know about our budget, personnel, technology, time, dependencies, blockers and experience - what can we realistically build to solve the problem?
HOW TO USE THE FIVE QUESTIONS
Although these questions can be considered solely by the BA - it’s best to ask these 5 questions in a workshop session with the team and relevant stakeholders.
If you have these 5 questions on a whiteboard with a facilitator leading a session, you can generate insights quickly. These are 5 basic questions that everyone should understand & contribute towards.
These questions will help shape the solution and will mean you build the right thing.
The output of this session can be used to input into other things like: the business case, mission statement, lean business canvas, feature prioritisation, benefit realisation etc. I hope you find them a simple and yet effective way to frame a new piece of work.
Author: Ryan Hewitt, Senior Business Analyst
Ryan Thomas Hewitt has over 5 years business analyst experience working for blue chip companies in India, Germany, USA, Italy and UK. Ryan holds certifications in scrum, lean, ITIL, change management and NLP.