BABOK v3 Section 9.1 Summary - Analytical Thinking and Problem Solving
by Sandi Byron
In BABOK v3, Chapter 9 is a discussion of the underlying competencies which the BA needs to understand and practice. This includes the behaviors, characteristics, knowledge, and the persona qualities of the BA professional.
Section 9.1 : Analytical Thinking and Problem Solving covers skills used when analyzing problems and opportunities, when deciding which changes or solutions will deliver the best outcomes, and when working with the stakeholders to understand the impact of those changes. The core competencies of this section include: Creative Thinking, Decision Making, Learning, Problem Solving, Systems Thinking, Conceptual Thinking, and Visual Thinking.
- Creative Thinking helps generate new ideas, new approaches, and alternative thinking of the problem/opportunity. The BA should be willing and able to question the conventional approaches and encourage people to think about innovative approaches to the problem. By asking questions and challenging assumptions, the BA helps the stakeholders also engage in creative thinking. How does one tell if the BA has been successful in using the Creative Thinking skill? New ideas will be generated and productively considered. New and changes to concepts and ideas will have been explored. The BA and other stakeholders will have demonstrated creativity (which is a difficult measure as it is subjunctive). And finally, new ideas will have been applied to solve existing problems.
- Decision Making is a very important skill because since the BA must be able to select (or help a group select) an option from a set of alternatives. The BA must understand the decision and document the reasons for supporting that decision so that a future similar event can use that data in future decisions. Measures or effective decision making include ensuring that the correct stakeholders are represented in the process and that they understand that process and understand the rationale behind the decision. Another measure is that the pros and cons of all the options are clearly communicated to the stakeholders. Also, the decision made reduces uncertainty (and any uncertainty left is accepted) as well as addresses the problem or opportunity available in a way that is in the best interest of the stakeholders. Finally, the most important measure of effectiveness of the decision making competency is that a decision is made and the stakeholders understand the conditions and environment under which that decision was made.
- Learning is the ability to gain knowledge and skills quickly which are needed to support the analysis needs of the business domain in question. Once the knowledge has been gained, the analyst must be able to synthesize the information in order to apply the creative thinking skill. he analyst might learn visually (through pictures, diagrams, models, etc...), or via auditory learning (verbal and written presentations), or kinesthetically by way of actually doing. Effectiveness measures in this skill consist of understanding that the learning process is for all the stakeholders not just the analyst; quickly absorbing new facts, ideas, concepts and then being able to demonstrate an understanding of the concepts learned to others; effectively presenting new ideas, concepts, facts, and opinions to others; and demonstrating the ability to apply the concepts to new areas,
- Problem Solving consists of being able to define what the problem is and ensuring that the stakeholders clearly understand the nature of the problem and any underlying issues. This is measured by the confidence level of the participants in the problem solving process and that the process has resulted in selected solutions that meet the needs or solve the root cause of the problem. Other measures are that the new solution options can be evaluated using the problem solving framework and that the decision that results from problem solving process avoided using un-validated assumption or preconceived notions that might have resulted in a sub-optimal solution selection.
- Systems Thinking consists of understanding the interaction between the people, processes, and technology within the organization to gain a holistic view of the enterprise. Effectiveness measures for this skill include successfully communicating how a change will affect the system as a whole, the environment it is in, and how the systems themselves will adapt to internal/external changes and pressures.
- Conceptual Thinking consists of taking the myriad of information that come with the analyst tasks and fitting it into the larger picture. That includes understanding the links between the bits of data and the business context, stakeholders, business needs, potential solutions, etc.... The factors that the analyst must link together often do not seem to represent the underlying problem or opportunity. Measurements of the effectiveness of this skill include connecting disparate information and acting to better understand the relationship and then confirming the confidence and understanding of the concept being communicated to the stakeholders; formulating abstract concepts from information and uncertainty; and drawing on past experience to understand the current situation.
- Visual Thinking consists of the ability to take complex concepts and models and communicate them to stakeholders in understandable visual representations. The analyst will be visualizing and creating simple visual concepts, graphics, models, diagrams, and other constructs to impart non-visual information. It allows the audience to understand the complex information more quickly. There are several Effectiveness Measurements for visual thinking: whether the complex information was communicated in a visual model that was understood by the stakeholders; whether the visuals allowed the participants to make comparisons, find patterns, and map ideas; where there productivity increases as a result of increased learning, quick memory, and follow through from effective visuals; was there better engagement by the stakeholders as compared to text only information; and was there critical information that the stakeholders received that they might have otherwise missed.
As the BABOK says: "Possessing a sound understanding of the analytical thinking and problem solving core competencies allows business analysts to identify the best ways to present information to their stakeholders."