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Focus on Outcomes…not Solutions

I had a conversation a few weeks ago with an executive at a large organization, and he mentioned that he had read an interesting article a few weeks back on how Business Analysts should be focusing on the outcomes, and not on solutions.  He was surprised at the suggestion of the article, and wanted to know my thoughts.

It is an interesting thought, especially for senior executives, that a BA should not be focused on the solution.  After all, isn’t that the goal of every project, to provide a solution to fix a business problem, or to take advantage of a business opportunity?  And in order to fix the problem or take advantage of the opportunity, doesn’t that require a solution?  Of course it does.  And yes, of course BAs care about the solution…but we should always make sure that it is the right solution.

What does that mean, the right solution?  Well, most of the times, when I start on a project, I’m handed the solution, and told to go off and figure out the requirements.  As a BA, I’m never sure where this solution came from, or what problem/opportunity it is supposed to solve.  The solution suggested may be a perfect solution, but then again, I think we have all worked on projects where the solution may have given the business what they wanted, but not what they needed.

Yes, there is a difference between wants and needs.  And as BAs, we need to be sure that we are providing a solution that satisfies the need.  This will help ensure that the project is providing the biggest value to the organization and the best outcome.  Sounds simple, right?  Just figure out the needs of the organization…and off we go!

Oh, if it were only that simple!  So often, the stakeholder who has championed the solution is very emotionally tied to this solution.  We, as BAs, have to work carefully to understand the interests of our stakeholders.  Understanding why they really want a particular solution will help us make the right decisions, and will help us with the inevitable negotiation that always occurs in projects, especially about scope.

So how do we focus on the outcomes?  We like to use our Business Objectives Model to help us with that.  That model is designed to help us focus on the problems that we are solving, and to understand how we will know that we have solved the problem.  You can read more about that model in this blog post I wrote a while back.

And while it sounds easy to focus on outcomes and not solutions, it is never that easy.  It’s hard to get our subject matter experts and our stakeholders to focus on what is needed and not just what they want.   But that is our job as BAs…to figure this out and to work with everyone on the project to get the right outcome for the organization.

One Response to Focus on Outcomes…not Solutions

  1. Alan Campbell October 28, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

    We are often in the same situation as you, where the client or prospect gives us the solution and expects us to run with it. We then must traverse back to the reasons behind the solution, the actual business need in order to validate if the solution satisfies the delta between the current state and future state. The reality is the BA really needs to focus on both the solution and the outcome if they want to be successful. You cannot have one without the other.

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