We must start with our current approach as we continue to delve into a process to solve our business problems better. Thus, we must ask our next question: How do you currently solve your business problem? We started with a definition, but now we assume that there is some current solution. For example, we want fast fulfillment of our products. We are currently fulfilling orders, even if not in the best way, and that is our starting point.
The Goal of Answering: How do you currently solve your business problem?
It is not uncommon for us to look at a question like this and think it is either redundant or unnecessary. We know the current approach is not what we want, so why should we spend time on it? The answer is that we often find missing details for our problem definition. You have experienced it if you have tried describing a process to someone and had an “oh yes, I forgot about that detail” moment. We can gloss over important details when we describe a process. That is where a good interviewer will help you nail down specific requirements. They can help break down assumptions and find constraints that have been forgotten or hidden.
Addressing “We Always Did It That Way”
There is a story about a congregation that always stood up and faced a blank wall when they said the opening prayer. This was a scene that appeared to have some ritual meaning. Eventually, the new pastor asked why they did so. He felt it was something he was missing that would help him better understand his congregation. It took a while to track down the deeper meaning behind this “ritual.” It turns out they used to have the words of the prayer on the wall. When they got to that part of the service, everyone would read from it. However, the words faded over the years, yet the habit was so strong that it stuck with the congregation. New members just joined the crowd when they stood and turned.
There are business practices like this. Sometimes they have critical requirements as part of them, and sometimes the original requirements faded long ago. A typical business example is a need to generate a report that no one uses anymore. Another example is a process step required for a no longer-used vendor. These can lead to firm requirements until we dig into the “why.” Then, that digging can show us it is not a requirement.
Documenting The Process
The ultimate goal of answering “How do you currently solve your business problem?” is to ensure we have all the steps required to solve the problem and understand each. In addition, we must have the process repeatable before we can automate and tune it. Thus, we need to know the inputs and outputs for each step along the way. That helps us ensure our proposed new solution can match the “correctness” of the current solution. However, we might also improve the quality of some steps by simplifying and reducing opportunities for errors.
A typical example of this sort of improvement is a shipping/billing address. Many systems have a couple of places where an address is entered into the system, and each entry point is an opportunity for a mistake. There are legitimate reasons to enter the same information again, but those are also areas where systems are improving. Vendors that require a manual entry in a portal now may accept orders via email or other digital delivery mechanisms that your systems can utilize. That can speed up your process and reduce potential mistakes. However, it is not an option unless we know that the “entry via portal” step is not required and the digital option serves the same need.
Signing Off On This Question
You want to be sure you have an answer to this question before moving forward. Fortunately, the testing of whether you have one is straightforward. Once you think you have this answer, you will have a series of detailed steps that currently address the problem. Those are the current solution and can be verified by walking through each step with an example piece of data. The results should be exactly what you expect. For example, say that the problem is going from order to fulfillment, invoicing, and payment. Create a test order, walk through each step of your process, and ensure you can go through to the end without error. That may seem tedious or a waste of time. However, it will save a lot of potential issues down the road that will cost time and money that you can spend elsewhere.
Improve Software Success
We have an e-book that can help you explore all the steps in building software, including a few templates. All we ask is that you share an e-mail address so we can send you a copy. We add you to our monthly newsletter, but you can unsubscribe anytime. Your data is not shared with anyone else. Learn more about our book here.