I have two children, currently aged 12 and 8. You may be thinking, why is that relevant to Business Value? One of the best things about children at these early ages is their curiosity, and furthermore, one of the key questions that they consistently ask when given any answer, is WHY? But they inevitably don’t stop there. For every answer I give, they continue to probe “but why” incessantly, usually to the point of annoying (maybe that’s their objective!).
There comes a point when the ‘why’ can go no further, either because you have reached the final answer, or more often, you end up saying “because I said so’. That’s the point at which you don’t know the answer or you just want the questioning to stop, leaving both you and your child unhappy!
This experience is especially prevalent in the current climate of lockdowns and homeschooling, so it got me thinking. Carrying this mindset into my professional world, it reminds me of one of the key techniques that has helped me a great deal since discovering it during the agile transformation at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Ever since then, I have been a big fan of using it where possible. It’s ‘The 5 Whys’ – an ‘iterative interrogative technique’ aiming to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question “Why?”, and ultimately help determine the remedial action, e.g.:
But I’m not referring to the use of the 5 Why’s in this manner. On the subject of business value, it’s spinning this approach around. Having worked in a large corporates most of my career in the space of technology change, it has not always been easy to see the real business value of a change that you’re making at the ‘coalface’. It was definitely made easier when, as part of agile methodology, the key ingredient for any user story was on the ‘So That’ element. Without it, the story is incomplete and cannot proceed, and rightly so. Once there (and accurate), everyone is clearer on what the value of the change is.
But that can still leave a hole. At FNA, we are committed to approaching solutions and projects with the key underlying business value being at the core of the project – what is the client ultimately aiming to achieve in a measurable way. Our experience is that often, the starting point does not go far enough – so we have to continue to ask why, as hard as that might be. That is where the 5 Whys technique comes into play. Only once you’ve got to the visionary drivers of change, can you work back to what changes/solutions are required to meet that target.
When it comes to delivering data science projects, answering the Whys and working back can be especially demanding. It is not always easy to see the wood for the trees. You need a team which consists of enough (and the right) SMEs to help answer the difficult questions and ascertain why the work should be done. As such, our FNA methodology for running data science projects is designed to ensure successful delivery of business outcomes.
It has to be noted here that this cannot be successful without the engagement of the ultimate beneficiaries of the change, before, during, and after the project. Without it, success will be challenging, if not impossible.
We aim to work with our clients, to not only simply bring a solution to a problem, but to get to a global/common understanding of their vision, and then determine how FNA can use it’s award-winning software and deep subject matter expertise to help achieve those goals. It does not stop there. We continually liaise with the client and seek new ways of applying our solutions that drive towards their vision, building a solution roadmap that ensures ongoing business value and cements the relationship.
My children may stretch my patience, but the line of questioning is (in retrospect) on point and should be encouraged, especially if you end up with the right answer that leaves everyone satisfied!
If you’re interested to learn more, then we’d be happy to share our experiences here at FNA.
Bimal Patel (firstname.lastname@example.org) is FNA’s Client Solutions Director.