Root Cause Analysis: Getting the REAL Issue

Root Cause Analysis:  Getting the REAL Issue

Information Technology professionals work with problems every day. That is a key functionality in IT. Solve the problem. It could be solving a problem by implementing a new infrastructure or software solution. It could be solving a problem by fixing a program bug. It could be solving a problem by making some change to data. There are many different ways to solve a problem, as there are many different problems.

Unfortunately, many folks in IT don’t understand how to find the REAL problem. Problems come in many different forms and sizes. One must have an understanding of basic root cause analysis and problem-solving skills to ultimately solve a technology issue. Band-Aid solutions are the most common solutions in IT. It is unfortunate, but that is a reality. Band-Aids are applied for any number of reasons, such as time constraints and understanding of the issue.

Recently, I communicated my view of root-cause analysis and problem-solving by making a statement that 1 + 1 <> 11 or 1+1 doesn’t = 11. Now, this statement already acknowledges that there is a way to arrive at 11 but not as stated in the equation. This statement says that some folks take these inputs and arrive at 11 instead of 2. A developer on my team wrote a response to my statement saying that ‘1’ + ‘1’ =‘11’. In fact, that is a true statement. If I take the text value of ’1’ and another text value of ‘1’ and stick them together (not arithmetically add) then I get a text value of ’11’. Yea! He said to me he showed me an alternative solution. He did.

root cause analysis

However, slow down and read my original statement. I’ve already acknowledged this in my statement. In root cause 101, we’ve already missed the mark. He didn’t understand the issue or statement. This alternative solution spoke directly to what I was saying. In his case, we took a variation of the inputs and instead of arithmetically adding them, he stuck them together (concatenated). Very different. Thus, he arrived at a totally different result than I with the two numeric inputs. This, in essence, is the fundamental issue of root cause analysis and problem-solving in IT. Not understanding the issue or inputs and possibly already having some end result in mind thus varying the inputs to fit our already predetermined notion of the issue.

We must first understand our sources of inputs, where they originate, and what they represent before we can entertain solving the problem. We must ask questions, dig a little deeper before attempting to solve a problem. Do we have everything? Does it make sense? Does this happen frequently or just once? Am I ignoring other inputs because it doesn’t fit my idea?

How does your IT organization and staffing solve problems? DO they ask questions that get to the root issue? Do they implement Band-Aid solutions to solve the resulting issue from the root cause? We at CI Solutions Group follow a very structured approach to solving problems. We must first understand before we conclude. This structured methodology to solving problems and the application of a structured thinking and question process leads to solutions that fit the need, solutions that solve the real issue. If you’re constantly getting Band-Aid solutions from your IT, then maybe you should consider a different approach to IT. We’re ready!


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