How to solve problems

Saturday 2 July 2016

My job title is OSS Solution Architect – and that basically means ‘problem solver’. I get involved right at the beginning, whenever new ideas are being developed by the business. It’s my job to help shape the overall solution – the way we’ll bring that idea to successful reality, hopefully avoiding any pitfalls on the way.

Most people imagine that solving problems for a living involves thinking hard about something until an answer comes to you – like doing a difficult crossword or a jigsaw. And sometimes my job can feel like that. But in fact, there are techniques we use to help us: tools, processes and steps you can take to identify potential problems and design solutions to them.

I joined the team in 2009 as a Systems Designer, and at the time the emphasis was more on the detail of how individual systems worked. Now that we are a Solutions Design team, we need to take a wider view of how the solution serves all our stakeholders – and particularly the customer.

One method we use is running brainstorming workshops with colleagues and relevant experts. We then play back the best options to wider stakeholders and take their feedback on board. The key here is how the solution serves our customers and business stakeholders – there is never a perfect alignment of wishes, so the challenge is to develop the solution with the best overall blend – a bit like that perfect cup of coffee. It’s much better to do this early, rather than when the systems have been built and rolled out.

When I was interviewed for the job I was asked to talk about the most complex designs I had worked on before, and I can safely say that TalkTalk beats any of those! Plus, we have to juggle a number of different projects running simultaneously. Just like on Masterchef, there's no let up at TalkTalk. So when it comes to problem-solving, I’d say it’s a skill rather than an art – and a skill we’re continuing to get better at.

There are some exciting new vacancies coming up on Jonathan’s team, OSS Solutions Design. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, search OSS on our Job Search page.

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