Root Cause Analysis in Information Technology
September 21, 2021
Cezar Ginta

Root cause analysis is the process of discovering the root of a problem in order to find proper solutions. Whether you want to implement new technologies or improve the method of dealing with certain issues that inevitably appear in a company, the root cause analysis is an instrument that responds to both of your needs. Firstly, root cause analysis is all about digging deeper and finding the source of the issue in order to come up with the right solution to tackle it. Secondly, to use Root Cause analysis means to already acknowledge that an issue exists; this approach brings you one step further from a solution.

Inside your organization or even daily life, you can implement root cause analysis by providing answers to the following questions:

·       What exactly is the problem?

·       How did it happen?

·       Can we prevent this from happening again?

The specific goals of root cause analysis

1.     The first goal is to delve into the roots of the problem.

2.     The second goal stands in understanding how to fix the underlying issues within the root cause and learn from them.

3.     Finally, lasting solutions and processes are required in order to avoid the issue from arising again.

Thus, it is not only important to solve the issue on the spot, but rather find tools for preventing the same problem from reemerging.

Root Cause Analysis- Some methods and tools

The 5 Whys method This method is an interrogative technique, mainly used to explore the cause and effect of the problem. For every single answer to a “why” you will need to answer with another “Ok, but why?”. It is quite often that only 5 of these questions are necessary in order to discover where the problem sits, but additional questions can be proposed until a solution is reached.

Here is a simple example of applying the 5 Whys method. Let’s say your customers prefer to buy substitutes from other companies. Thisaffects your sales and does not allow your company to grow at a steady level. The problem statement can be, “My product is more expensive.”

The first why: Why is my product more expensive?

The first answer: Because suppliers are charging more for the raw materials.

The second why: Why they charge me more for the raw materials?

The second answer: Because the demand is very high in autumn seasons, due to shortage.

The third why: Why is there a shortage?

The third answer: Because suppliers in Europe cannot develop the same ingredients as they did in summer or spring.

The fourth why: Why is that?

The fourth answer: Because the weather is changing and ingredients are now scarce.

The fifth why:  Why have we focused on zones where the raw materials are scarce in autumn?

The fifth answer: Because we did not consider the rapid changes in temperatures.

After five why’s it became clear that changes in temperatures and the upcoming season were neglected. The burdening cost of the raw materials lead to a higher priced product.

Root cause analysis and software development

Now on the technological side of things, in order to apply root cause analysis in software development, the problem is defined by using data and execute code specific to the root cause.

Context plays a major role in doing an effective root cause analysis. For example, how we prioritize the elements of the problem: logs, variables or even error messages. We need to ask which one of these problems is the most difficult to solve and act accordingly.

The root cause analysis is not focused only on symptoms

Symptoms should be helpful in assessing the cause of the errors, but some of the errors look simple at first sight. Proper monitoring tools can have a major role in finding the answer to a problem. It is important to understand the differences between causes or symptoms and sometimes monitoring tools must be used in order to detect the correct answer to a problem.

Implement the identified solutions and act upon them

Once the error is identified and fixed, we need to prevent it from happening again in the distant future. Congratulations, you responded to the specific goals of the root cause analysis, now you can implement the solution and test the results.

Talk to the team