Do you remember in eighth-grade algebra class when you sweated over a problem that began something like, "Two trains leave from New York and Chicago two hours apart ..." - because you had no clue as to how even to begin solving the problem? The issue lay not with you, but with the problem itself; it was complex and, therefore, difficult to solve. That's often the way it is with IT problems. It's easy to look at the surface of a problem and think you know what the answer is when, in reality, the problem is most often multifaceted and pervasive throughout the company.

The key to solving any complex problem - in algebra or IT - is to dig deep into its underbelly to ferret out its underlying components. In algebra, it's about X's and Y's In IT, it's about root cause analysis - finding the source of the problem by mapping the problem's pain points. A pain point is any point in the company where there is a problem that has an impact on the company's performance. That's the vanilla definition. To bring it into an IT focus, a pain point is an issue with the company's ability to collect, store, coalesce and/or analyze its data to make timely, accurate business decisions.

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