In today’s world, increasing customer expectations combined with the associated lack of customer loyalty, is making the ability to react to change at speed a key business priority. Being first to market to maximise an opportunity or simply trying to stay ahead of the competition, has created a dangerous climate for organisations where quality planning is often being sacrificed for rapid solutions. Get it right and the rewards are there to be had, but if you get it wrong the consequences can also be catastrophic.
But surely it must be possible to deliver both quality AND speed – not one or the other. Having successfully worked across numerous customer initiatives we are cognizant of the secret to success – to take the time to ask the right questions upfront, to fully understand the user’s needs, and to drill down into the issue to ensure we establish a well-defined problem. By focusing on the right issue (and first time around) it helps deliver a solution that is both effective and timely.
A well-defined problem is in itself not only more likely to contain its own solution, it can save you time, cost and resource effort. With only a third of all software projects finishing on time and on budget, it seems more important than ever to problem solve effectively; reducing excessive trial and error, product re-engineering, and projects overruns – not to mention the wasted investment.
“If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.”
– Albert Einstein
When done right, customer-centric and adaptive problem solving will deliver more transparent, relevant, convenient and immediate solutions to move any company forward. The demise of Blockbuster is a perfect example of what can happen when you don’t. Failing to fully understand the changing dynamic of their customer’s needs, Blockbuster dismissed the threat of the new market entrant Netflix. By eliminating late fees (a key part of Blockbuster’s revenue model and the biggest bug bear for customers) and providing an OnDemand service, the Netflix solution was both relevant and convenient for the modern tech-savvy family. They had accurately defined the customer needs and wants, and matched it with appropriate propositions. And as we all now know, Netflix is steaming ahead in its market and has even joined forces with competing big name brands such as Sky.
So, what is driving poor definition? And how do you avoid it?
1 – Pushing for results fast
“The sooner we start, the sooner it’s done” can put undue pressure where it’s not needed or most productive. The drive to act fast is compelling, but you can push for results fast but also understand that you need to have a good grasp of the problem first. Striking the balance between knowing enough to move forward and knowing you don’t know enough to take more time, is a careful art. So, learn and adapt as you go, but kick off with a good understanding of where you’re heading. And if you’re going to fail, fail fast, AND at the beginning of the project.
2 – Defining from a single perspective
A problem defined from a single solitary perspective will most likely result in a solution meeting only a single dimension of a business. A dangerous precedent for any organisation, when you consider successful customer engagements require today’s businesses to act as one – irrespective of where customer contact is made. With many organisations utilising multiple integrated technologies to service their customers too, establishing a collective understanding across stakeholders is critical when defining a problem or required outcome. Not only will this yield a well-rounded solution with all systems considered, but by bringing together multiple viewpoints it reduces the amount of explanation and review stages needed throughout the project. Keeping the end user at the heart of both the definition and solutioning processes is a must also – a customer-centric outcome will always be beneficial when they’ve been understood from the start.
3 – Having too big a definition
To address business problems appropriately, a company must be committed to set aside enough time and effort to identify underlying root causes before implementing solutions. However, many organisations along this journey can often find themselves with too large a problem to address with no immediate or short-term gains to justify to the board, whilst also creating a potential white elephant in the process. In order to implement a rightsized solution, it’s therefore essential for an organisation to adopt a selective approach – focusing on core issues which will not only present the appropriate solution, but may also dissolve surface issues and further reduce the scope of your project. Prioritising what is most urgent and what is most important, will help to drive a clear road map of what steps to take. Aim too big at the beginning and you might find yourself resolving something that in a couple month’s time won’t be around – a step by step process concentrating on your higher needs will keep all steps relevant and will most likely speed up the process as well.
How EmbArrk™ will keep you on track
Working closely with our customers for over 20 years, we’ve helped them to define and shape their digital futures. Applying this experience and expertise, we’ve created an interactive workshop, EmbArrk™, to help companies address effective problem definition increasingly overlooked in the modern age. With Einstein’s quote as valid today than ever, EmbArrk™ helps address your problem-solving issues.