Understanding the “Business Problem”

View From The Ridge: 77

October 7, 2016

Rod Daugherty

Vice President, Product Strategy

When I’m not thinking about supply chain planning optimization problems, one of my hobbies is composing and performing music. Like so many areas of our lives, digital technology is enabling new opportunities in all aspects of music. I have a really cool vision for my music hobby (at least I think it's cool), but it requires me to become proficient in digital audio recording. I am becoming acquainted with the basics of recording engineering. Now, to be perfectly honest, the engineering part of the digital recording isn’t my favorite (too much like work). I’d rather spend my personal time being a musician. But before I can achieve my vision, I’ll have to improve this skill. While researching this topic the other weekend, I had an epiphany that applies to our business lives.

The Strategic Business Scenario

In my example, my lazy musician tendency was to rush to a solution. I had a high level concept of what I wanted to achieve, but I was trying to short cut my research by immediately looking for the solution. I would start surveying the market to learn about tools to help accomplish my goal. But before long, I would be exhausted trying to sort through the avalanche of same sounding software and hardware solutions. Then it dawned on me. I was going about it incorrectly. Before I started shopping for a solution or even thinking about my perception of the solution, I needed to first articulate the business problem to myself. Once I took a step back to describe the problem and what I wanted to achieve, the successive steps of how to get to the result became clearer. Even though it still seems a bit too much like work, I am no longer frustrated by the problem. I can see a way forward.

The Tactical Business Scenario

There’s also a more tactical aspect that many of us deal with on a weekly basis. We all work with various tools in our businesses and computer software is a prime example. When we encounter a difficulty, our natural tendency is to jump directly to a solution and request a change to an existing feature or process, i.e. “change the software to do this…” The problem with expressing your need in those terms is it does not provide any business context as to what you were trying to accomplish. The designers and engineers tasked with improving the solution need that context to fully understand the bigger picture and ultimately to ensure your business problem is being solved without causing an unintended conflict elsewhere.

Getting to the Desired Result

Save yourself some time and frustration in the long run by being prepared to answer:

  • What is the business problem?
  • What is it that you cannot currently accomplish?
  • What is the benefit of solving the business problem?

This will help ensure a better solution in the end.