A major challenge that many organizations struggle with is identifying and defining the specific problems that they’re trying to solve. Until you’ve done so, you’re going to have trouble providing a great digital experience. At UpTop, we’ve developed a process for getting to the heart of the matter, and we want to share it with you. This article teaches you how design thinking aids you in making this crucial determination.
Taking the time to accurately and concisely identify and frame the problem ensures that you don’t miss out on opportunities. It also prevents you from wasting your time and resources creating something that your users don’t actually want or that doesn’t align with your overarching business strategy. Ideally, you’ll find common ground that enables you to address both your business needs and your users’ needs. Our goal in sharing this process, as part of our five-phase design thinking framework, is to help you better your product or service from both sides of this equation.
How Design Thinking Helps Effectively and Concisely Define Problems With Your Digital Experience
If you’re not taking a structured approach to defining the exact problem that you’re trying to solve, then you risk getting lost in the weeds very quickly. At UpTop, we’ve taken inspiration from IDEO’s design kit, Stanford d.school methodologies, Google Venture’s 5-day Sprint, Lean UX principles, and our own practical experience working with clients day-in and day-out to provide you with a guide for effective problem solving.
1. Assemble Your Team and Define the Scope
Getting the right people from your organization involved at the right stage of any project is always important. When you need to identify and define a problem, first identify your team and define the project’s scope.
You’ll want a diverse team representing different areas and levels of your organization. That way, important voices aren’t left out and departmental bias is less likely to creep in. Together, you’ll identify the long-term goals that you want to focus on, and start to anticipate what might go wrong along the way.
2. Synthesize Research and Ask Questions
The first step of the design thinking process is to empathize with customers. Leading with empathy allows you to understand their needs, their frustrations, and their desires to uncover moments for the largest impact. Following the analysis of your research coming out of the empathy stage, your team needs to move into the synthesis stage.
The collaborative synthesis process is where you’ll make sense of all the data that you’ve collected. This is a big focus moment. Take all the insights that you’ve gathered on your users and the problem space, and turn those insights into meaningful questions or ‘How Might We’ (HMW) statements. Framing the problems as a question allows you to be open to all possibilities as you move into ideation. Your team should identify the top questions that map back to your long term goals.
3. Frame the Problem
You’ve synthesized your data, drawn connections, and zeroed in on the question(s) to pursue. Now it is helpful to create a problem statement or point of view (POV) question to guide your team as you move into the ideation phase.
This not only helps you to stay focused on the specific needs your team identified, but also encourages you to explore a wider variety of solutions. Don’t lock in on a solution too early or jump on what seems to be the simplest one.
How Expert Talks, HMW/Affinity Mapping, and Dot Voting Help Clients Achieve Their Goals in the Real World
We recently completed a project with a leading insurance company who wanted to explore how they could evolve their current policy admin tool from a monolithic application to a modern best-of-breed system. The goal was to improve their team’s workflow, communication, and efficiency.
We proposed our UX Strategy Sprint to help them align on a strategy and vision. This approach allowed us to quickly get up to speed on their main pain points and gain clarity on the problems to solve. We kicked off the ~10 week sprint with discovery. We reviewed their existing documentation and resources, and we set up user interviews and walkthroughs with employees that represented the main user groups of the policy admin tool.
After completing our research, we plotted the resulting workflows on a journey map. This map included the pain points and emotions they encountered along the way. Walking through the journey map and hearing from the different users of the tool (or subject matter experts) helped the team and key stakeholders to visualize the complex workflow, build empathy for their team members, and highlight areas with the largest amount of friction and opportunity for improvement. This was especially helpful for the decision makers, who are often a step removed from the daily processes and workflows of their teams.
As each subject matter expert shared, the rest of the participants created HMW questions about the different insights that were uncovered. The HMW questions were later grouped in an affinity map. We used dot voting to identify the areas that the group felt were the most important. We incorporated the top HMWs into the journey map, and the decision maker chose four to focus on as we moved into ideation.
These exercises provided the foundation for the rest of the project. Hearing from the different users and visualizing their emotional states at different points in the journey helped everyone to see the big picture and identify the key problem areas. Democratizing what areas to focus on with dot voting allowed everyone’s voice to be heard. It also helped to highlight the areas that would have the highest impact. With this knowledge we were able to move into ideation and prioritization confidently. By the end of the project our client was in a better position to analyze their current system and make much more informed strategic decisions about how to move forward.
Clearly Defining Digital Experience Problems Leads to the Most Effective Solutions
You cannot create a great user experience if you’re not sure which problems you need to solve. Using our five-phase design thinking process, you will uncover the insights you need to address the problems that matter most.
Are you struggling to define the problem(s) that need solving with laser focus? Do you need help giving your customers the digital customer experience they expect? Let’s get to work.