Defining a Problem Statement
A problem statement accurately crystallizes an issue that a business has determined worth exploring during its analysis. It is used to keep efforts focused on a particular issue. It takes the form of a simple explanation of the issue(s) and contains a vision, statement of the issue, and the approach used to solve the problem.
A problem statement is a critical part of the statement of purpose or charter of a project. The reason for writing one is so that all project team members are clear about what they’re working on and are on the same wavelength in their thinking and approach.
Why Is This Important?
If different team members interpret a problem differently, they may end up having to deal with disputes when designing and prioritizing the requirements with the solution criteria, reducing their effectiveness. Hence, it is important that everyone is on the same page in their understanding of an issue.
The 4 Key Elements of a Problem Statement
- The root cause of a problem
- Targeted product users/stakeholders
- Impacts of the problem
- Benefits/effects of proposed solutions
Let us examine the above 4 elements by putting them in the context of someone framing a problem statement, in this format, “the problem of W affects X, the impact of which is Y, so Z would be an appropriate solution.” Let us look at each of the key parts of this statement more closely:
- The Problem of — this pertains to identifying and defining the problem — What’s the root cause of a problem that we are trying to solve? What does the audience need? What are the problems or concerns the stakeholders have? What basic or lower-level things are hidden beneath bigger problems?
- Affects — here we understand who is the target audience and/or stakeholders who have been affected by a problem (includes users impacted directly or indirectly).
- The impact of which is — here we look at the effect a problem has on costs, issues, and other impacts — If a solution is unavailable then the business is impacted, and its outcomes can be severe. In other words, it can drive the market and that’s why an enterprise is compelled to solve the problem.
- An appropriate solution would be to — List advantages that will solve the business problem — “What features and attributes would an effective and/or convincing approach include? How will a (generic) solution do or fix core problems and requirements, or overcome these? A solution that offers such advantages or features will be exactly what the consumers expect, with performance or effects that add value to its implementation.
A Problem and Solution Statement Cover Three Basic Points
- Vision — What will be achieved if we will solve the problem?
- Problem statement — One or two statements describing the problem in simple words.
- Method — How is the problem going to be solved?
Leveraging the 5Ws of Information Gathering
The 5 W’s tool will help in understand any business problem and its related solutions by helping stakeholders procure all the required information they need surrounding an issue:
- Who — Who is affected by the problem? Is it a specific section of a group, customer, or enterprise?.
- What — What are the limitations of a problem (i.e. geographic, customer segments, etc.)? What is the impact of the problem? What would happen if we are unable to fix the problem?
- When — When does the problem occur? When does it need to be fixed?
- Where — Where is the occurrence of the problem?
- Why — Why is it so important to fix this problem?
Providing an answer for each of the above-mentioned points will help teams pin down the problem statement more easily and accurately.
I would like to conclude with a proverb — ‘A problem well stated is half solved!’. The better the clarity on what the team is trying to solve, the more effective they will be in solving the problem, and the more effectively the proposed solution can ‘fix’ the issues.
Thank you for reading!
Author — Santosh Kumar, DLT Labs™
About the Author: Santosh is a cheerful advocate of Agile (SCRUM) practices with an emphasis on leading team growth, working with DLT Labs as a Senior Business Analyst. He is a result-oriented professional translating business user concepts and ideas into comprehensive business requirements.
Disclaimer: This article was originally published on the DLT Labs Blog page: https://www.dltlabs.com/blog/what-is-a-problem-statement-149660