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Dec 01, 2020

What Exactly Is Problem Framing?

by Alix Plamondon-Lemieux Sales representative

Digital transformation

In the context of the digital transformation of our companies and the trend toward the rapid adoption of new technologies, the complexity of the problems to be solved and their prioritization become crucial issues to invest time and money in the right place in your organization.

What makes it even more complex is that there are so many ways to be more efficient that you don’t know where to start, which technologies to use, and how to validate if you are really investing in the right place. It’s great to consider robots in your plant, but do they really help you where you need them most? These are exactly the questions we want to address with the problem framing methodology.

Problem framing is a creative approach that seeks to frame at the very beginning of a digital transformation what problems to address and prioritize. This approach prevents you from investing in problem-solving that leads to an innovation road map with disappointing results. In general, the duration of a problem framing workshop varies from two to three days only. Our role here is to challenge you, to make you see the potential of certain technologies, and to put a realistic spin on even the best ideas.

Having a fresh look at your company will allow you to think about issues you may no longer see daily and to think in terms of real and concrete problems before moving into solution mode.

3 Main Steps of Problem Framing

To introduce you to problem framing, it is important to first select the key participants who will lead the success of this approach. We normally target between three and six participants, but each company has its own reality, so the workshops are adapted to what works best for you. We try to bring to the table all those who are affected by the analyzed process and are, therefore, aware of its problems, whether they are managers or not.

01.  Exploring the problem

The first step is to explore the day-to-day issues from the perspective of each participant. This aims to highlight the desired “destination” in terms of innovation and/or change.

This step also aims to identify the vision of the future and what helps and will help you move forward. Therefore, it is essential to list not only the elements that can help you reach your target but also everything that prevents you from innovating, what slows you down, or what could potentially block you in the implementation of new technologies.

02.  Perception of the complexity of the problems

Now that your team is warmed up and the ice is broken, it’s the perfect time to collect all the concerns and opportunities reflected in the first step and categorize them according to their level of complexity.

A situation can be simple, complicated, complex, or even chaotic, so to facilitate categorization, we rely on the Cynefin Framework. To spare you one more Google search, here is an example.

The most important thing is to reach a common understanding and obtain a result that rallies the whole team. We quickly identify elements that may be either very costly to solve or simply unsolvable and those that probably should have been solved long ago. The idea is not to discourage you but rather to get a real overview of the business. 

03.  Impact analysis and prioritization

The objective of the third and final step is to prioritize and classify each of the projects raised in the previous step. Is my project easily achievable? Will it bring me significant gains? You have to ask yourself the right questions to know what your company should prioritize and, above all, to ensure that you meet your business objectives. A project can be placed under three different categories:

  • Incremental projects
  • Quick wins
  • Big bets

Incremental projects are essential to achieve, even if they have a low impact on the company and are easy to implement (for example, managing updates to your computer systems). It gets really interesting when you focus on your quick wins and big bets because they address a real problem and will allow you to reach your objectives, in addition to having important financial benefits. 

That said, a big bet always needs to be chosen carefully to ensure that it doesn’t take too much risk in its digital transformation, especially at the beginning. A quick win, on the other hand, has the highest ROI and the lowest risk.

The integration of new technologies will often have a high level of complexity, which is why it is important to select a software development partner with proven expertise.

In Brief

After only a few days, problem framing will allow you to identify the issues to prioritize to implement or continue your digital transformation. With a clear head, you will be able to move on to the project shaping stage to perfectly frame each of the projects classified as priorities.

Intéressé à faire un problem framing?

Par où commencer sa transformation digitale, quelles technos choisir, et comment valider si on investit vraiment à la bonne place? Toutes des questions auxquelles nous répondrons avec un problem framing!