What is Problem Identification?

Problem Scenarios as a Device

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Last week we looked at Personas as a means of product concept investigation. This method focuses on the people who may use the products being considered for development. Problem scenarios focus on the various problems the product is intended to solve for these personas.

Problem scenarios are a good way to take a high level look at what an ordinary customer might encounter, the problems they need to solve, and the challenges they face in doing so.

A mother may need to provide a nutritious but easy to prepare meal for her busy family.  They need a quick meal, but not just any fast-food pickup. It needs to be healthy, quick to prepare within tight time constraints, and tasty.

Problem Scenarios – Different Types

A problem scenario can take different forms depending on the product concept under consideration and the level of detail you want captured in the scenario.

The first type of problem scenario is the Simple Story. This can include a few paragraphs or a few key bullets. Key elements to include in a Simple Story are:

  • Who is the primary persona in the scenario? Usually there is one, but sometimes there can be several, depending on the product.
  • What are the location and timeframe for the scenario? Does it occur at home, in the office, or somewhere else?
  • What is the goal of the persona? What is the high-level objective the persona is trying to achieve. For example: Provide a quick to prepare, tasty, and healthy meal, hear music on a patio, etc.
  • What are the common steps taken to achieve the goal? What are the most basic tasks a person will need to undertake to reach the goal? These should illustrate the challenges and frustrations the persona encounters in the quest. These also should encompass how the persona would proceed using current solutions and products available in the market. The result of this step will be a complete start-to-finish set of activities. It will give a bird’s eye view of the situation.
  • What major decisions must the persona make during the workflow? If the product is complex, such as software or services, there may be several paths that can be taken depending on decisions made. For example, let’s consider a product team attempting to create an online order form. Decisions the persona would need to make might include which credit card to use, do they want gift wrap, where will the item be sent, how much does the persona need to purchase in order to get free shipping, and that’s just the start of the possible decisions.

Looking Ahead

Next week we’ll take a look at another type of problem scenario you can use in your product concept investigation: Story Boarding.


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