What is a problem statement?
A problem statement is a clear and concise description of a problem that needs to be solved. It describes the context of the problem, the problem itself, and the potential impact of the problem.
A problem statement is like a map.
Just as a map shows the location of a destination and the route that needs to be taken to reach it, a problem statement identifies a problem that needs to be solved and provides the context and potential impact of the problem.
A map helps guide your journey and helps you avoid obstacles or detours along the way. Similarly, a problem statement helps guide the problem-solving process and helps you focus on the most important aspects of the problem.
For example, imagine you are planning a road trip and you want to visit several different cities. You might create a map that shows the location of each city and the route you need to take to get there. This map would be like a problem statement, because it clearly defines the destination (the cities you want to visit) and the route you need to take to get there (the problem that needs to be solved). The map provides enough information for you to understand your journey and make informed decisions about how to reach your destination.
In other words
Your problem statement clearly defines the problem that you are looking to solve.
Why is a problem statement important?
It's one thing to know what a problem statement is, but that is worthless if you don't know why you should know what a problem statement is in the first place. Let's break down the importance of this tech term based on two high level categories. We'll walk through an explanation as well as provide a score, 1-10, that shows you how much you should care about a problem statement.
The first will be if you do not have a product yet. This means that you don't have a physical product. Maybe you're in the ideation phase, or maybe you're almost ready to start development. Whichever it is, we'll get into why a problem statement is important and why you should or shouldn't care about it if you do not have a product.
A problem statement should be developed before your product as it will help guide your company direction, ensuring your product roadmap stays aligned with the exact problem you are trying to solve.
The second category is if you do have a live product. Maybe you just launched your business or maybe it's been live for years and you're continuing to improve its quality. Regardless of the scenario, if your product is live, a problem statement carries a different weight.
If you have a product, then hopefully it was built to solve a specific problem. You should still identify your problem statement to help ensure future development is focused on the problem at hand rather than a specific solution itself.
Examples of problem statements
So you know what a problem statement is, by definition. You know if you should care about it or not depending on your situation as a business/company/product. To dig in deeper, we will walk through some examples so we can make sure you really have a solid grasp on a problem statement.
In each of these examples below, the problem statement clearly defines the problem (declining sales, slow website loading speed, high absenteeism), the context (the impact of the problem on the organization), and the potential impact (negative impact on productivity and morale). It provides enough information for someone to understand the problem and why it needs to be addressed.
- The sales of our product have been declining over the past year, and we need to identify the cause and develop a plan to reverse the trend.
- Our website's loading speed is slow, causing frustration for users and leading to a high bounce rate. We need to find a way to improve the loading speed and increase user satisfaction.
- There is a high rate of absenteeism among our employees, which is negatively impacting productivity and morale. We need to identify the root causes of the absenteeism and implement solutions to improve attendance.
- A problem statement is a clear and concise description of a problem that needs to be solved.
- You should develop a problem statement regardless if you have a product or not.