Problem Definition

After Product Management opened their minds to understand the problems of customers, it’s now time to narrow down and select specific problems to address.

Problem Definition Phase
Problem Definition Phase

Key Objectives / Key Questions

Based on a deep understanding from the Problem Discovery phase, identify the most impactful opportunities to be worked on at later stages. Ping down the problems in sufficient detail to prepare UX and the Engineering team to join the process.

Key Activities

  • Continue carrying out customer interviews asking specifically for the importance or problems
  • Map the user journey to depict the complete context of the job-to-be-done
  • Make assumptions explicit and test them
  • Involve Customer Advisory Boards to help prioritize
  • Assess importance vs. satisfaction as seen by customers to help prioritize
  • Select and prioritize problems to continue in Solution Discovery

Exit Criteria

  • Product Managers can act as the “agent” for the problem and answer any questions that may come from UX and Devs related to value or viability.
  • Product Managers can describe how tackling a specific problem will support the Product Strategy.
  • Product Managers have selected the problems to tackle next and have sound rationales for that selection.

Involved Team Members

  • Product Managers are in the lead and accountable.
  • UX Research helps in sharpening problem understanding with customer interviews.
  • UX Design can narrow down usability issues of existing solutions.
  • Engineering team representatives can provide hints on related problems and their technical solutions.

Tools and Techniques

  • User journey mapping to illustrate the feelings of users along the various steps of their job
  • User stories to provide a sharp description of the problem to be tackled
  • How-might-we questions as a tool to focus on the problem but be open with respect to solutions
  • Value proposition as well as Insights and RTB to be specific of the value provided to users
  • Fake Door tests and other MVP techniques to validate the real need among target users in a systematic way
  • Opportunity Solution Tree or Impact Mapping to formalize all insights and learnings in a uniform and consistent framework
  • Importance vs. Satisfaction Assessment to compare and rank pain points of users in a formal manner

Things to Watch out for

  • As before, be patient and stay in the problem space.
  • Make sure every problem is well-understood. If not, rather go back to the previous step, Problem Discovery, to ensure a thorough understanding.
  • Don’t ask customers for solutions. Not at this stage. Actually, never ever. Customers are experts in describing their problems but cannot imagine great solutions.
  • Anticipate discussions with the Engineering team. This is the last step in the problem space. Once into the solution space, the Engineering team will open up an array of discussions. See which part might cause misunderstanding or over-complication, and try to minimize them in your communication.


As part of a bigger project at Quentic, we were redesigning the experience for deskless workers, or “people with busy hands”, as we called them internally. We envisioned a functionality that would allow administrators of customers to configure the relevant functionality based on available building blocks in a WYSIWYG manner.

By way of Problem Definition, we found out that while the ability to configure is a must-have, a WYSIWYG approach would be overkill. Even worse, administrators, as our target users, had a completely different approach in mind – which even simplified later implementation.