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Bring Your Problems and Check Your Solutions at the Door

10-10-11 Rob Harr

Rob Harr talks about our greatest service to clients, problem solving.

I love problem-solving. It is by far the best part of my job. I love any kind of technical, code, user experience, or even design problem. I enjoy most those in which technology can solve a business problem.

I really love it when someone walks in our door with a business problem that is costing them money. One of the first questions I always ask is, “Why is this a problem?” Also, “Why do you need to solve this problem?” And, “What is the pain point?” Truly understanding the problem always starts with why it needs to be solved.

The process that takes place between the presentation of a business problem and its solution is fun. Working at a software development shop, I get to work with many types of business, so I get to learn a little bit about a lot of industries. You do this enough times, you really start to gain a broad business understanding.

Lemons into Lemonade

To be completely honest, some of the best work that we do for our clients is problem-solving. Sure, we have the capability to write code, develop content, and produce beautiful design, but none of that matters if we aren’t creating the right code, strategic content, or the best design.

Problem-solving is actually some of the most valuable work that we do for our clients as well. Taking our technology expertise and coupling it with their business expertise allows us to really think outside the box for profitable solutions. We’ve found that creative solutions often come when a third party looks at a problem from outside normal day-to-day operations.

This value is lost when a client comes to the door with preset solutions, looking only for implementation. This isn’t to say that their solution is always bad, but often, it could be better. Outside perspective from an experienced partner can be invaluable. There is always benefit in the process, even if the original solution is eventually deemed the best. Having to explain the problem again allows one to see sides of it that may have been glazed over originally.

Example From the Sparkbox Office

Recently, we had a client starting a new development project. Over the last several years, they had gathered requirements and funding from their core business, and their team members had spent hundreds of hours understanding the problem and crafting a potential solution. They also decided that Sparkbox would be a good fit for design and front-end development for the project.

Our client could have just handed over their already-created wireframes, but they decided to instead start a knowledge transfer process which included five meetings lasting up to three hours. Quite an investment. During these meetings, we examined the problem together and brainstormed around their original solution. Almost all aspects of their solution were open for questioning. We started asking, “Why does the user need that?”

We were able to identify several things that could be removed for the user. Most of these things were indeed necessary for implementation or data modeling, but the end-user did not need to interact with them. Our client’s willingness to return with us to the beginning saved time, money, and developed a better solution for the user.

Next Time Around

When your next business problem arises, try asking someone with expertise in the problem’s medium but with only an outside knowledge of your day-to-day operations. You may be surprised at what you uncover together.

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A portrait of Vice President of Business Development, Katie Jennings.

Katie Jennings

Vice President of Business Development