What’s The Problem You’re Trying to Solve?


Having attended CeBIT yesterday and speaking on a panel about Big Data, I was reminded of one of the key questions, as leaders, that we need to ask.

What is the problem that we are trying to solve?

Often we have experts, and of course vendors/solution providers, who are looking to sell us or implement a solution that they have discovered, such Big Data, or Cloud Services, etc., etc.  What we need to understand before we buy or invest, is do we have that problem.

Just because someone has a solution it doesn’t mean that we need to buy it or even use. If the solution doesn’t solve a problem for us then it’s just a waste of money.

I am a big believer in the benefits of both Cloud Services, and Big Data, but if we do not know what the problem is that we are trying to solve then we could end up investing millions without seeing any return on investment.

I was chatting with senior exec from a Power Management company the other day, and he was telling me that they were using big data to analyse the power consumption of devices to be able to reduce the power costs for their clients.

One of the things they noticed, when analysing the data, was that there were small anomalies in power consumption on some devices, and on further investigation they found that these anomalies were actually earning warnings that the devices were about to fail. Using this information they were able to warn their customers about the device failures so that they could replace them and prevent any issues.

Now whilst this is a great example of the benefits that big data can provide, this solution was actually found by chance, they were not looking to solve device failure problems, they just stumbled upon it. They didn’t even know that some devices had power consumption anomalies before failing.

Big Data is a huge trend at the moment, gaining masses of momentum, with people everywhere in every sphere of business, looking to see what their big data strategy is, and how they will analyse their big data.

But what problems are they looking to solve?

If you know what your problems are, and you believe that big data holds the answer, then the investment maybe worthwhile.

But if you are looking for a problem that big data maybe the answer to, then I would suggest that you need to stop any investment until you know the answer to that question.

I don’t believe that with Big Data it’s like in the movie Field of Dreams with the thought that, ‘if you build it they will come’.

I think we need to be smarter than that. Even if we know the problem we’re trying to fix, it could be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

If we don’t know what the problem is then we will be just randomly searching haystacks in the hope of finding something which might ultimately be useful, or not.

It is easy to just follow the crowd and go with the latest trends and buzzwords, but that not leadership, thats just following.

As leaders we need to ask and be sure that we know ‘whats the problem we’re trying to solve‘, and if we don’t know that then we should think twice before we invest time and money.

Do you have any experiences you can share where you have implemented a solution without know what the problem was you were trying to solve? I’d love to hear them.

Gordon Tredgold

Leadership Principles