Writing a Killer Product Problem Statement: Why It's Crucial for Your Discovery Phase

Article by:
Anna Polovnikova
13 min
Creating a problem statement is much more important for effective product management than you might think. Keep reading to find out how it's done and why you should take it seriously.

You know how we all tend to jump the gun when we bump into a problem, itching to sort it out right here and right now? Well, in the business world, that's a no-go. Imagine hitting upon a problem that seems like everyone's nightmare. You're all, "This is it! I'm going to create a SaaS solution, make a fortune, and live the dream." You then shell out a good sum, roll up your sleeves for a prototype, and launch it with a bang.

But, here are the crickets and a tumbleweed blowing through your customer base. It turns out the "massive problem" you tackled is more of a rare blip that doesn't really twist anyone's arm.

About 34% of new products belly up because they miss the mark on product-market fit. That's right, a third of these bright ideas flunk because they either bark up the wrong tree, solving a "problem" that's not really a problem, or they don't solve anything at all.

So, before you sprint ahead with what you reckon is the next big thing, hit the pause button and craft a problem statement for a project. This document can save you from joining the 34% club, conserving your time, money, and sanity. Let's break down why, when, and how to write a problem statement that zeroes in on what matters, and review the examples of problem statements that do their task.

Product Problem Statement: the Essentials

First, we're about to take a look at the fundamental things: what a product statement represents, when, and why you need it.

Product Problem Statement Definition

What Is a Problem Statement

It's a super clear, no-frills way to spell out the headache your project is trying to kick to the curb. It talks about where things stand now, where you'd love them to be, and the gap in between — without diving into how you're planning to bridge that gap just yet.

This little gem digs into what's causing the issue, who's getting their feathers ruffled because of it, and why anyone should even care. It's a perfect tool for managers to get everyone on the same page, from the team working on it to the folks who wait on the sidelines, eager to see the problem get squashed.

When and Why to Use a Problem Statement

A product problem statement comes into play when you're trying to make things better, whether it's sprucing up how things are done, making an investor pitch of the project, that's going to reshape the rules, or making sure your product isn't just another one-hit-wonder.

A problem statement in product management can be beneficial for many reasons. Here's why product statements are the bee's knees:

  • They refine project proposals by telling you what you're fixing and making sure your plan is on point.
  • Whether you're a startup or the big kid on the block, a problem statement helps you stay laser-focused on what your customers are actually stressing about.
  • It lays out the wins of tackling the problem, making it a breeze to rally the troops and get the support you need.
  • A killer product problem statement gets everyone from different corners to huddle around a shared goal.
  • It zeros in on what's bugging users, paving the way for tweaks that make your product or service feel like a dream.

And when does rolling out a problem statement shine?

  1. When you're diving deep to understand customer gripes for smarter tweaks.
  2. When you're itching to up your game with some fresh innovations.
  3. When you're eyeing a new playground and want to hit the ground running.

In essence, it's a cornerstone for understanding and tackling the challenges that come your way, whether you're in the lab, streamlining your business, or cooking up the next big thing.

Why Is a Problem Statement So Important During the Project Discovery Phase? 

The discovery phase is a golden opportunity to set the tone for everything that follows. At the heart of this phase is the crafting of your problem statement — and it's much more than a formality. It's the action that can make or break the entire project. Getting the problem statement spot on during the discovery phase is absolutely crucial, so you and your team must know how to write a problem statement in product management. Here's why.

Why to Create a Problem Statement During the Project Discovery Phase

Locking in Success from the Start

In the discovery phase, laying out a precise problem statement for a project is similar to outlining your waypoints before a trek. It ensures you're heading straight towards your destination — solving the right customer problems with pinpoint accuracy.

Early Alignment with Customer Needs

Crafting a problem statement in product management makes sure that every note you play resonates perfectly with your audience's expectations and sets up a project that's truly in harmony with customer needs.

Market Sync-Up Moment

This is your chance to align your project's heartbeat with the market's pulse, too. As you start conducting market research, a timely problem statement ensures you're not just adding noise but hitting the right notes that the market wants to hear, right from the get-go.

Focus and Efficiency from the Word Go

Establishing your problem statement early acts as a filter and helps you sift through the endless possibilities to focus only on features and solutions that directly address your core customer issues. This not only saves time on feature prioritization but also keeps resources from being spread too thin on the non-essentials.

Guidance for Strategic Innovation

In these early moments, your problem statement becomes the north star for your project. It guides decision-making and sparks innovative solutions that are targeted and effective. It's the inspiration behind forming your product development roadmap and choosing paths that lead to breakthroughs that'll distinguish your project in the market.

Rallying Stakeholders Around a Clear Vision

Presenting a well-defined problem statement during the discovery phase is like unveiling a banner that everyone can rally around. It clarifies the project's purpose and potential impact, making it easier to secure buy-in and support from key stakeholders.

A Proactive Approach to Risk Management

Addressing the problem statement early gives you a leg up on identifying potential hurdles, the possible business and startup risks, and crafting strategies to navigate them. It's about foreseeing the challenges and having a game plan ready before they even arise.

Embedding a problem statement right at the start during the discovery phase is foundational to the project's success. It's about ensuring that every piece of the puzzle is aligned — from understanding your customer's woes to delivering a solution that hits the mark.

The discovery phase is your window to ask the right questions, listen carefully to the answers, and chart a course that's both ambitious and attuned to real-world needs. Skipping this step or getting it wrong can send you off course, but nail it, and you're on your way to making a meaningful impact. So, the discovery phase is when the seeds of success are planted through a well-articulated problem statement, setting the stage for everything that follows.

Need a hand with product development?

Upsilon's team can be with you all the way from the discovery phase to developing an MVP and then scaling your product.

Let's Talk

Need a hand with product development?

Upsilon's team can be with you all the way from the discovery phase to developing an MVP and then scaling your product.

Let's Talk

Key Elements of a Problem Statement

Nailing your problem statement is like drawing the perfect blueprint before construction — it's laying down a clear and compelling outline of the challenge ahead. Here's how to write a problem statement that hits home and resonates with everyone involved.

Problem Statement Fundamentals

1. Build the Core of Your Problem Statement

Identify the gap. This is where you spotlight the challenge, the thorn in your side, without veering off into solution land. Here, you're pointing out what's missing or going awry in the current landscape, clearly and concisely.

Identify the triggers. Next, paint the picture of how this problem came to be. Give the lay of the land — what conditions, trends, or behaviors are feeding into this issue? This context sets the stage and helps everyone grasp the size and scope of the problem. 

2. Give the Context of the Problem

Are there internal snags or external pressures adding fuel to the fire? Pinpoint why the go-to solutions aren't cutting it, laying bare the gap your project aims to fill. This deep dive sheds light on neglected corners and missed opportunities and guides a more focused attack on the problem.

3. Reveal the Impact of the Problem

Measure the impact. Here's where you bring out the scales and weigh the problem's toll — be it in dollars lost, time wasted, or quality compromised. Giving hard numbers or vivid examples of the fallout makes the problem impossible to ignore.

Analyze the ripple effect. Zoom in on who's feeling the pinch. How is this problem tripping up your customers or shaking the foundations of your organization? Illustrating the direct hit on your audience and stakeholders adds a sense of urgency and relevance to the challenge.

4. Understand the Importance of Solving the Problem

Why is tackling this problem not just important but mission-critical? Connect the dots between solving this issue and achieving your organizational ambitions, delighting your customers, and strengthening your stance in the market. It's about painting a picture of the brighter future that solving this problem can unlock.

By weaving these components into your problem statement, you're building momentum for a movement. It transforms from a mere statement into a narrative that captivates, convinces, and compels action to ensure everyone from the ground floor to the boardroom is locked in and ready to contribute to the solution.

Characteristics of a Good Problem Statement

A solid product problem statement example won't be a novel. It packs a punch in a few tight lines. Think of it as distilling your challenge down to its essence and getting rid of all the fluff. If your statement starts to look more like a sprawling epic than a sharp insight, it's time to trim the fat and get to the heart of the matter.

Besides, pick your battles wisely by focusing on a single, pinpointed issue in your problem statement. It's tempting to throw everything but the kitchen sink in there, especially when a problem seems multi-headed. But keeping your eye on one clear target keeps your project's efforts streamlined and potent. Aim at channelling your resources where they can make a real difference.

Finally, can you put a number on your problem — and, by extension, on your success? Spell out the challenge in terms you can count, weigh, or measure. The main idea here is to set the stage for tangible, achievable goals. When you can measure your problem, you've laid the groundwork for measuring your triumphs, too.

By taking on brevity, focusing fiercely, and insisting on measurability, you're not just crafting a problem statement — you're sharpening a tool. This approach ensures that when you're ready to tackle the problem head-on, you're doing so with clarity, precision, and a clear path to success.

How to Write a Product Problem Statement in 5 Steps

We've already provided solid advice on how to craft a product problem statement, but let's wrap it up once again in five simple actions.

Creating a Problem Statement in 5 Steps

Step 1. Identify the Problem

Plant yourself right where the problem lives — be it in customer support interactions or on the front lines of your product. Gather data and keep your eyes peeled for patterns that hint at deeper issues.

Example: After sifting through user feedback and crunching the numbers on app use, it turns out 60% of folks bail on the app drop off in the middle of signing up. 

Step 2. Put the Problem into Context

Take a step back and see the bigger picture. How's this problem shaking things up for your customers or your bottom line? Understanding the ripple effect helps you figure out where to focus your energy.

Example: That steep dropout rate souring first impressions of the app, which could ding your brand's street cred and erode trust.

Step 3. Get to the Root Cause

It's detective time — start asking why to drill down to what's really causing the problem. This might mean your first hunches don't hold water, so be ready to pivot.

Example: After chatting up users and running some A/B tests, the culprit emerged. The signup form was as long and complicated as a tax return, scaring users off.

Step 4. Set Your Goal and Desired Outcome

Think about what victory looks like. What changes or results are you gunning for? This is not about slapping on a band-aid; it's about real, lasting fixes. Use this vision to chart out clear, achievable targets.

Example: Make the signup process a breeze and slash that dropout rate by at least 30%.

Step 5. Provide a Solution

Time to bring out the big ideas. Based on everything you've learned, lay out some solid strategies for tackling the problem. Throwing a few options into the mix gives you the flexibility to choose the best path forward. Weigh the pros and cons of each, thinking about time, money, and how likely they are to work out.

Walking through these steps turns the often-daunting task of problem statement creation into a clear-cut process. For sure, it can be a bit of a challenge, so check the examples of problem statements below. 

Examples of Problem Statements (+ Template Inside)

These examples are a set of things we've already seen in the projects as well as we've seen them work perfectly for achieving certain goals.

Problem Statement Template

Let's use this template to break down how to write a problem statement that's going to hit home. 

Product Problem Statement Layout

Let's chop it up:

As a [USER],
I'm trying to [MOTIVATION],
So I can [EXPECTED OUTCOME],
But [PROBLEM],
Which makes me feel [EMOTION].

User

This is about who's on the other side of the screen. Think of them as the hero of your story. Are they busy moms, tech-savvy teens, or maybe stressed-out students? Getting a clear picture of your user helps you create user stories and tailor your app just right.

Motivation

Here's where you dig into what's driving your user. What's their big goal? Using the Jobs-to-be-Done startup framework is like figuring out the job they're hiring your product to do. Maybe they want to streamline their day, find the perfect chill playlist, or ace their next exam.

Expected Outcome

Imagine (or simply ask during an interview) what success looks like for your user. If they're using your app or product, what's the win they're hoping for? This could be anything from crushing their daily tasks with time to spare to discovering new tunes that hit just right.

Problem

What's stopping them from getting to that oh-so-sweet outcome? This is your chance to pinpoint the obstacle that's been tripping them up. Keep it clear and snappy, no need for a deep dive yet.

Emotion

Last but not least, how's this problem making them feel? Frustrated? Annoyed? Totally over it? Tapping into the emotional side of the equation helps you understand the real impact of the problem, shaping how you approach your solution.

Stirring it all together

Using this product problem statement template, you're telling a story — one that starts with your user's hopes and hurdles and ends with how you're stepping in to save the day. It's making that connection, showing you get what they're going through, and you're here with the fix they've been looking for.

Problem Statement Examples 

Finally, we've gathered some good examples that might be relevant to the industry and some tech startup ideas you might operate in.

Freelancer Client Management

  • Problem statement: As a freelance graphic designer (USER) I'm trying to manage multiple client projects efficiently (MOTIVATION), so I can deliver quality work on time and grow my business (EXPECTED OUTCOME). I find it challenging to keep track of project timelines, client communications, and invoices (PROBLEM). It leads to stress and potential loss of business (EMOTION).
  • Actionable insight: Develop an app that integrates project management, client communication, and invoicing features tailored for freelancers, aiming to streamline workflows and reduce administrative burden.

Local Market Discovery for Entrepreneurs

  • Problem statement: As a young entrepreneur (USER) I'm looking to understand local market trends and consumer preferences (MOTIVATION) to make informed decisions about launching an MVP, new product, or service (EXPECTED OUTCOME). I struggle to find relevant and up-to-date local market data (PROBLEM). It results in uncertainty and missed opportunities (EMOTION).
  • Actionable insight: Create a service that provides real-time local market insights and trends analysis that'll help entrepreneurs identify opportunities, handle startup analytics better, and make data-driven decisions.

Networking Event Matchmaking

  • Problem statement: As an aspiring entrepreneur (USER) I'm seeking to connect with like-minded individuals and potential mentors not only in startup communities but at networking events (MOTIVATION) to expand my professional network and gain insights (EXPECTED OUTCOME). I find it difficult to identify and approach the right contacts (PROBLEM). It leads to missed connections and frustration (EMOTION).
  • Actionable insight: Develop an app that uses event attendee profiles and interests to suggest personalized networking matches to facilitate meaningful connections at professional events.

Startup Legal Guidance

  • Problem statement: As a first-time startup founder (USER) I'm trying to navigate legal requirements for my new business (MOTIVATION) to ensure compliance and protect my interests (EXPECTED OUTCOME). I'm overwhelmed by the complexity and cost of legal advice (PROBLEM). It causes anxiety and potential legal risks (EMOTION).
  • Actionable insight: Offer an online service that provides affordable, tailored legal guidance and document templates for startups, simplifies legal processes like startup incorporation, and reduces stress for entrepreneurs.

Time Management for Side Hustlers

  • Problem statement: As a young professional with a side hustle (USER) I'm attempting to balance my full-time job, side project, and personal life (MOTIVATION) to achieve success without burnout (EXPECTED OUTCOME). I struggle to manage my time effectively (PROBLEM). It leads to stress and compromised productivity (EMOTION).
  • Actionable insight: Create an app that helps side hustlers prioritize tasks, set boundaries, and track progress across multiple commitments to promote work-life balance and productivity

Looking for a tech partner?

Upsilon's team has talented experts who can help you develop your product from the very start.

Talk to Us

Looking for a tech partner?

Upsilon's team has talented experts who can help you develop your product from the very start.

Talk to Us

Final Word

Nailing your product problem statement is like drawing the best map for your team's treasure hunt — it's what points everyone in the right direction and makes sure you're all hunting for the same treasure.

In the wild journey of taking a new product from just a spark of an idea to something that's rocking the market, having a crystal-clear problem statement means your efforts are sharp, on point, and really going to make a splash. It's the first big step that sets the course, keeps everyone on the same page, and guarantees that when you finally unveil your creation, it's not just meeting the mark — it's making users sit up and take notice.

For trailblazers like us, this is how we roll, making sure we are not just filling a gap in the market but making the customers' day better, one innovative solution at a time. And that's the magic of a well-crafted product problem statement — it's not about simply getting the job done; it's about smashing the goals and sparking some serious innovation.

If you need a hand with your product, Upsilon's experienced team will be happy to assist you from the early product discovery stages to MVP development and its further scaling. We've built several of our own products and helped many customers successfully launch theirs, so don't be shy to reach out to us to discuss the details.

scroll
to top

Read Next

How to Build an AI App: The Ultimate Guide
Product Development

How to Build an AI App: The Ultimate Guide

16 min
Best Startup Podcasts to Grow and Inspire Your Business
Building a startup

Best Startup Podcasts to Grow and Inspire Your Business

11 min
Integrating Third Party Apps into Your Product: Benefits and Best Practices
Discovery, Product development

Integrating Third Party Apps into Your Product: Benefits and Best Practices

15 min