Pain Points & Bottlenecks

Identify relevant business problems to solve with AI

Hi there,

If you read my newsletter, you know that I say "start with the business" when starting with AI - and too often this is already a challenge.

What are relevant business problems, anyway? Many people struggle to identify and articulate these problems in a way that actually facilitates problem solving - especially with AI.

So today I'm going to share a framework I use in my consulting practice that can help you with this.

Let's dive in!

When you have an AI hammer, everything looks like a nail

Many people struggle to pinpoint or articulate the issues within their organization that AI can effectively address.

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that AI is a one-size-fits-all solution, like assuming that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

However, to harness the true potential of AI, it's essential to focus on the specific pain points and bottlenecks in your business - and then assess whether they are actually a good fit to be solved by AI.

To help you navigate this process, I'd like to introduce the Pain Points & Bottlenecks Framework. This framework categorizes business problems into two main areas:

  • Pain points are things that are hurting your business right now.

  • Bottlenecks are things that will hurt your business in the future.

Depending on your role and priorities as a business leader, you might find yourself focusing more on one of these categories. Let's dive deeper into each one.

Pain Points

To recap: Pain points are things that are hurting your business NOW. It’s either revenue lost, unnecessary costs or bad customer experience.

To uncover pain points in your business, consider the following strategies:

Identify Frustrations: Start with internal surveys or interviews to understand where your team or customers are facing the most frustration. High-effort tasks that bring little value are prime candidates.

Analyze Existing Workflows: Look into your current workflows and identify areas where tasks are repetitive, time-consuming, or prone to human error. AI can often augment these tasks, freeing up human resources for more valuable work.

Customer Service Analysis: Customer service interactions can be a goldmine of pain points. Analyze complaints and queries to understand what aspects of your product or service could be improved with AI.

Competitive Analysis: Look at where competitors are applying AI effectively. This can highlight industry pain points that are ripe for innovation.

Document your findings so you can prioritize them in the next step.

Bottlenecks

Bottlenecks will only become real problems in the future. They are things that limit your competitive advantage or prevent you from realizing new business potential (aka innovation).

To find bottlenecks in your organization, consider the following:

Capacity Limitations: Check where your operations hit a ceiling. This could be data processing limits, the speed of analyzing information, or physical constraints in production or service delivery.

Skill Gaps: Are there areas where your team lacks expertise, causing bottlenecks? Popular topics include data literacy, agile delivery, and digital products.

Scalability Issues: Consider where your current processes may not scale efficiently with growth because they become either too expensive or inferior in quality. On-brand content creation, relevant business intelligence, and first-level customer support are prime examples.

Innovation Blockers: Sometimes the desire to innovate is there, but technological or organizational limitations stand in the way of delivering new ways to delight your customers. Think about new product features, services, or entirely new business models.

All of the above give you a lever to innovate and work proactively for your future business success. In many cases - not all - AI can be a great help.

Prioritization

Once you have identified the nature of your problems and categorized them as either pain points (current problems affecting your business) or bottlenecks (future challenges that may impede growth), your next step would be to detail the impact and prioritize them.

Quantify or describe the relevance of these issues to your business operations, revenue, customer experience, etc.

For pain points, you can use a scale similar to the pain scale or just rank pains by severity.

For bottlenecks, you can measure ratio between perceived (possible) output and the current implementation.

Think of it as a pressure gauge.

What would happen if you remove the bottleneck? Would the gauge implode or would the needle hardly change?

You can use a rough percentage scale, or again, just rank the different bottlenecks to get a prioritization.

Next Steps

Having a list of prioritized pain points and bottlenecks puts you in a great position to map out AI capabilities and perform an initial quick assessment to check how complex it would be to facilitate supporting problem solving with AI. (A topic, about I’ll write in another edition.)

From there, you're one step further down your AI roadmap.

Conclusion

Using the Pain Points & Bottlenecks framework, you can systematically identify areas where AI can potentially have a big impact on your business.

This targeted approach ensures that your AI investments are aligned with your business goals and deliver measurable results.

And before you know it, you'll have unlocked business AI solutions you wish you'd had yesterday.

Keep innovating!

Until next Friday,

Tobias

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