The Importance of Problem Solving in Software Development

As John Dewey has famously said, ‘A problem well stated is a problem half solved’. Yet, it is very rare in the realm of software development that clients come bringing the correctly identified issues their projects aim at solving. 

The reality is this: clients approach software agencies seeking solutions to their unique challenges, often having a general idea of what they want but struggling to pinpoint the root cause of their issues. 

This, more often than not, leads to the creation of countless platforms, websites and apps that are good-willingly trying to solve problems that don’t really exist. Hence, it is crucial to look past the obvious and listen through the noise in order to determine the real headache and offer a suitable fix based on rational insight.

A potential obstacle in search for the truth has to be addressed, called the allure of obvious solutions. When clients approach a software agency with a problem, they often come armed with preconceived ideas of what the solution should be. 

While these ideas might seem appealing, they may not always address the core issue. As software experts, our role is to guide clients through a thorough discovery process to uncover the underlying problems that need attention.

Thankfully, there is a whole world of problem-solving skills and tools that come in handy determining concerns to be solved. One of the tools are Discovery Workshops that we in most cases offer to clients at either the very beginning of the project or, otherwise, when we are invited to a project’s rescue mission.

Discovery Workshop

There is a great deal of eye-opening, practical experience in the following quote from Alice Hoffmann who wrote that “Every problem has a solution, although it may not be the outcome that was originally hoped for or expected”. Its greatness comes from its truth as we’ve experienced it many times first hand. 

We’ve been there an incalculable number of times when a team of founders or stakeholders gathered for a Discovery Workshop, simply waiting for their assumptions to be confirmed.

They often come with both a problem and a solution. Quite regularly missing both. They soon realise the real goal of such workshops. It is not to sustain a confirmation bias but rather to identify the real issue and a solution that addresses it, albeit the initial intentions of the team involved might have been elsewhere.

Do the founders have the guts to use this newly-founded knowledge and pivot their previous idea into what the market may potentially want? Or will they stick to something they came up with in hopes that it will magically bear fruits? As an agency we only work with the former for numerous reasons, as the founders embodying the latter approach are a red flag and may have troubles facing the reality and taking responsibility for their decision later on.

There’s a quote for that, too. “The problem is not to find the answer, it’s to face the answer”. And how you face it, says everything about you as a founder and as a person. From our standpoint it is the indicator of where you will be in a couple of months, so it’s really a business decision for an agency as well. There goes another advantage of a Discovery Workshop, even if it’s a by-product.

Along with Discovery Workshops but also possibly as stand-alone tools, there are some valuable skills and approaches, among others, that we use. They are:

  1. The Art of Listening
  2. Reading Between the Lines
  3. Analysing User Behaviour
  4. Collaboration and Empowerment
  5. Iterative Development and Flexibility
  6. Parallel Thinking

We’ll tackle them one by one.

The Art of Listening

Effective communication lies at the heart of any successful software project. As we engage with clients, listening becomes our most potent tool. Clients might not always articulate their challenges clearly, and it is our responsibility to actively listen, ask probing questions, and discern patterns to get to the root of the matter. This empathetic approach allows us to grasp the client’s perspective fully and understand their pain points, which sometimes may be hidden in plain sight even for them.

Reading Between the Lines

During the discovery stage or project rescues, we often encounter clients who have faced failed attempts at solving their problems. By analysing these previous solutions, we can glean valuable insights into the actual issues. Sometimes, clients might be too close to the problem to see the bigger picture, and that’s where our fresh perspective comes into play.

Analysing User Behaviour

User behaviour is a rich source of information that can reveal the true pain points users experience. Whether it’s through user interviews, analytics data, or user testing, examining how users interact with the existing solution sheds light on areas that demand improvement. Understanding user needs allows us to align our solution with the end-users’ expectations.

Collaboration and Empowerment

Collaboration between the software agency and the client is crucial throughout the development process. By involving the client in the problem-solving journey, we empower them to actively participate in shaping the solution. This not only fosters a sense of ownership but also leads to a more refined and tailored outcome. It also makes the stakeholders responsible for the outcome and derisks many potential drawbacks.

Iterative Development and Flexibility

In the quest for finding the real problem and crafting a suitable solution, we must be open to iteration and adaptability. The software development process is rarely linear, and embracing change is essential. By staying agile, we can refine the solution based on feedback and ensure its effectiveness. We know there may be some pivots along the way of building an MVP or refining an already existing solution, as long as stakeholders are open to change and willingly listen to the market’s feedback, the change is inevitable.

Parallel Thinking

Parallel thinking, also known as lateral thinking or Six Thinking Hats, is a problem-solving technique that involves exploring a problem or opportunity from different angles simultaneously, rather than sequentially or adversarially. It was developed by Edward de Bono, a pioneer of creative thinking, who coined the term “lateral thinking“. The technique involves thinking about a problem from different perspectives at the same time. It helps to identify different solutions and choose the best one. This approach encourages collaboration and constructive thinking, where each thinker puts forward their thoughts in parallel with the thoughts of others, rather than attacking or criticising each other’s ideas.


In the ever-changing software development ecosystem, the ability to identify the real problem and offer suitable solutions is a defining characteristic of successful software agencies. By looking past the obvious, listening intently, and engaging in effective collaboration during Discovery Workshops, we can unearth the true challenges that clients face and provide them with impactful solutions.

As technology continues to advance, honing these problem-solving skills becomes increasingly vital, ensuring that software agencies remain at the forefront of meeting clients’ needs and exceeding their expectations. 

We want to be the epitome of the industry change and lead the charge toward a future where software solutions genuinely address real-world problems. Instead of doing more and more useless software products aimed at nobody, we’d rather make those that offer solutions to greatly identified, real-life problems that end-users are facing.

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