April 6, 2015

Addressing a Problem, Not Pushing Technology

“How can we use the Apple Watch?”

“How can we leverage NFC?”

“Let’s do something with Apple Health!”

These are questions or comments that I hear from clients, friends, prospective clients, etc. All of these individuals want to start with a particular technology and find the solution it solves. This is the proverbial “square peg into a round hole.”

Define the Problem and the Technology Will Follow

At 3Pillar, we try to look at the problem you want to solve first before doing anything else. What is your pain point? What are your customers’ pain points? The problem identified will help lead us to the right technology solution. It might be what we have been thinking all along or it might be something completely different.

When NFC first came about, the industry wanted to push it down the consumer’s throat. How can we get NFC to stick? Samsung’s attempt was to show two Samsung devices could share pictures by tapping phones, or that you could connect wirelessly to a speaker by placing a phone on top of the speaker. The reason why it didn’t take off was because those solutions Samsung came up with were never real problems for consumers.

Want to send a photo? In all but the rarest of circumstances, texting or emailing it to you is more convenient than “bumping” phones with you. Or you could check it out on my Instagram or Facebook account. You want to connect wirelessly to a speaker? Try using Bluetooth and you’ll still have the freedom of being able to have the phone in your pocket – or your hand – rather than sitting on top of a speaker.

Real-World Examples

Another example of putting the problem before the solution is Google Now. Their problem was inaccurate dictation. The problem Google realized was users becoming frustrated with the voice dictation accuracy when users interacted with their devices via voice.

Stories like the fictional one below happened all too often:

User: “Okay Google. Call Bob.”

Google Now: “Okay. Calling Mom.”

User: “NO! Cancel. Abort. Stop. Oh, hey Mom! Sorry its been awhile. How’s Dad?”

To combat this, Google came out with Google 411. Why? To help everyone find the number to their local pizza delivery?

Google realized that they needed N number of times of different accents, male/female, pitches, etc. to say “Bob” versus “Mom” so that Google Now will be able to decipher which was intended.


All too often we see the big lights. We see the end game and not how to get there. I’m sure when Apple thought about mobile payment, they did not say, “We need to use NFC.” It would be safe to assume that they looked at various data transmitting technologies from beacons, to Bluetooth, to NFC, and beyond.

3Pillar constantly pushes our clients and prospective clients to think about the root cause. The main pain point. The problem. Once we can identify the problem, we can only then begin to think about the solution.