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Product development at Minddistrict with the help of the opportunity solution tree

From functionality factory to problem solvers

While getting a cup of coffee, your phone vibrates in your pocket. At a glance, you see that some of your clients have made good progress with their modules, except for one person. You see that he is stuck in a chapter, and you quickly note in your reminders list that you will send him some encouragement later that day. Additionally, a colleague has some questions about a particular case, and after a short video call you come to an agreement. You can keep a clear overview of your entire caseload through one channel, and your day is off to a flying start!

Unfortunately, the alarm clock rings and you wake up. This ideal world turns out to be a dream after all. In reality, you still have to get to work with countless systems, each with their own manual, while you yourself have a very diverse caseload that requires a wide range of treatment protocols and methods. And why do you have to dig so deep into your platform to monitor your clients' progress?!


Seeing the forest for the trees

Organisations, professionals and clients all have their own wishes, frustrations and needs. These problems and obstacles quickly lead to new ideas on how to overcome them - yet these solutions may not always lead to the elimination of a problem. After all, the landscape of digital systems, client conditions and treatment protocols is so diverse that there is sometimes little overlap in these wishes and needs.

As a result, proposed new functionalities do not always lead to the desired effect. Adding wildly different functionalities that all try to address part of the underlying problem, where users end up being unable to achieve their ultimate goal, can actually create problems rather than solve them. What's more, sometimes a new functionality is not the right solution for the underlying problem at all, and a different approach is needed. In order to see the forest for the trees, Minddistrict's product developers started to use the so-called 'opportunity solution tree' model, popularised by Teresa Torres.

The opportunity solution tree

Teresa Torres is a product discovery coach at Product Talk and has helped many companies with product development over the years. She saw that many companies had the same problems we've mentioned, and so she developed the opportunity solution tree. In this model, you set goals and determine which opportunities contribute to them. You then create a solution for them.

For product developers, understanding the goals of the healthcare organisations that use our product is essential. What is ehealth, and specifically our product, used for? What is the purpose? By answering those questions, you can make a connection between a request and an underlying problem. From a shared understanding of how we can work together, we can contribute to the specific objectives. But that does not mean we have the right solution.

To find that solution, it is important to jointly look at opportunities. What opportunities are there that could contribute to the right outcomes for the organisation? Only when we know this, can we link any existing barriers to them, after which we can devise and implement successful, concrete solutions. That is why the model is called the 'opportunity/solution tree': you create a tree with many branches of opportunities and solutions. By taking a closer look at this together with the healthcare professionals encountering these problems everyday, we can come to the best and most feasible solution more quickly.

Reaching the ideal world

So, to ensure that the right problems are addressed with the right priorities, we have moved away from solution thinking. It can feel very logical to think in terms of solutions, but it can also lead to a problem getting too little attention and therefore often not being properly mapped out. This can leave you with solutions that do not solve the problem at all.

Instead, we look at opportunities and what outcomes we can best support with them. Are we looking at the most important barriers and objectives of an organisation? And what would ultimately contribute to a better experience on the platform for professionals and their clients?

Only in this way can we, in collaboration with the organisations that we work with, better assess whether a functionality that we develop makes a positive contribution to their goals and how they deploy digital therapy.

An example: feedback moments

To give an example, let's look at the feedback moments within Minddistrict's online modules. These are sections of a module specifically for giving feedback, and enable the care provider to support their client, reflect on the progress made and encourage the individual to continue. For clients, the feedback is often of great importance on their route to recovery.

However, every care professional has different expectations when it comes to ease of use, what is intuitive or their own personal way of working. We want to provide the best possible user experience for as many professionals using our platform as possible - regardless of how long they've been using it, or the way in which they use it. This diversity among users can seem daunting, as it can mean many options and many problems.

That's where the opportunity solution tree comes in. By crafting a shared understanding between stakeholders and our product development teams, we can make well-balanced decisions on what to solve first and the direction to take.

Firstly, we collected information: survey feedback from platform users, wishes and complaints observed by our service desk staff and insights gained during interviews with professionals from a variety of care settings. We then used all of this to map a tree, with branches covering missed opportunities, problems to solve, and steps we could consider to make the lives of our users easier.

This tree allowed us to see what should be prioritised, allowing us to focus on creating solutions or problem-solving platform functionalities that would benefit as many users as possible.

In broad application

At Minddistrict, we are now continuously trying to find out where certain problems that are felt within organisations come from. We then examine whether these problems are getting in the way of the set goals, and what the possibilities could be.

In this way, we can work more efficiently on the biggest problems and the most pressing needs, in order to develop solutions that can be deployed on a large scale. We do this in cooperation with the organisations that we work with, and their care professionals who experience our platform first-hand. This way we can identify where the barriers are, test solutions beforehand and quickly see if the way that care providers (and their clients) work can be better supported by Minddistrict.

Let us know your thoughts

Do you have questions about this article? We'd be happy to hear your feedback about our product development. If you're already a customer of Minddistrict, get in touch with your account manager. Or, you can contact us via this form.

The author of this blog, Ewoud Komen, is a UX designer at Minddistrict and part of our product team, working daily on the development of the Minddistrict platform.