In every organization lies a hidden trove of opportunities – a fact often overlooked, I’ve learned. Being in the tech development business for years, I've discovered that the most persistent problems can metamorphose into our greatest opportunities if only we dare to look closely. At Eli5, we've made it our mission to uncover these hidden gems, transforming complex organizational challenges into simple and lucrative tech products.
Our approach is quite straightforward – we seek problems that provide tremendous value to our customers when solved. By embracing each problem's unique complexity, we uncover solutions that are effective for our clients and have the potential to change industries. We believe that the secret to groundbreaking technology lies in the heart of everyday struggles. It’s about seeing the forest for the trees – recognizing that within each problem, there's an opportunity waiting to be discovered and harnessed. In the best case, you stumble upon a solution that reinvents your industry. Worst case, you boost your company’s efficiency, productivity, and effectiveness.
Identifying high-impact problems
In the realm of tech and innovation, the ability to distinguish high-impact problems is the first step towards creating value. Recognizing these problems is about spotting opportunities for profound transformation.
Every issue can seem pressing when you’re sifting through your company’s daily operations. However, not all problems are created equal. The key lies in identifying the ones that, when solved, have the potential to boost efficiency, productivity, or profitability significantly. These are the problems that can redefine the way your business, and even your industry, operates.
Spotting high-impact issues starts with a mindset shift. Instead of asking what's wrong, ask what could be ridiculously better. Look for bottlenecks, frustrations, and inefficiencies that, if removed, would create a ripple effect of positive change. It requires a mix of intuition and analysis, combining a deep understanding of your business with an accelerative mindset unburdened by any form of bureaucratic resistance.
At Eli5, we often find that problems come to us pre-packaged, served on a silver platter. For example, ING asked us to help them solve their issues around their regulatory compliance. This was shortly after they received €775M ($900M) in regulatory fines. Although a pretty concrete problem, it was an umbrella of challenges and issues spread across multiple departments, touching many different workflows.
We delve deeper than just the high-level outline of a problem, validating whether these problems truly justify being solved. In this processwe immerse ourselves in the context, talking to the people grappling with these issues daily. We explore their workarounds, their frustrations, and their wish lists.
In essence, identifying high-impact problems is both an art and a science. It's about looking beyond the surface, questioning the status quo, and being willing to dig deeper. This combination of insight, curiosity, and pragmatism sets the stage for creating truly transformative tech solutions.
Hidden solutions in plain sight
We've learned that the most effective solutions are often already in existence – they've just been overlooked or underutilized. Reinventing the wheel is a futile exercise and should be avoided when possible. Why pour resources into solving a problem from scratch when a solution might already be at your fingertips in some shape or form?
Looking at a problem from multiple angles reveals solutions hiding in plain sight. This doesn't mean compromising on innovation; it means channeling innovation where it's needed. For instance, when faced with a challenge, our team at Eli5 starts by asking, "Has someone else already tackled this in some shape or form, and can we leverage (parts) of this solution?” It's not about taking the easy way out but about smartly allocating our creative and technical energies.
We invest time in researching existing software and technologies. This isn't just about googling for similar products; it involves a creative approach to uncovering solutions that may not be directed to solve the problem we’re working on. From searching through cross-industry innovations to delving into the bleeding edge of tech. By doing so, we can stumble upon solutions that are adaptable to our needs, saving us time and our clients' money.
Utilizing existing tech and solutions doesn't mean we can't innovate. It's about building upon these solutions, customizing, and improving them to fit the unique context of our projects. This approach has led us to discover hidden gems that, with some tweaking, have turned into robust solutions for our clients.
The key to uncovering these 'hidden solutions' lies in recognizing the fine balance between innovation and reinvention. After all, the best solutions might not always be the ones you create from scratch, but the ones you intelligently adapt and enhance.
Solving regulatory compliance within ING — from problem validation to a multi-million euro exit
A great example of solving a high-impact problem at scale brings us to ING. Faced with an ever-evolving landscape of rules and regulations, ING found itself in a situation where compliance processes were becoming increasingly cumbersome, time-consuming, and costly.
The challenge was clear: streamline the compliance process without compromising on thoroughness or accuracy. This is where Eli5 stepped in. Our approach was to develop a Minimum Viable Product that could address these concerns effectively. Within a mere two months, our studio, in close collaboration with ING's in-house teams, built and deployed an MVP. This rapid development phase was crucial, as it allowed us to test, refine, and validate our solution in a real-world setting.
The initial impact of the MVP was significant. By digitizing and optimizing several key compliance processes, we observed a 30% improvement in efficiency within the pilot group. This was just the beginning. As the product evolved, these efficiency gains increased to 40%. The success of the MVP didn't just optimize the compliance trajectory; it accelerated it.
Recognizing the potential of this solution, the product was gradually implemented across ING's offices in over 35 countries. This global expansion underscored the versatility and adaptability of the solution to various regulatory environments. The result? A solution originally designed to address a specific problem at ING's Dutch offices was now a powerhouse in regulatory change management.
The climax of this journey was the acquisition of this product by a RegTech company. This move not only validated the effectiveness of the solution but also marked it as a standout product in the regulatory tech space.
The most tangible impact, however, was seen in the efficiency gains and cost savings. By implementing this solution, ING was able to reduce the time and resources spent on compliance significantly, saving tens of millions of euros annually.
Quietly saving millions in the niches
Not every success story has to rewrite industry playbooks. Sometimes, solutions do not scale further than a single company. This was exactly our experience with Total Energies, where we turned a seemingly niche issue into a remarkable efficiency win.
Total Energies faced a bottleneck in processing contracts. This monotonous task, managed by over 75 employees, involved handling contracts from third-party intermediaries who were reselling energy contracts from the company. It was a classic case of manual labor being time-consuming and prone to human error. It’s a familiar story in many companies, where important but repetitive tasks consume valuable human resources that could be deployed elsewhere.
Our approach at Eli5 was, again, straightforward and impactful. We started by understanding the core of the problem: the need to streamline and automate the contract processing system. The goal was to free up the workforce from this monotonous task, enabling them to focus on more strategic initiatives. True to our ethos, we didn't just look for a solution; we looked for the most efficient path to it.
Within two weeks, we had dissected the problem and built a prototype. It's a strong demonstration of the effectiveness of rapid prototyping and agile development – core principles that we adhere to. After another two weeks, the prototype was validated. In only three months, we went from a concept to a fully operational product built by a lean team of two engineers and a product designer.
The results were striking. Post-implementation, the process that initially occupied 75 employees could now be managed by just five. This wasn’t just about reducing headcount; it was about reallocating human potential to where it could be more strategically utilized. This transformation resulted in estimated annual savings of around 5 million euros for the business
While the solution was specific to a single department within a multi-national business, its implications were far-reaching within the company. It underscores a critical lesson: sometimes, addressing a ‘small’ problem can unlock significant value. This case is a classic example of how targeted, tech-driven solutions can lead to tangible business outcomes. It’s not always about reinventing the wheel; sometimes, it's about making the wheel turn more smoothly.
The best and worst (but still pretty wild) outcomes of solving problems
In problem-solving, particularly within the tech realm, outcomes span a broad spectrum. On one end lies internal optimization - a seemingly modest victory but crucial. It’s comparable to oiling the cogs of a vast machine; the immediate impact might be localized, yet it sets a precedent for efficiency and innovation.
But what if these solutions have a larger calling? Imagine if the cogs you’ve perfected could run machines worldwide. This is the other end of the spectrum - the creation of tech solutions with a far-reaching impact. Here, the ambition is to scale, to turn a localized fix into a universal tool, not just optimizing your company but revolutionizing industries.
However, it's crucial to balance ambition with practicality. While we all aspire to create solutions with global impact, recognizing the value in smaller, specific solutions is equally important. These 'niche' solutions may not change the world, but they can dramatically alter the landscape of a department or an entire company. They are the unsung heroes of the problem-solving world, offering substantial, targeted impacts that, in their own way, pave the path for larger-scale innovations.
In essence, whether you’re refining internal processes or building the next big industry disruptor, the value lies in the problem solved, not just the width of its application. The best outcome? A solution that not only serves your immediate need but also holds the potential to extend its benefits beyond your organizational walls. The worst? Well, in the world of problem-solving, even the smallest improvement is a step forward. There are no real losses, only efficiency, knowledge, and experience gains.
Why solving your own problems works best
There's a simple and profound truth: the most successful solutions are often those born out of personal experience. This isn't just chance; it's the result of a deeper, more intuitive understanding of the problem at hand. When you're solving a problem that you've personally encountered, you're not just a problem solver; you're a user, too. This dual perspective fosters an unparalleled alignment of motivation and understanding.
Consider how an artist paints with more fervor when translating their vision onto the canvas, compared to when they're merely following someone else's script. In the same way, when we tackle problems we've personally grappled with, our solutions are imbued with a level of care and insight that's hard to replicate. This intimate connection with the problem leads to highly effective and user-centric solutions.
Every challenge holds the seed of opportunity. Our experiences at Eli5 with clients like ING and Total Energies underscore this. Whether it’s transforming regulatory compliance into a multi-million euro success or turning a routine task into a strategic advantage, the potential for innovation lies in every problem.
As leaders, innovators, and problem-solvers, I urge you to reframe your perspective. View each challenge as a stepping stone. Look within your organization — is there a problem, a process, or a frustration, that's calling out for a solution? That's your gold mine. Seize these opportunities. Innovate, iterate, transform, and accelerate. Because in the realm of technology and innovation, the next big breakthrough could be hiding in your day-to-day challenges.