Why discovery workshops are key to success

Your project’s got the green light, and you’ve engaged your digital partner, but how do you kick things off? Read why the discovery phase is vital to the success of your project.
Written by
Nichola Hudson
Published on
March 24, 2020
Why discovery workshops are key to success

The start of a new project is always an exciting time for our team – full of enthusiasm, energy and anticipation.

It’s the phase when we gather all essential information, look at the data and start getting to know the client and the project's requirements. What's the best way to collect all this information at the beginning of the project? And how can we lay strong foundations to give the project the best chance of success?

At this early stage, holding a discovery workshop is essential in better understanding the requirements, gathering opinions of the different stakeholder groups to provide extra insight and keep everyone focused on the project goals.

But what is a discovery workshop? What should you expect from it? And how do you get the most out of it?

A discovery workshop is one of the essential steps in the early phases of designing and developing a new digital product. It’s a collaborative approach that collates all the information required to begin the project and builds a shared understanding amongst the team of what they are building and why.

The main aim of the discovery is to move from broader abstract concepts to a more refined definition of what's relevant and achievable for the business – taking teams from 'everything is possible' to 'here's what’s relevant'.

Why are discovery workshops useful?

Discovery workshops are invaluable to businesses as they focus on looking at the project in its entirety and ensuring questions about business objectives, user experience, creative and technical needs are answered.

A well-planned discovery workshop helps to identify the following:

  • Business goals: what high-level business goal/initiative are you trying to impact upon?
  • Success indicators/goals: what does success looks like?
  • Product purpose: what’s the prime objective of this specific product?
  • User personas: who are the end-users of this product?
  • Function and technology needed: what is the required functionality of this product and what technology are you going to use to deliver it?

This video shows, in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way, why it's important to speak to your customers.

We consider the discovery phase to be the most important because it:

Minimises risk, eliminates surprises and reduces the potential of building a not fit for purpose product

Risk can be a major challenge. Aligning all participating teams on the same page, revisiting the problem we’re trying to solve and questioning the reasoning behind our decisions helps us gain clarity. Working this way minimises misunderstandings and draws a more precise picture of the product, which leads to delivering a stronger product and a better outcome.

Results in a less-expensive product build

A well-planned and thoughtfully executed product costs less to build. There are fewer last-minute changes, fewer tweaks and fewer hours spent building something that’s not fit for purpose. Also, it helps to avoid scope creep and provides better team alignment to prevent potential rework and changes. Ultimately, working this way speeds up the delivery of the product and reduces the cost of the build.

Helps us deliver the product faster and with more certainty

By taking the time to understand the product requirements early, you save time later – even though it might feel slower and longer on the day. We all know that proper planning prevents poor performance so any short term pain will pay dividends when the product goes live.

Increases the chances of building something the target audience actually uses and wants

Building a digital product that actually works for the end-user and helps to achieve business goals is the holy grail for every project. By completing a thorough discovery phase, you’ll have a product designed with the end-user’s needs in mind, based on evidence rather than opinion.

Results in greater team collaboration and growth

This is a great opportunity to meet with the various project stakeholders, gather their views and establish a collaborative and trusting relationship.

Founders, managers, sales, user experience, design, engineering, quality assurance – all teams come together and focus on how to approach the project and how to resolve any potential issues. Everyone participates equally and is asked to contribute from their perspective to ensure all relevant parts of the business are heard. This results in higher engagement and a real buy-in to the project from all stakeholders.

In this collaborative environment, we all benefit and appreciate the expertise each one of us brings to the table, which results in building trust, providing helpful support and sharing ideas along the way. It encourages everyone to feel a sense of ownership and that they’re adding value to the company they work for.

What does a discovery workshop include?

Depending on the needs and requirements of the project, a discovery workshop can include:

  • Goal-setting
  • Experience mapping
  • Empathy mapping
  • Website review
  • User personas
  • User journey mapping
  • Competitor analysis
  • Site mapping
  • Technical requirements

How do we do them?

Group interaction

Most of the time, a discovery workshop begins with a face-to-face meeting between the client's team and ours. Sometimes though, it might be difficult to get all the different stakeholders in one room; for example, when a client is on the other side of the world, in which case a video call is absolutely fine. Even having a video call instead of a face-to-face meeting gives us a good starting base to ask and answer questions, clarify points and set the foundations of our collaboration.

Establishing ground rules

During discovery everyone becomes part on the same team. We value transparency and openness, creative thinking and mutual respect. It’s a good time to express your thoughts and needs in your own words and be frank about what you understand, what you don’t and your plan to improve your understanding.

Collaboration time

  • Set a goal for the discovery
  • Define the problem that you’re looking to address
  • Understanding users and their context
  • Understanding constraints
  • Identify improvements you might be able to make

How to know when discovery is finished

When all participants have agreed on a minimum viable product that can be built, which would make it easier for users to achieve their goals, cover their needs and it is cost effective to proceed. In other words, its cost doesn't outweigh its benefits.

Sharing findings

Once the outputs are agreed, the findings of this research will inform the rest of the project delivery, from design to development. After the discovery workshop, we compile all these research findings into a comprehensive report that all the teams can refer back to. The report will include the core objectives and product features, actionable recommendations, along with deadlines and milestones based on data gathered during the workshop.

Let’s work together

So, if you already have a great idea or a business you would like to expand, let's explore your options together.

Get in touch to find out how we can support your next digital project.

Photograph of customer journey mapping
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Photograph of customer journey mapping
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