Benefits of a product discovery workshop and why you need one

Author Dorian Derežić
Category Technology
Date Apr 12, 2019
12 min read

A product discovery workshop is a part of the initial definition and planning phase of a digital project. Its goal is to fully define the scope and goals that need to be achieved, but also to set expectations for all sides involved in the project.

Whether it’s custom software for internal use in a large corporation, a mobile application that connects business to consumers or any other type of digital products and solutions, every project needs to be properly scoped and defined before any production can begin. This is especially true when clients come to us with their vision and want us to define all the other important aspects, or when they’re in the startup phase of building their business around a specific digital product. In all of these situations, we suggest conducting a product discovery workshop as the first step of the process.

By conducting a discovery workshop before we start working on your project, we streamline the entire product development process and make sure you get all of the details on what needs to be done to successfully deliver the project, as well as the precise estimate in terms of both budget and timeline.

This guide will show you how we use product discovery workshops to help you:

  • Shape your idea into a tangible product
  • Improve your product by detecting pain points
  • Upgrade your product with new features
  • Create an MVP to attract investors

Product discovery workshop in a nutshell

Before we dive deeper into the specifics of the way we organize discovery workshops and the benefits they bring, here’s a quick rundown of all the things you can expect. A sort of a TL;DR version of this entire text. So let’s jump in!

What is it?

A discovery workshop is one of the most important steps in the initial project definition phase. We developed and refined it by implementing it in hundreds of projects ranging from simple prototypes and MVPs, through various web and mobile applications to complex tools and giant enterprise systems for multinational companies. Product discovery workshops help us predict and overcome potential challenges that might occur during the production phase, but they also help us put all project stakeholders on the same page.

Why do we use it?

As the precise scope, needed budget and the overall production timeline of a project can be greatly affected by a variety of different variables, before we jump into production, we need to understand every aspect of the project and, to be able to deliver a solution, we need to share the right perspective with all project stakeholders. That is why we use product discovery workshops to thoroughly define business goals, purpose of the project, core functionalities and technology, as well as target audiences, user personas, their needs and journeys. After we define a rough structure of the solution, the only thing left is to define goals and indicators of success as well as how these will be measured.

What will you do?

This is also the phase where you as a client get involved and introduced to our team, our process and all of the services we offer. You are given the chance to understand and actively participate in every step of building the project by defining goals, expected user behaviour, challenges and problems that may occur. Your involvement is important because you know your business better than anyone, and that ultimately helps set up the majority of the structure and scope of the project.

What happens when it’s done?

After the initial research and a successful discovery workshop, we have answers to key questions and we can begin to execute the plan. When the discovery workshop concludes, you will be given a document – a blueprint containing a detailed list of key outputs from the workshop as well as all production details and plans.

TL;DR done. Now onto the full version!

What are the benefits of the product discovery workshop?

For you as a client, the overall benefit of product discovery workshops is that months of work are condensed into 2 to 4 days of intensive meetings where we cover all of the important topics about the project and end up with direct, tangible results.

Those 2 to 4 days bring you direct benefits in the form of these 5 aspects.

1. Reduced overall costs

Numerous variables can affect the final cost of developing a product, and the implementation of specific features and functionalities is the one that affects it the most. After conducting a product discovery workshop, we know exactly which features will be implemented, in what way and when.

One of the goals of the workshop is to define a list of features necessary for your product to achieve its goals, and to discard unnecessary fluff. By doing that, we not only speed up the production process as we can focus on those core features, but also cut off all unnecessary development costs.

2. Increased production speed

Defining a complete list of features and functionalities for your product during the discovery workshop enables us to create a detailed production plan involving all of the people who will be working on your product. This enables us to create a very detailed timeline and take periods of idling completely out of the picture.

Those 2 to 4 days you invest in the product discovery workshop in the initial phase can lead to saving weeks when it comes to development phase of the project.

3. Minimized risk and issues

In addition to going through all the important aspects of the project itself, during the product discovery workshop we will also go through all important aspects of your business. We want to identify all of the pain points, issues you’re facing and potential problems that might occur during the production phase.

By performing that sort of a pre-mortem during the workshop, we actually end up with a list of risks and problems, as well as available solutions to them, before they even occur. This enables us to make sure that all high-risk issues are handled early on, and that any potential issues that might occur are preemptively resolved.

4. Getting to know the team

By actively taking a part in the product discovery workshop, you’ll get to meet the specialists who will work on your project. They will bring their business strategy, design, development and product management expertise to the table, and you will be able to guide that expertise by providing them with the information about the thing you’re most knowledgeable about – your business and goals you’re trying to achieve.

This act of sharing knowledge and connecting between the two sides whose cooperation is needed to successfully deliver the product, has proven to be a crucial element of delivering a product that achieves set goals.

5. A precise roadmap for your project

After the discovery workshop, you will get an extensive document with key takeaways, plans, timelines, proposed budgets and all other important aspects that are needed to kickstart your project or attract investors and secure funding if you’re in the startup phase of building your business.

It doesn’t only act as a blueprint describing your entire project in detail, but also as a structured plan needed to successfully develop and launch your product.

What are the objectives of the product discovery workshop?

At Bornfight, we categorize discovery workshop objectives into main and supporting. Main objectives are always the same and they are the main reasons why we organize and conduct product discovery workshops with clients.

Main objectives are:
  1. Define the full scope of the product
  2. Define goals that the product needs to achieve
  3. Define the full list of product features and functionalities
  4. Define the needed budget to successfully deliver the product
  5. Define the full production timeline
  6. Create the document with workshop outputs (the blueprint)

 

Supporting objectives are defined as mini objectives that are equally important as they are required to achieve main workshop objectives. But unlike main objectives, they aren’t always the same – they are created according to specific phases that will be conducted during the discovery workshop. As every workshop is custom made according to the project brief, research and initially provided information, so are the supporting objectives.

An example of possible supporting objectives:
  1. Define the primary and secondary target users for the product
  2. Define if the new product is intended to be built upon an older version
  3. Define the specific technology that should be used
  4. Define the user journey for every target group
  5. Define specific business issues the client is facing

 

As we mentioned above, since supporting objectives are required for the main objectives to be achieved, all objectives in both categories are mandatory for the successful finalization of the product discovery workshop!

How long does the workshop last?

Every product discovery workshop is custom made for a specific client and the type of project – whether we’re talking about developing custom software, creating a digital tool, a mobile application or some other kind of digital product. Some projects are more completely defined right from the start and the discovery workshop is used only to fill in the information gaps needed to continue with the project, while some projects come to us as mere ideas that need a lot of work to properly define and scope.

Discovery workshops we organize at Bornfight usually last from 2 to 4 days. And we’re talking about 4 to 6 hours of closed meetings and discussions every day, as well as additional homework for both client and our internal production teams. When we say homework, we mean preparing additional information, doing some research, or providing some basic project structures needed for the next day of the workshop.

Those 2 to 4 days are completely structured and very intense. We treat the discovery workshop as equally important as any other part of the process, and that means cutting out all idling.

Who is involved in the discovery workshop?

The exact number of people and specific types of specialists who should be involved is not strictly defined. They are organized on a case by case basis in regards to the type of the project and the general scope defined during the pre-discovery phase.

What’s important is that we have main decision makers from the client side and people representing all relevant types of specialists who’ll be working on the project from our side. This is crucial as we won’t just discuss various project topics, but also make important decisions about specific aspects we’ll cover during the product discovery workshop.

If we were to talk about specifics, our experience shows us that 6 to 8 people is an ideal number as it’s enough to enable us to have intense workshops and cover the main topics from different angles, but not so much that it becomes chaotic and unmanageable. In those ideal types of workshop setups, we usually have 3 decision makers from your side and 3 to 5 specialists from our side. To fully cover the production expertise part of the project, we like to broaden the scope by sending members of our Project Management, Development, Design and Strategic Partnerships departments.

Another thing that’s as equally as important are specific roles for people taking part in the workshop. We use roles to maximize efficiency and ensure that we get as much detailed information that will enable us to achieve our set objectives.

3 specific workshop roles:

1. Workshop lead

One person from our side whose goal is to make sure the workshop is going according to plan, that all points are taken into account and that the entire group is making progress.

It’s important that the person in this role:

  • Keeps the workshop on track
  • Follows the overall progress of the workshop
  • Makes sure all members of the group get to state their opinions
2. Production team

All specialists from our side. Their task is to ask probing questions to gather as much needed information and to provide an expert opinion on how some aspects of the project should be handled.

It’s important that the people in this role:

  • Ask probing questions about all important topics
  • Provide expert opinions and ways to solve issues
  • Provide fresh perspectives on things that are discussed
  • Don’t sugarcoat or censor anything
  • Are quick to follow up with additional info after the meeting
3. Decision makers

All members from the client side. Their task is to guide the group by providing information and answers to specific goal and business-related questions.

It’s important that the people in this role:

How is the discovery workshop organized?

To make sure all angles are covered and we gather as much information as possible, at Bornfight we split the entire process into two large and equally important phases.

1. Pre-discovery phase

This phase consists of defining a ballpark estimate for the project based on the initial brief, filling out a pre-discovery questionnaire and conducting the initial research based on client answers from the questionnaire.

The goal of this phase is to gather information that will be used for workshop preparation and to provide you with an estimated ballpark of what the project might cost, as well as how much time it might take to create and launch.

2. Workshops phase

This phase consists of a series of structured meetings between your team and our production teams. The number of meetings, their specific topics and the agenda are defined according to the project type and information gathered during the pre-discovery phase.

After all of the meetings are done, we will structure all of the gathered information from the workshop and create a detailed blueprint document.

What is in the blueprint?

The blueprint is a document with all of the important information, key takeaways from the workshop and the entire project plan needed to design and develop the product. As the document is extremely detailed, we will prepare it and send it to you in 5 to 7 days after the last workshop meeting.

Depending on the type of the project and the topics we cover during the discovery workshop, you will find some of these elements in the blueprint document:

  • Product vision
  • Product purpose
  • Main goals the product needs to achieve
  • Defined primary target users
  • Defined secondary target users
  • Detailed user flows
  • Defined proto personas
  • Detailed user scenarios
  • Low fidelity wireframes (page element lists)
  • Sitemap
  • Design style moodboard
  • Functional requirements & tech stack
  • MVP definition
  • Project roadmap
  • Product development strategy (build strategy)
  • Prioritized features

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do you charge for the product discovery workshop?

We charge a fee for the discovery workshop, because we approach it as consulting work and a standard part of the project, and because it results in clear and tangible deliverables that can be directly used to setup the project and work on the product.

2. We sent you a detailed brief. Can we skip the workshop?

If we’re talking about a smaller product with only a few standard functionalities, going through the discovery workshop is not a requirement. It’s an added plus as it can show us how to define and develop certain aspects more efficiently, but it’s not crucial. If, on the other hand, we’re talking about a larger product that doesn’t have all of the element clearly defined and can’t be clearly scoped, we would not recommend skipping the discovery workshop. For larger and more complex products, this workshop is a central pillar because it allows us to probe much deeper into your idea and define exact opportunities and resolve potential issues, and ultimately lead to a successful product.

3. Why should we do this discovery workshop?

Conducting a discovery workshop is a crucial aspect of the product development process as it enables all project stakeholders and members of our production teams to set the right expectations regarding the project. The process of probing deep into your business idea, your goals and problems you’re trying to solve with the product gives us a clear overview of what you’re trying to achieve and enables us to create a detailed roadmap to get there as efficiently as possible.

4. Do we have to develop our product with you after the workshop?

Although we would very much like to work on your product after the discovery process, if you want to develop it at another company, you are free to do so. We offer product discovery workshops as a standalone service, and that means you are not bound in any way. When the discovery workshop ends, you will get a detailed blueprint for the product with all the key takeaways, plans and information that will enable any development company to setup and start working on your product.

5. Four days! Can we do it in two?

The duration of the workshop is proposed based on the project type, its general scope defined in the pre-discovery phase and the information you provided. The workshop could be done in a shorter amount of time, but we wouldn’t recommend it as that would mean we’d have to cut corners. That, in our experience, can lead to unexpected situations during the production process which could prolong the entire development phase for weeks, on some projects even months.

6. Can we do this over Skype? Or in our office?

We usually organize discovery workshops in our office, but we can also do them over Skype or in your office. Conducting workshops over Skype requires quite a different setup than regular face-to-face workshops, but it can still be done. As for our team going to your office – as long as you can provide a space where all our people can work together for an entire day without distractions, it can be done!
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We’re available for partnerships and open for new projects. If you have an idea you’d like to discuss, share it with our team!