Why discovery workshops save projects?

Author Viktor Crnogorac
Category Company
Date Dec 10, 2018
6 min read

The first phase of any digital project is to dig deep into the roots of the business. Our aim is to understand business goals, the target group, the issue that’s being resolved and the general scope of the project.

While we do get some briefs from clients that are written in great detail, answer numerous questions and really allow us to understand the business, this is not as often as we would like. More often than not, we receive briefs that only explain what the goal is, and they lack many aspects that the client has either not considered or might not even know about.

What makes a great brief?

An amazingly written brief tells us about the company, what some of the issues may be and what the client is trying to do. Reading good briefs is an amazing thing, because we feel like we are connecting with potential clients and understanding their challenges. It gives us an idea of the scope, the target group and how they need to experience the solution we’ll create, but also the functionalities that may be needed, as well as the level of design and detail involved.

However, as technology and design specialists, we know and don’t expect clients to have all the answers on what technologies to use, what the trends might be in design and development or what some other production aspects may be. That comes with experience.

Organising a Discovery workshop is the most productive way to handle a project. I can name numerous projects where the initial concept and idea were miles away from the project we identified and agreed upon during the Discovery process.

Sometimes the scope is actually much smaller than we initially predicted because there is no need for as many functionalities as the client predicted. This reduces costs for the client, but still results in a digital solution for their business issue. Other times, the initial idea might sound simple, but through the process we discover a number of complexities that significantly increase the scope of the project.

To give you an example, one client approached us with the need for a Slack-like communication platform, something we knew would possibly take a year to develop. The discovery workshop, however, showed that there was no need for file transfer capabilities and that the communication aspect was not “chat-like”, but rather one sided with top management communicating certain news and changes in the company while the remaining users could interact via ‘Likes’ and ‘Comments’.

What does the workshop look like?

Get ready, because it can get intense. The workshop process starts with a ‘Discovery review’. This is basically a list of questions where we ask our clients things like: describe your brand, tell us about your vision and goals, who is your target audience, what are the motives for these people to use your site/platform, what makes you unique and so on. This is something that can be more or less detailed – depending on the level of information a client provided in the brief.

This is done for two reasons.

  1. It allows the entire team on our end to get an understanding of our client’s business and goals
  2. It allows us to make our own assumptions and research any aspect that we might feel differently about

With the preliminary stage finished, we can organise the Discovery workshop. Based on our client’s needs, we will determine the exact team that needs to participate. Clients will more than likely meet one of our UX specialists, a Back end developer, a Project Manager and a Strategic Partnerships Manager.

Through a clearly defined schedule, we will go through a series of questions, confirm some that have been discussed earlier and answer some new ones.

Our UX specialists will focus heavily on user needs and the flow, while our back end developers will want to know about any potential integrations, the magnitude of the project and how certain action will theoretically happen. Project Managers will focus on the questions regarding the timelines and the process, while the Strategic Partnerships Managers will focus on the business aspect of the project.

During the workshop we will also delve into creating user flows and initial wireframes. These black and white samples of the screens give a powerful sense of how users will move through the website or the app, but also on the functionalities at hand. Design specialists will also open talks on the visual direction, taking into consideration client’s brand but also the users at hand.
We will close the workshop with a summary of the key findings – there are often a lot of new and interesting discoveries that neither we nor the client knew about.

With the discovery Workshop over, our team will start preparing the discovery output document that will outline the following:

  • Personality Map (tone of communication, brand analysis)
  • Project Insights (vision, purpose, goals)
  • Target group definition (buyer persona)
  • User Scenarios (analysis of types of users and their motives for use)
  • User Flow Diagrams (our vision on how users move through the site/app)
  • Sitemap (architecture of the site)
  • Functional Requirements (what functionalities do we need to ensure for users and what issue are we resolving with them)
  • SMART goals (specific goals of the site/app and how can they be quantified and measured)
  • Design direction (what is the vision behind the design and why)
  • Cost of the project
  • Timeline

Why do we charge for Discovery workshops?

The organisation of a Discovery Workshop entails a series of initial activities from both sides. As I wrote above, a detailed document must be filled in by the client (business goals, buyer personas, desired functionalities) and then thoroughly analysed by the production company. Depending on the type of the project, a colorful team of specialist must prepare for and dedicate their time to participate at the workshop. This can include back end developers, mobile developers, UX and design specialists, project managers, content creators, analytics and SEO experts and strategic partnership managers.

Workshops can last anywhere from 1 to 3 days, meaning that the team assigned to discover and understand the project will be fully committed to the client during those days. After the workshop, the team will sit down to analyse all the information derived from the process and begin creating the blueprint document for the client. We feel this document is of immensely high value. True, the entire solution still needs to be built, but I would say that the blueprint is 40% of the project.

The cost of the workshop will ultimately depend on the number of professionals from our side involved in the workshop, as well as the time they invest into the preparation for the workshop and the time spent preparing the outputs.

To be completely frank, we often tell clients very openly that we are so sure of this process that we are completely open to the risk of them taking this blueprint to another, cheaper agency and getting them to build it. It is our firm belief that, through the process of teams working together, we will all learn about our client’s business and be way closer to building a one of a kind solution for them and their customers.

How to know if you need a Discovery workshop?

I have a sneaky suspicion you already know. If you ever leave your internal meetings and ask yourself questions such as ‘are we really solving a business problem with this idea’, ‘should we have all the options/functionalities at once’ or ‘how exactly will users use this solution’, then we both know the answer.

At the same time – we will tell you if you need the workshop. If our initial scoping of the project shows there are numerous uncertainties, that the target group might be different or have different needs and patterns of behaviour, or even if we feel this might not be the solution you need – we will tell you.

I many occasions, it won’t be enough for you to simply revisit the brief yourself. Sometimes a new and fresh outlook is needed and, in the long run, it would be pointless and expensive for both sides to go into an undefined project. The alternative would be to jump head first into the project. It might start of well, but at some point or the other, that “uh oh” moment will happen and somebody will realise that a certain aspect of the project has been neglected, that you no longer like the visual direction or that your users might not really be who you thought they are.

Want to make sure if you need a workshop? Send us your brief and let’s sit down for a call. We will make sure to tell you our verdict.