Discovery – what is it and how to get it right?

How can you make sure that your project is going to be successful and deliver value? Discovery can help.

Discovery is a commonly used term in Agile projects, but it’s not just for tech companies and it can be useful whether you follow an Agile methodology or otherwise.

Irrespective of the size of the project your business is looking to undertake, without clear goals and alignment in the team, projects can start to get expensive, quickly, and the risk of getting it wrong also increases significantly.  According to McKinsey, the average large IT project overruns its budget by 45% with unclear focus, shifting requirements and unaligned team all reported as causes for project failure.

At the core of successful projects, the team understand the problem in the same way and getting to this point of understanding, is at the core of Discovery.

Discovery is about understanding

It is dangerous to assume that everyone in your team knows what your project is trying to achieve so the starting point of a Discovery is asking a lot of questions.

  1. Understand the challenge and why it matters

What are the business drivers? What makes this important to the stakeholder? What are the business goals, and how will this project support them? The better you define the challenge, the better potential solutions you’ll come up with to move beyond discovery. 

  1. Understand how success will be measured

Outline simple, clear, and tangible Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Start with, “we will know this project is successful if….” This is an incredibly valuable exercise for key stakeholders that encourages them to test and articulate what they are expecting. It’s also a great time to manage expectations.

  1. Understand your users

Who are they? What do they need? What do you need from them? Look at demographics, digital maturity, needs and frustrations. 74% of website users spend less than 10 seconds on a page – spend time with them.

  1. Understand the entire customer journey

Not just the journey inside this project. How does this project fit into the overall customer journey? Does it match? Is it a dead end? This establishes context for your project and ensures it makes sense to your customers.

  1. Understand the competition, landscape and other external factors

Are other teams and organisations working on similar problems to you? What can you learn from them? Are there changing marketing conditions that impact the scope of the project? Make sure you understand the wider context of your project and what the impact is likely to be.

How do Thought Quarter do discovery?

Thought Quarter specialises in web development projects that require bespoke or custom elements and digital transformations. Most businesses know what their objectives are and what they want to achieve but they might not be clear on the best way to get there.

Validating objectives. By the time we’re working with a client on a Discovery, you’ll have already told us about what you’re trying to achieve so we don’t make you repeat it all over again. We do however work with our clients to validate their objectives, assign some success measures to them and where possible, prioritise.

Users and audiences Our development projects are often a balance between the needs of the internal teams, for example the Marketing Team or website Product Owner, and what our clients’ audience want to do on a website. We craft User Stories which describe features through a user’s eyes to help us make sure we take a user first approach to the project. We also identify and document user stories through website administrator’s eyes to make sure we consider how the platform will be managed once it is live.

Contextual information Clients looking for website extensions or rebuilds will have a lot of existing data and we take a look at analytics, SEO data and any other information that can help put the project into context and support our understanding of the user and audience.

Lists We take the User Stories and a website wireframe and use these to define the project, listing out what needs to be done. In the era of Zoom, we’ve found it really useful to use Miro boards, a kind of high tech white board for the uninitiated, as a tool to help list out the project requirements.

Why you need discovery – the benefits

Aligns expectations for a happier team and happier clients

This project has enabled us to bring activities into one place, online and means clients and our Business Development Managers can work on the plans together on screen and records will be saved without printing, scanning and photocopying.

Thought Quarter took the time to really explore and understand our project so we had ironed out all the details before they began the build. This meant the project was smooth, slick, and came together quickly.

Unlocking Potential

Builds trust between stakeholders and the delivery

Project Manager at Thought Quarter, Lewis Hall says: “Discovery is useful for everyone. Clients don’t always know the right way to progress a project and Discovery helps them work through that, and for Thought Quarter it helps us make sure we don’t commit to project requirements or a timescale that we can’t actually deliver because we didn’t have a full picture of the project.”

Reduces risk

Michael Block, Sven Blumberg and Jurgen Laartz write for McKinsey on Delivering large–scale IT projects on time, on budget and on value: “Large projects can take on a life of their own in an organisation. To be effective and efficient, project teams need a common vision, shared team processes and a high-performance culture.”

“We also found that the longer a project is scheduled to last, the more likely it is that it will run over time and budget, with every additional year spent on the project increasing cost overruns by 15 percent.”

Thought Quarter launched the all-new Zeit Aboshop in just six weeks. 

Helps you spend money and resource on the right things

The work done on tone of voice and digital styling has provided us with the foundations to continually develop the site content to meet the needs of our users.

Everest provided a full digital service throughout the build, not just a website. The level of expertise around SEO, CRO and UX has been second to none.


Ready to discover?

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