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February 13, 2015

5 Tips for a Successful Discovery - Part 3

Thought by Jim Doria, Information Architect

This is the last of our three part series on 5 Tips for a Successful Discovery. Part one is here, and deals with who to bring in on the process. Part two is here and talks about tools and platforms. In today’s post, we talk about delivering the value that comes out of the process.

Docs Or It Didn’t Happen

After a successful discovery session everyone’s happy, excited and generally in agreement about how the project should go. But, discovery is only the beginning. As the project continues, features and timelines may be negotiated, agreements and conversations potentially forgotten, and new stakeholders and functionality requests may jump out of the bushes.

That’s why in the long run a discovery is only as good as the artifacts is produces. A good discovery document gives everyone involved a chance to review what was covered, and creates an agreement that forms the foundation of the project. At a minimum, a good discovery should document:

  • A high-level synthesis of all the learnings that came out of the session
  • A high-level overview of the planned solution
  • A work plan / outline of the process that will be used to move forward

These three pieces can be combined into an executive summary document, which stakeholders can then further circulate inside their organization. Other useful discovery documentation can include:

  • Workflow diagrams
  • Whiteboard sketches
  • Lists of users and roles / prototype personas
  • Prototype site map / information hierarchy
  • Outline of user and system needs
    (This may become the business requirements document in a later phase.)
  • Outline of the proposed technical solution
    (This will become the technology plan in a later phase.)
  • Timeline for proposed project phases

It is essential to document during the process, but don’t try to split one person’s attention between engaging with stakeholders and documenting the results of that engagement. Designate someone from your team as the official scribe for the project, or tag-team each other to switch off note taking when someone else takes over running the session, so that you’ll always have good coverage.

In summary, follow these five tips to produce better understanding, gain increased buy-in from your client’s stakeholders, and transition smoothly from discovery into the project’s later phases:

  • Cast a wide net to bring in more than just “experts”
  • Embrace your role as the “dummy” in the room to push for clarity
  • Use tools that everyone can employ with zero effort
  • Platform knowledge should season the conversation, not dominate it
  • Your discovery is only as good as the documentation it produces

At FFW Agency we understand why discovery is so crucial for any project which is why we are proud to offer it as one of our many services. Our discovery process is designed to uncover, define, prioritize and size CMS initiatives. Learn more about our discovery and strategy process and how it can help your organization achieve its desired results. Want to get started now? Contact Us