This is the second part of our 5 Tips for a Successful Discovery series. You can see the first part here. We previously talked about who to include in your discovery. Today the focus is on tools and platforms.
Don’t Be Afraid of Low Tech
Use tools that remove barriers to engagement. With lots of facts and ideas flying around among multiple people, it’s tempting to look for a technical solution to manage the complexity. But, any tool used during discovery should be judged first on how easy it is for everyone to be productive with it. Take into account barriers to adoption like subscription fees, learning curves, possibly restrictive IT policies on the client’s end, or even the reluctance of some stakeholders to part with their personal information to sign up for something they’ve never heard of or don’t think they’ll use again.
Everyone should be able to quickly roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. Low-tech tools such as post-its, whiteboards, and old fashioned paper and pencils let anybody jump in and contribute effortlessly, driving collaboration and innovation. A smart way to integrate digital tools is to record progress and document real-world artifacts as you work. Use a digital camera early and often to capture the process and what it is producing. Video cameras may be appropriate, but beware of their potential to change the nature of the interaction. Some people are uncomfortable sharing their ideas with the video camera there reminding them it’s all on the record. Digital voice recorders can do much the same job while keeping a far lower profile.
When participants can’t all get together physically, real-time collaboration apps like Skype and Google Docs can also work, as long as everyone has access to them. Another useful tool is Trello, a list-of-index-cards app that is freeform enough to accommodate nearly any info gathering scenario. While not exactly low tech, these tools are free and simple enough that anyone can use them without a learning curve.
Just a Pinch Of Platform
Solving complex business problems requires creative thinking, and focusing too much on the platform or implementation details can bog down progress. So talk about the platform shouldn’t lead, or even be a major part of, the discovery conversation. But, sometimes it’s helpful to bring known platform possibilities and constraints into the equation to keep solutions in check, timelines on track, and costs down.
Tools exist to give the audience what they need. Although new tools can be built if required, solving the user’s problems with existing platform tools is better all around. The trick is to offer the capabilities of the platform as strategic answers to user problems, but not demand that those problems always be solved by the existing platform. Be super-sensitive about really listening when people say that what the platform is offering them is not what they need. Probe, verify assumptions, but always be ready to build something new if it proves to be necessary.
The final post is about wrapping up the discovery and making sure deliver the value that comes out of the process gets delivered. We’ll have it for you tomorrow. If you can’t wait, contact us now, we’ll spill our secrets early for you.