Mastering the Basics: How to Do Discovery Right

Mastering the Basics: How to Do Discovery Right

How to Do Discovery Right
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Thought byRay Saltini
July 06, 2016

Discovery is the part where you make it your business to find out what you don’t know you need to know. Discovery is a process, not a workshop or a questionnaire. There’s a reason why it's called Discovery. You may think you know what you're going to find but often you don’t. Your goal is to uncover any unanticipated issues or complexity and ultimately use the process to generate consensus around priorities and a project plan.

There are three fundamental steps to any really good discovery process. If you don’t fully embrace these steps and execute them with rigor you stand a good chance of missing something critical that can stall or even completely undermine your project. Rushing through discovery will almost always guarantee delays and additional costs. Many organizations will contract for discovery separately. The good news is the steps are simple. They are: think, ask, listen; rinse and repeat. Think carefully about your overall goals, your specific objectives, your resources and budgets and then formulate a thorough list of questions. Do this singularly by yourself and then invite your team members to do it with you. Broaden it to all your stakeholders. Don’t just go to your stakeholders for answers. Go to them for the questions too. Having them be part of the discovery planning will help you achieve buy-in later in the project and will support accountability.

Once you’ve got your questions go out and get your answers. Look at things from all angles and perspectives. Then begin to iterate. Rinse and repeat means that you challenge the answers you’ve been given and you seek to validate them from other angles and different sources.

There is a science to a good discovery but good discovery is also an art. Experienced technologists know what to ask and what to listen for. They know how to reform questions to get more precise and accurate information that will help generate a project scope and specifications.

These steps are the same whether you do your own discovery in-house or with help from a consultant or services organization. Make sure you have at least one person on the discovery team who has senior-level experience with the technology you expect to build out your project with whether it is Drupal or something else. Certainly take advantage of any specific methodologies, templates and/or applications that align with your organization's policies and workflows.

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