June 1, 2021

Start Strong With A Discovery Session

Shane Bird

Brainstorming session, discovery group, team meeting; whatever. Every project should start with a group discussion- client included. Why? Because it’s important for your team to have an accurate idea of your client’s business, its goals, and a whole lot of other (related) insights that help with execution. 


Usually, a discovery session takes place after a contract is signed, but it’s not uncommon for it to occur beforehand. That’s because not all services that software developers offer are suitable for those who enquire about them, and there’s no time to waste in the Saas world. Back and forth emails? Nope. No thank you. 


The point?

From identifying bottlenecks to creating a project roadmap, there are many outcomes of a successful discovery session. You can’t put a price tag on a project if you don’t know what services you’ll be exercising, so evaluating the state of your prospective client’s product is key. 


Do this beforehand- it’s homework. Check out their company profile as well as every page of their website and app. Look at their services, competitors and ratings. Don’t forget to take note of your own first impressions, too. Looks promising? Great. Set a time. 


Who’s involved?

If you’ve got a big and busy team, you probably don’t want to halt the progress on every project to meet with a maybe-client. Instead, have representatives from each department join the discussion. Your developer, UX designer, and project manager is important, but so is your strategist and facilitator. 


Let the teammate with the highest level of understanding about your client’s business run the meeting. Why? Because they’ll encourage a deeper conversation. It’s generally a good idea to have this person translate the information into a strategic outline too- like a project plan. 


The questions?

Need better answers? Easy. Ask better questions. Your clients may not know exactly what they want, so ask questions. A lot of them. Focusing on the questions, not the answers, will help with breakthrough insights and ultimately better align the both of you. 


Start with constraint-related questions. 

  • Cost. What’s the budget? 
  • Scope. What’s the outcome? (New processes? Software? An upgrade?)
  • Time. What’s the deadline? 


Find out who the key stakeholders are.

  • Sponsor. Who (or what) is providing support and resources? 
  • Customers. Who are the people who will pay for this?
  • End-users. This one’s a no-brainer. Who’s going to use the product? 


Set your intentions.

  • Sprint duration. How long will you spend on each sprint?
  • Tools. What software are you going to use to help you?
  • Communication. How are you going to reach each other?


The interviews?

You’ve done your homework. Your maybe-client is now a yes-client. And you’re ready to talk business. So, chat (remotely) to the specialists on your client’s side. Why remotely? Because it’s easier, and you’ll have a far greater reach. If the specialists are too busy, an online form is a great compromise. This way, the specialists give you information in their own time. And you can focus on your other projects in the meanwhile. Win-win, right?


Need insights from the other side? Of course you do. Reach out to the end-users. How? With questionnaires or surveys. Don’t have end-users yet? Steal the target audience from your competitor. Go on, we won’t tell. Find out what the pain points are. A healthy combination of qualitative and quantitative is important, so A/B tests probably aren't the best way to go about this one. 


Got your answers?

Great. Structure all of them, and move on to the following:

  • What are the user’s pain points? Is there more than 1 type of user?
  •  Prioritize every issue. You can use the Decision Matrix to do this. It’s built on axes; “urgent” to “not urgent” and “important” to “not important.” The space with “urgent” and “important” gets first priority. 
  • Brainstorm a solution to every problem or opportunity. Your software developers should be involved in this one. 
  • Create a MVP. This is a low-fidelity prototype for a quick and easy representation of your product. Use it to improve the next version by getting quick feedback. 
  • Compare how the current product works versus how the future product will work. 
  • Create a roadmap. 


What does this achieve? Your client gets a glimpse of the future product. And once you’ve got the go-ahead, you can start working towards it. 


Our tips? 

Communicate via Slack. It’s great for business-related instant messaging. Plus, it’s faster, better organised and more secure than email. 

Delegate tasks with Trello. You can also manage, track and share your progress with your team.

Transcribe meetings with Otter. You get 600 minutes free per month, and it’s pretty accurate. 

Record your meetings with QuickTime- video or audio. 


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