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The Discovery Phase - our unique approach

Tristan Fraud
Jul 29, 2021 ∙ 6 mins
A professional working in technology reviewing an application

You’ve probably landed on this page from our previous blog: The Discovery Phase - the key to a successful digital project. If not, we recommend starting with that one, as it shares some relevant background information to help you better understand the origins of our Discovery Phase, and the benefits that come with it.

In the article below, we’ll give an overview of the key deliverables that come with our Discovery Phase, continuing to use the example of Aïdi, a software platform we developed starting in 2015, to illustrate the importance of each deliverable.

Why have a Discovery Phase?

Simply put, the Discovery Phase consists of a highly structured set of activities and workshops to make sure that you’ll be set up for success in the development phase.

The Discovery Phase helps to guarantee that you’re solving the right problem with the solution you’re creating: one that potentially will have a significant positive impact on your industry, as well as your bottom line. In the case of Aïdi, we were able to help their team to make a crucial pivot from one intended end user to another, which solved a massive problem in the construction industry while making the software a highly appealing purchase for property owners initiating construction projects.

Now let’s look at how the activities in each week break down into specific steps. The Discovery Phase process follows the order of events pictured in the graphic below:

The phases of our discovery approach

Week 1: Understand the project requirements and business challenges

This is the first step in our Discovery Phase. The main goal is to understand the needs of the end users for the digital solution we’ll be creating, the challenges your business is facing, and your business goals.

In this first week of collaboration, we will:

  • Thoroughly analyze the client documentation.
  • Organize preliminary meetings with you and your potential users.
  • Perform a competitive and comparative analysis.
  • Prepare materials, activities, and questions for our workshops.

Week one focuses on acquiring a 360-degree view of the “before” situation, so that any blind spots can be identified immediately. For example, when we started the Discovery Phase for Aïdi, Marc Parenteau, Founder of the software startup, was already quite experienced in the construction industry in the capacity of asset maintenance. We conducted an in-depth competitive analysis to better understand the landscape and the ecosystem of the construction industry as a whole, beyond Marc’s expertise.

Week 2: Define the problem with key project stakeholders

Icon of a person with an idea

The second step usually takes place at the beginning of week two of the Discovery Phase. We organize a set of activities for key stakeholders, with the goal of defining the problem that the product being developed will solve, while ensuring everyone involved is on board.

These activities include the following:

  • Ice breaker activity - An important step to ensure participants are familiar with each other, and comfortable participating in the workshops.
  • Lightning Talks - Quick presentations that enable us to more deeply understand the relevant challenges.
  • How Might We - During the Lightning Talks, each participant is asked to take notes on a Post-It. The How Might We is a way to ensure we’re adequately analyzing the problem, and aren’t prematurely jumping into creating solutions. This helps to pave the way for truly innovative solutions to emerge.
  • Organize the notes from participants, and proceed to voting on.

In the case of Aïdi, without the Lightning Talks, we wouldn’t have realized that in the construction industry, the owners were the niche with the most challenges that would benefit from being solved. “Making construction projects more predictable for the owners” became the new mission driving the creation of the Aïdi software.

Week 2: Sketch out a wide-ranging set of ideas, and decide which to pursue

Icon of a team in a brainstorming session

We conclude the second week with the sketch and decide phases. During this part of the Discovery Phase, our team will lead the workshop participants to present. The ideas will be presented and voted on by participants. At the end of this stage, a solution will be defined and sketched out. Once the participants have decided on a solution, we will put together a list of features and prioritize them for the next phase.

With Aïdi, after defining our new vision and mission statement in the Define phase, we grabbed our pens and started sketching out potential solutions to address the owners’ unique challenges. The goal here was to better understand how we could bring tremendous value to the owners, and which features would be the most important to them in the software.

For example, it was clear to us that the financial tracking features in the software needed to go at the top of the list, if we wanted owners using Aïdi to have better control of their budgets and better visibility of the various happenings within their projects portfolios.

Weeks 3 and 4: Prototype and validate - Sprints

Now we enter the final phase, which consists of building and validating the prototype for the product. This usually lasts two to four weeks, split into one-week Sprints. This is the stage when we start working on the priorities that were established in previous phases.

The process is transparent and engaging, with daily connection meetings lasting no more than 15 minutes. At the end of each Sprint, we demo the solution for client feedback. Once this phase of the Discovery process is complete, you’ll have all the deliverables necessary to start the development part of the project.

When we were in the Prototype and Validate phase of the Aïdi project, we listed out all the key features we wanted to include in the Aïdi software, prioritizing them from the most important (must-haves) to the least important (nice-to-haves). The team then started to prototype an MVP (Minimum Viable Product).

The MVP includes all the must-haves, while keeping the nice-to-haves in mind for future versions. It's important to do this exercise because it's impossible to include ALL the desired features in the first version of a product (this would take too long, and be much too costly). You need to launch a first version of a digital product with ONLY the best features (the ones that will deliver the most value to your users, e.g. construction project owners). Then, after launching your MVP, you can iterate and evolve your product with the feedback of your customers.

Key Discovery Phase deliverables

The great thing about the Discovery Phase is not only that it helps you to mitigate risks and set your project up for success, but that you finish the process with specific deliverables in hand.

For most of our clients’ projects, these include:

  • Information architecture
  • User paths
  • Feature priority list
  • Mockups
  • Clickable prototype
  • Technical architecture
  • Budget estimates and timelines for technical development

Because of the solid foundation it establishes for your mobile or web app project, a Discovery Phase is the best way to embark on creating a new digital product. This proven method eliminates costly mistakes, giving you innovative ways of accessing superior solutions. It’s a powerful experience that promotes collaboration and co-creation with key stakeholders, while placing your end users and business needs at the forefront.

Our Discovery Phase workshops are available both in remote and in-person formats (pending pandemic regulations). No matter how it’s delivered, our process is designed to put you ahead of the game with your digital project. A Discovery Phase is a creative way to both engage your team and accelerate the software development of your web or mobile application.

Want to chat about your project? Contact us!