The article will focus on how to collect product requirements, conduct interviews, and the discovery phase of software development. This material will be useful for those who do not know where to start, afraid of losing time, or not to take into account important things. For each step the theoretical aspects are described and their application in practice in the real project conditions.
To say that IT-companies routinely conduct full discovery on new projects is to exaggerate, if not to lie. The market is gaining more and more trust from customers. If your company wants and can take over the discovery phase, this advantage will distinguish you from the competitors.
The project’s life path starts with the Discovery phase and goes to the Delivery phase.
As part of Discovery:
- Research the subject area;
- Study the customer’s business processes;
- Learn the customer’s expectations of the new product;
- Identify bottlenecks;
- Formulate solutions to their problems at a high level;
- Set priorities and create a backlog;
- Build the project’s roadmap.
You can visit this website to check more information about the discovery phase.
There are initial conditions that will allow us to conduct Discovery:
- Customer confidence;
- His desire to meet you for a good result;
- Relative freedom of terms.
On the last point – everyone understands approximately when the project should start, when to enter the peak and when to finish. Just make sure that you didn’t have to start yesterday, but to finish – not tomorrow at lunchtime.
There is no single scheme of how to run the discovery, but there are effective scenarios. For example, the Double Diamond design process:
- “How it can be applied in practice, and we will talk about it”.
What happened in reality?
Your partner is company X, where many processes are still not automated and are performed manually. And yes, there are already several systems at its disposal, which allowed company X to do its job:
- Frontstage: a public site for external users.
- Backstage: a heavyweight desktop application + a system for storing and processing documents by X’s employees. There are many roles in the backstage, its task is to process requests from users coming from Front Stage.
In case these products did not exist, you should still be performing the above tasks of the phase.
Team: two designers and a business analyst. Later on, architects and quality engineers joined us.
Step 1: Discovery Initiation
To begin with, agree in the team what Discovery will consist of and what artifacts should be obtained at the output. Choose and duration of sprints, decide on the tools, choose the format. When you are done, give it all to the customer for approval.
This is the easiest stage, but it is better not to neglect it.
Benefits for the team:
- Instead of an impending mountain of tasks, the team gets an approximate plan of what to do and what not to do.
- On the other hand, the plan disciplines and sets the quality bar: “We’ll do it and this, we’ll do it both ways. We’ll focus on the artifacts until the project is released.
Benefits for the relationship with the customer:
- If at the first bump in the project you don’t want to prove to the customer that you care about his expectations, show at the beginning that even finding out the requirements you start not blindly, but have a certain structure and your own expectations from Discovery.
Step 2: Conduct remote interviews
An understanding client will be happy to offer you a list of candidates for an interview. If not, ask him yourself.
Even the most remote idea of the functions of the listed people will allow you to create “interview cards”. These are general questions about their work, which you will have to ask one way or another. Always leave a space on the card for clarification or information that could not have been provided.
Benefits for the team:
- Remote interviews do not require as much careful organization as personal interviews.
- It is an excellent format when you only have a superficial knowledge of your client’s business.
Benefits for your customer relationship:
- You don’t go down the guesswork path but ask questions directly to those who can answer them.
- At the start of Discovery, the customer rightly doubts that your knowledge is already enough to communicate in his office. Skype interviews introduce you to both stakeholders and their roles in the organization, without bringing chaos to their standard schedule.
What Happened in Reality?
Company X, for various reasons, did not support the idea of interviewing users of the frontstage-site. You thought that there would be enough information from the support team. In the context of the enterprise project, it was probably justified. But if you have the possibility to find an external user of the product, do not neglect it.
As for the employees, with a couple of letters, you have managed to get both the list of interviewers and their positions. You have communicated:
- With development directors, who told what the organization does, where the application flows come from and what awaits them on the website;
- With the architect of the existing backstage system, who has been writing and customizing it for the last 15 years;
- With members of different backstage teams who described in detail the cycle that a typical application takes place;
- With the support team.
Step 3: Results and Artifacts from the Application Fronts
Once again: the interview with end-users is very useful. And full Discovery will not work without them.
Let’s say that you conducted an interview and began to navigate in the customer’s business. How to structure the obtained information?
- Identify the product’s stakeholders.
- Highlight the main user problems (pain points). It may be useful to classify them by origin.
- Prioritize each problem.
Remember the Double Diamond scheme. Each problem is a request for improvement (opportunity).
Web development companies usually propose these features and you can order the discovery phase.
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