At Hart Square we have the privilege of working with amazing and inspirational clients who are implementing a range of new technologies from CRM to website. A key phase of any project is discovery, where you are kicking off a project, typically with a new technology partner. The goal of the discovery phase is to better identify the project scope and goals, designing a system that fits the needs of the client and aims to avoid increasing the costs during the development or implementation phase.
I will explore some of the key elements organisations need to take into a consideration to ensure that you maximise this phase and ultimately deliver a successful project.
1. Define the right approach
To ensure a positive start, the client project lead or project manager should work collaboratively with your chosen technology partner to understand the approach. This is likely to have been discussed as part of your partner selection but it’s important to ensure you are clear as to how this will work. If there is talk of an agile approach, each supplier’s interpretation of this can vary, so be sure your clear on what this means for you. Don’t be afraid to challenge and ask questions, it’s important to have clarity on what’s required so the rest of the organisation understands from the outset.
When undertaking any project, there is a fundamental level of change which can be disruptive to the organisation. So, ensuring a very clear communication plan is in place is critical. As part of the discovery, it’s very important to define a clear communication plan which understands the different communication styles and uses a variety of channels.
A key part of this plan should also involve regular communication throughout discovery. What are you asking of the staff? What are their time commitments? Depending on the size of the organisation, this may involve an all staff meeting or might be cascaded through managers.
Preparation is critical to ensuring that once you start your discovery workshops, you hit the ground running and maximise your key stakeholders’ time. The key things to have in place are an agenda in advance of what is going to be covered and any data outputs needed such as csv files or business processes. This will allow people to come best prepared and provide the information that is required. A lack of preparation would present a real risk to ensuring the technology partners get the information they need and could result in more time being spent following up.
Being clear as an organisation what the outputs from the sessions as well as the overall phase itself is vital. Will there be a written output from each session to review and further questions which is then signed off and part of a functional specification? Will the requirements be prioritised? What’s in scope? Explaining the benefits of this process and why a functional specification is so important for the rest of the project is also key to ensuring that the project moves forward smoothly.
The final area and probably the most important is time and timeline. To maximise project momentum, you want to start the discovery process as soon as you can after signing contracts depending on resources and other key dates. Every project will vary in scope and complexity, but an elongated discovery can stall the projects and lose momentum. In addition, it’s important to not over burden people with workshops – people’s time is valuable and so ensure that the sessions are reflective of this.
In summary, the discovery phase of sets the tone for the rest of the project. It’s so important to make a good start, generate momentum and ensure there is buy-in from across the organisation. If everyone is prepared, you can maximise the outputs from the stakeholders and be clear on what you are looking to achieve you give yourself the best possible opportunity of success. Collaboration with your technology partner is crucial, there is a need to work together but more importantly be very clear on the aims and approach.