Chances are, if you’ve started the process of working with a digital agency on a new project, they’ve mentioned going through discovery. At first, it may be slightly confusing as to what this process entails but any experienced agency will highlight the importance of this stage prior to beginning any actual project development.
The process of setting up a project discovery stage stems from the legal profession. Discovery allows the parties to a lawsuit to exchange information about evidence and witnesses prior to the trial. Essentially, this step provides lawyers with the opportunity to learn all the key components of a case before a trial starts. Sounds like an obvious process, right?
Before starting any new project, it’s always best to do your research to thoroughly understand what you are dealing with. This is why project discovery is so important, enabling both parties to truly understand the key aspects of the project before you begin.
Setting you off on the right path
It’s easy to get wrapped up in deadlines and thus wanting to rush straight into the production phase, but conducting discovery is important for a variety of reasons.
While it may seem like you’re taking time away from the development stages, you’re actually saving yourself a lot of hassle in the long run. By understanding what the project entails, asking and answering any questions and breaking down the project step by step, will help to avoid any cases of miscommunication and make sure every is of a similar understanding of what to expect from the delivery.
Setting tone & pace
Working with your digital agency on a discovery stage will build momentum and set the speed and tone of the rest of the project. It shows all parties are serious about getting this right and is a good starting point when it comes to managing the project and the various roles being played.
If you’re going to be working with an agency on a web development project, it’s likely to take at least 3 months, which means it’s worth having a good relationship. Communicating at an early stage will help build trust, understanding and you’ll get to see how each party likes to work, making the rest of time a much easier process.
Investment in discovery is an investment in a project with a defined path, costings and timelines. This will help all parties to know what they should be delivering while keeping the project on time and on budget.
Rupert Cross, Digital Director, 5874
What does discovery look like?
This can vary from agency to agency and project to project, but generally there are certain questions that need to be answered at this stage before the project can begin.
Time & budget
Two key factors that need to be addressed early on. Timelines are an imperative part of any project. Be clear on what you are expecting and your agency will be able to give you estimated dates for delivery. Your budget should also be very clear. This will provide your agency with the scope to which they can take your project. They will then be able to inform you what is and isn’t possible within that budget.
People & partners
Who is working on this project? At this stage, it’s important to understand who will be doing what and who your main point of contact will be. You will also be able to understand more about any partners, integrations or software that you might be dealing with throughout the project. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, your digital agency will be able to answer any queries you may have.
A key part of discovery is in communication and flexibility. You may not hear the perfect answer every time, but it’s important to know that your agency wants the best for you and this project and will work hard to get the results you want. You may just have to take a different route to get there.
There’s a reason this project is going ahead. It might be that your old website is outdated and needs a refresh or it could be that you’re launching a new product range, whatever it is, this is the perfect opportunity to get your expectations out there. Be honest about what you want the final result to be. If you’re not clear, how can you expect your agency to know what to produce?
Who is the project serving? Regardless of whether it’s internal or external, there will an end user somewhere and this is the perfect time to narrow down exactly who that is so the right solutions can be put in place.
By going through the discovery process, every member of the project team will be able to build a good understanding of what each stage is going to look like. You can review any documents and find out the answers to any initial queries you may have. Don’t expect to run through every little thing, the idea behind discovery is that you have enough information to start your project smoothly and build on your relationship with your digital agency.