How to plan for a successful discovery workshop

While the Discovery phase is considered the first stage in SDLC, the road to a successful project starts well before discovery. There are certain preparation steps that the discovery team should take in order to ensure the best outcome: a clear, mutual understanding of the requirements that is defined within the scope of the SOW. The following list summarizes a few of such steps:

Researching the client and the project: Having sufficient insight on the project and business area will allow the workshop facilitator to engage actively with the stakeholders and ask the relevant questions.

Researching the stakeholders

Identifying key individuals and team members on the client side is important especially if the client environment is highly politicized. This includes mapping out the stakeholders and deciding who to invite to the workshop. A healthy mix should ideally include Subject Matter Experts who are well versed in the specific matters the workshop will address, as well as business owners who have the authority to make decisions. Having stakeholders from different backgrounds helps benefiting from multiple perspectives, but this might come at the price of difficulty reaching consensus.

Researching the Venue

This includes making sure that the workshop venue can comfortably accommodate all participants; has proper equipment to accommodate remote participants; and is equipped with supporting material such as whiteboards, markers, etc. Also, if there are clearance requirements to access the room, preparations to ensure all participants have this should happen well in advance as well.

Creating a workshop plan

This includes deciding on the length of the workshop; devising an agenda for each day with list of main topics to be covered and potential participants from both sides, and preparing any material that needs to be distributed to participants in advance.

Defining the output of the workshop 

This includes clearly defining the deliverables that will be created after the workshop, so that it meets clients’ expectation and is enough for the design and development team to start the project.  

Having a through understanding of the SOW

A good understanding of the SOW will help ensure that the requirements as defined or clarified during the workshop stay within the scope boundaries. A careful study of SOW will also help getting familiar with client terminology and acronyms, which will in turn facilitate conversations during discovery process.

Identifying Key components and missing requirements beforehand

Mapping out the end-to-end processes for each component helps identifying ambiguous components with lacking background information that need to be discussed during the appropriate discovery session.

Devising meaningful questions for each component and process

To have focused and meaningful conversations, specific questions should be devised in advance to gain a full picture of each project component and process. Anchor initial questions can be decided beforehand, with plan to probe further on each during the workshop.

Adhering to these simple steps will make sure the discovery team goes in with the endgame in mind and comes out with a clear understanding of what to build and how, and is empowered with enough knowledge to accomplish what is needed in time and within project budget.

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