We’ve talked about the Discovery a couple times during the course, now it’s finally time to take a deeper look!
When there is too much uncertainty in the brief I propose a Discovery to help define the scope, and therefore the cost. Discoveries remove the need for guesswork and assumptions, instead encouraging conversation and collaboration, understanding and expertise.
The Discovery is the most important phase in any project, it is when we truly get a full understanding of the problem and devise solutions that align with our client's objectives, within the practical constraints of time, budget, and resource.
Discovery, in essence, is a dedicated period that enables a cross-functional team to address all of the unknowns through strategy, technical due diligence, research, and ideation. After generating a set of creative solutions that align with your client’s needs, you’ll filter the most valuable ideas and consider them under practical constraints, namely time, budget, and resource to start defining what they might look like in reality.
1. Set Up & Planning
While there's no fixed duration for a Discovery phase, it typically spans around 4 to 6 weeks. Naturally the complexity of the problem should guide the length of this phase, a familiar problem will probably require less time.
The roles required in a Discovery phase are determined by the client’s problem at hand but most often you’ll need the following individuals:
- a Strategist to comprehend and align the client's desires with reality
- a Technical Lead to understand how and where the project will be built
- a Copywriter to define key messages
- an Interaction Designer/UI Designer to determine user interaction and aesthetics
- a Producer to oversee delivery.
Before initiating Discovery, ensure the client confirms the project's objectives, understands the process, and that the team has had an Internal Kick-Off.
2. Discovery Deliverables
The deliverables for a Discovery are often unclear for the client, so don’t hesitate to record a Loom video that defines these in detail - the exact deliverables will vary from agency to agency but overall they should look like this:
- Strategy analysis and target setting
- Audience and campaign analysis
- User flows and wireframes
- Information and data analysis
- Technical due diligence
- Creative concept and key visuals (or prototype)
- Deliverables, timeline and budget
All consolidated in a single document I’ve often seen referred to as the Production Bible.
3. Running the Discovery
Below is my base template for Discovery workshop questions, you’ll need to add missing questions according to the context (is it data-driven? does it depend on an ongoing campaign?).
You’ll start by collecting as much information as possible to empower your team to make informed creative and technical ideations. Once you’ve filtered out the main ideas you can involve the client to collaborate on iterating the concept.
This phase also positions you as an expert, which is a valuable role to be perceived in for the remainder of the production. Now let’s look at the workshops.
Objective: To align the team and stakeholders on the project's strategic direction, including business goals and key success metrics.
- Visioning: Define the high-level vision for the project, answering the question "What do we want to achieve?"
- Goal Setting: Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals that align with the vision.
- Success Metrics: Define how the team will measure success, taking into consideration both qualitative and quantitative metrics.
Objective: To gain a deep understanding of the project's target audience, including their needs, motivations, and potential barriers to engagement.
- Persona Development: Create detailed personas that represent the project's target audience segments.
- Journey Mapping: Map the customer journey for each persona, identifying key touchpoints, pain points, and opportunities for improvement.
- Empathy Mapping: For each persona, identify what they say, think, do, and feel in relation to the project.
- What does your audience know?
- What don't they know?
- What do you want them to know?
- How will they read your information design?
- What ways do you anticipate they will interpret the data?
Objective: To identify and address technical requirements, constraints, and opportunities for the project.
- Requirements Gathering: Define the technical requirements of the project, including platforms, integrations, and performance considerations.
- Risk Assessment: Identify potential technical risks and define mitigation strategies.
- Technology Exploration: Discuss and explore potential technologies and tools that can be used to deliver the project.
Objective: To generate and refine creative concepts for the project.
- Idea Generation: Using techniques like brainstorming or the 'Crazy Eights' exercise, generate a wide range of potential concepts.
- Concept Refinement: Refine the initial ideas into a smaller set of concepts, considering factors like feasibility, impact, and alignment with project goals.
- Concept Presentation: Present the refined concepts to the team and stakeholders, gather feedback, and decide on the final concept to pursue.
Each of these workshops should be designed with active participation in mind, allowing all team members to contribute their expertise and perspectives. It's also important to document the outcomes of each workshop, as these will inform the subsequent steps of the Discovery phase.
If you’re junior you likely won’t be running a Discovery on your first project, but it’ll be beneficial for you to participate and see the flavour of the Discovery for your particular agency. If they have none maybe you can start the process by proposing it to reluctant or uncertain prospects!
In an earlier chapter you prepared a canvas for your remote workshop, whenever possible try running a Discovery workshop on a client project!