The thing with designing a software is that in most cases the idea of how should it look like is quite vague. As a person responsible for the project you were probably asked to deliver a brief description of its purpose. But do you really know what to write? Most likely you will not be the only user of this system. How should you know what all the groups of interest actually need? And what is possible to achieve?
What is Product Discovery?
Product Discovery is a service that any consulting firm or software house should offer. It helps to understand what kind of an IT solution will be most suitable and correspondent with the specific requirements of your organization. But first, let’s see if you have actually recognized them all and if everything you might imagine truly applies. The best way to do it is to hold a workshop and invite representatives of each department to take part in it. With the help of a professional Business Analyst (designated by the software house), you will easily create the concept of your future product.
8 stages of Product Discovery workshop
And how does such a workshop look like? Well, it depends on an organization. In general, it is possible to distinguish 8 stages of so-called Product Discovery. Not all of them may apply to your specific organization but let’s go through them and find out your options.
1. The Horizon
At this stage, you are going to look at a wider perspective of the whole process. First, you will get familiar with the agenda of this very meeting. You will also learn the nomenclature and all the definitions that are going to be necessary along the way. Next, you will hear about the methodologies in software development, and possibly get the idea of which one to choose. Finally, you might actually see the horizon – an overall idea of the product. But that is only stage one. We are just getting started.
2. Recognition of the main business process
You need to remember that the software itself is no remedy for any performance issues if it does not correspond with what you actually do at your company. Having that in mind, a very important part of the Product Discovery is its second stage. During this take of the workshop you will identify all the steps of your key business procedures. It is going to help to correctly design the system in the long term. The last thing you want is that your brand new application becomes the next bottleneck in your organization, right?
3. Determination of the general goals
After you have recognized all the stages of your business process, it is important to gather them all and come up with just a few objectives. Those goals you set during the stage #3 of Product Discovery should stay with you throughout the whole time of software development. Each part of the system needs to be consistent with what is the general direction of the project. This approach guarantees the success of the IT endeavor and makes every little functionality work in favor of your business.
4. Basic system demonstration
Is the software you think you need actually the best option?
In some cases, the team involved in the project already has an idea about which type of existing software could be adjusted – if Open Source – to work with the specific requirements of the company. If so, it is the best moment to do a quick demonstration of such solution. This way you will be able to compare your business process with the capabilities of a certain product. It might be that it is exactly what you are looking for or… not at all. Having this knowledge at such an early stage of the project is going to save you a lot of time and money.
5. IT environment study
A very important factor for any software development project is to be aware of all the other systems around it. There is a lot of potential in creating a well-communicated platform of many IT solutions. This way you will avoid repeating the information that already exists in your organization. In order to recognize what you already have and how it should correlate with the new piece of software, it is useful to do a simple outline showing the necessary integrations.
6. System beneficiaries recognition
At the beginning of the article, we have made a prediction that you are not going to be the only user of the future software… At this point of Product Discovery workshop you should finally think of who is going to actually work with it. Before you make a judgment of what the software has to do, find out who will be using it and… ask them what they really need!
7. Value Proposition
based on a diagram that shows representatives of each department and their “Jobs, Pains and Gains”
The Value Proposition stage should lead you to a conclusion about more specific functionalities of the software. At this point, you should ask the future key users what kind of tasks (“Jobs”) they are facing during their work hours. Of some, you might just not be aware. After that, it is important to compare the results with the so-called “Pains”. It means shifting the attention onto all the things that are slowing down the progress in certain departments. Finally, think about what there is to do to fix all the problems along the way. The knowledge about challenges in your organization will help to design a comprehensive solution customized to your specific needs.
8. Comparison of the business process and the software idea
The last stage of Product Discovery means a comparison of your business process with the more comprehensible idea of the software. The most important question to ask at this point is: How this case could look like in the system? This is when the concept of what needs to be done comes to life. This is when you discover your product! This is also when you can start the pre-implementation analysis and begin the development with the use of the chosen methodology and the help of a preferable software house.
What should you expect from the software house?
Of course, you are not going to be alone with all this work! 8 stages are quite a lot and you need someone to moderate the whole thing. The smartest way is to ask the software house to designate a professional Business Analyst to guide you through the process. Such person is going to be experienced and well-equipped to take on the responsibility of handling the meeting correctly.
Only thanks to such support you will fully benefit from the workshop! Their job is to make sure that one and all understand what is being discussed and that everyone is using the same nomenclature. It happens in some organizations that some terms mean different things in other departments. It might look like something obvious but it is crucial to the success of the Product Discovery that all the parties are on the same page, at all times! This is also how you will find out how competent your possible business partner actually is. If they have all the necessary qualifications, they will also offer a reliable support later on. This feeling of a mutual trust will be essential during the actual software development. And if something is going to be really clear about Product Discovery it is not only your big idea for the software but also the fact if the company you teamed up with is up for the job.