What Are Discovery Workshops and Why Are They Important?

0 Business Process Optimization, Corporate Innovation, Mobile App Development
Iterators

Iterators

Tech & Business

Whether you’re a massive multi-million-dollar organization or a startup founder with an ambitious product idea, it’s crucial to make sure everyone on the team is on the same page about which direction to take. That’s what discovery workshops are for.

Discovery workshop is an important step to align your team’s focus on the most important details. Otherwise, your project will resemble a dog chasing its tail.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about discovery workshops and why they’re vital to succeed in your next project. Keep reading to learn more!

What Are Discovery Workshops?

A discovery workshop is the initial meeting that takes place during the discovery phase of the project (big surprise).

This project management phase is essential because it helps the project members, team members, and stakeholders understand what’s needed for the project. They can set goals, discuss logistics, and create a budget and timeline.

It’s here that project objectives can be clearly defined, so everyone understands what it means to be successful. It helps align the team, explore the scope of an idea, and make changes in the project direction if needed.

The discovery workshop can also help anticipate roadblocks and challenges that may arise during development.

Simply put? It helps everyone involved develop a deeper understanding of what’s required for the project.

Key Goals for Discovery Workshops

discovery workshops key objectives

A discovery workshop’s key aim is to assess a project’s scope. Here are the main objectives that a discovery workshop should do:

  • Set SMART goals to be accomplished by the team
  • Define the purpose of the project
  • Outline all core functionalities of a product or service
  • Establish the target audience
  • Define user personas and map out their journey
  • Create a value proposition
  • Create an estimation of the project timeline
  • Estimate the budget that is required to develop the product
  • Choose what metrics define success
  • Create a deliverable that covers all discovery activities and processes

When holding a discovery workshop, it’s important to focus on the objectives of the meeting and not just on creating deliverables.

The act of holding the workshop alone plays an integral part in evolving an idea into an effective product. You can ensure that tangible results follow by correctly planning, scoping, and streamlining.

Let’s take a closer peek and discuss the most critical objectives of the workshop.

Define Project Goals

One of the main outputs of the meeting should be to define the goals of the project.

Normally, either the leaders of the company or the clients will begin by explaining what their expectations of the project are. Then the project manager can share the team’s capabilities for achieving those objectives.

As we mentioned earlier, using the SMART method is a great way to guide the process (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). This can help create project goals that are realistic and attainable for everyone involved.

Create a Budget

Establishing a budget early in the product development phase is important because it lets all participants understand how much the project will cost.

Again, clients or company leaders can begin by sharing their budgeting goals and expectations. The project manager can follow by giving their estimation of individual costs throughout the phases of the project.

Factors that should be discussed include staffing, materials, resources, and project risks.

Set a Timeline

Another essential aspect of managing expectations is developing a project timeline. Especially ones that are expected to take a couple of months or even years to complete.

It includes creating key milestones as well. Milestones are specific completions of a project that indicate progress towards the project’s overall goal. The project manager can more accurately plan the timeline by establishing milestone dates.

Choose the Measurements of Success

It’s important to know what defines a successful project outcome. Some examples of this could be finishing the project within the timeline or the budget. Another could relate to the quality of the product.

By clarifying how the client or stakeholders plan on evaluating the project, the project manager can more easily guide their team throughout the project.

How to Plan a Discovery Workshop

There’s no one way to plan a discovery workshop as long as you include all of the necessary elements. Here’s an example of what your workshop method can look like.

Depending on your schedule, product, team, and goals, you can add or remove things as you see fit. This example covers three days. Choose only the aspects that you feel are most important for your discovery workshop.

discovery workshops planning

Day 1:

  • Introduction
  • Product Vision Board
  • Elevator Pitch
  • Proto-personas

Day 2:

  • Value Proposition Canvas
  • Customer Journey

Day 3:

  • Feature Prioritization
  • Team Chart

Let’s dive into what each of these activities entails.

Introduction

In your introduction, it’s important to clearly explain the goals of the discovery workshop to everyone involved. Let the team understand what is expected of them and what they should accomplish by the end of the meeting.

In this meeting, there should be a diverse mix of perspectives that can help develop the product and market it to its target audience. It can consist of people like:

  • Facilitator: The facilitator is vital in ensuring that everyone is fully engaged in the process. They’re there to ensure that everyone has a chance to contribute and that everyone feels heard.
  • UI designer: During the discovery phase, the UI designer analyzes the project and delivers prototypes of the future solution to the client.
  • UX designer: As much as the UI designer (or the UX designer), the role of the UX designer involves researching the problem space, framing the problem(s) to solve, gathering sufficient evidence and initial direction, and planning what to do next.
  • Developers: Developers should also be involved in the workshop. They will be able to address the technical aspects of the product they’re building and will be substantial in confirming and validating your product’s critical functional requirements.
  • Product manager: The product manager would be essential in defining an early roadmap and could contribute to the software development plan.
  • Product Owner: Understanding the requirements of the users of the product is very important. The product owner will help define user stories and personae, which will help understand the users’ needs.
  • Stakeholders: A representative from the client organization who is responsible for discussing the business objectives related to your product should also be present.
discovery workshops stakeholder map

After you finish your introduction, you can move on to the first activity.

Product Vision Board

Just as you started your meeting with why it was scheduled and what the expected outcome is, you should also do this for the project.

When creating a product vision board, you can explain the current state of the product and the expectations for the future of the product. After that, establish strategic priorities that will help the team bring about the project’s outcome.

discovery workshops product goal

By establishing the target market, user needs, key features, and business goals, everyone involved can align their goals with what’s needed to be built.

You can add nine sections to a board that includes:

  • Vision
  • Needs
  • Product
  • Business Goals
  • Competitors
  • Revenue Streams
  • Cost Factors
  • Channels
  • Current Situation
  • Long-term Plans

Ask members of the team to take turns brainstorming elements for each of the sections.

Elevator Pitch

The elevator pitch activity helps describe the product so that a listener can quickly understand what the product is about.

To do this, have the team brainstorm and highlight the following things:

  • What is the product for?
  • Why is it needed?
  • What benefits can it bring the customer?

Then as a team, try to simplify the following statement to fit the product:

For [?] who [?], the [?] is a [?] that [?]. Unlike [?], our product [?].

After you establish this, it’s time to figure out who will use the product.

Proto Personas

discovery workshops personas

Personas, also known as avatars, are made-up characters that represent the different types of people that will use your product. This should be based on detailed research, but if that isn’t available, make educated guesses based on the previous activities.

Here is a list of information your team should fill in:

  • Who is this?
  • Demographics
  • Personality
  • Motivations
  • Preferred channels
  • Interests
  • Goals
  • Pains
  • Quotes
  • Deal-makers
  • Deal-breakers
  • Needs
  • Current problems
  • Why would this person use our product?

Have the team brainstorm as many different personas you may find as real customers for your product.

Value Proposition Canvas

The primary purpose of a discovery workshop is to create a fit between the product and the market to ensure that it’s positioned around the target market’s values.

Split your canvas into two sides. On the left, include:

  • Customer personas
  • Their gains, pains, and jobs

On the right, include:

  • Product / Service
  • Gain creators
  • Pain relievers

For this activity, try to brainstorm potential solutions for the customer’s pains and connect the value between your product and the target market’s needs.

Customer Journey Map

At this point, you should have established the product’s goals, personas, and features. For this activity, your team will visualize how a customer will interact with the product.

The next canvas you create can include these things:

  • Actions [Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3]
  • Touchpoints [Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3]
  • Possible Pains [Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3]
  • Possible Gains [Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3]

Have the team brainstorm and define each of these actions to describe how a customer interacts with your product.

Feature Prioritization

Doing every activity will be hard to do in a single workshop. The most important goal is to focus on vital parts of the project that will accomplish your goals.

To do that, make sure to focus on features that will deliver the most value within a short period.

Several tools are readily available online to help you do this. One example is the Impact Effort Matrix. This framework helps prioritize tasks according to how important or urgent they are.

Summary

By the end of the discovery workshop, you should have at least established three important things:

  1. Why you’re building the product
  2. Who you’re building it for
  3. What is the feature scope

Lastly, it’ll be best if you discuss how the team will work together on the project. It’s essential to help build a bond between teammates with a shared understanding and commitment to what will happen next.

To do this, it’s good for team members to set ground rules on their own. They can establish a team charter framework that defines team goals, obstacles, and responsibilities for those involved.

This model is just a loose example of what you can include in your discovery workshop. There are plenty of creative ways to establish the goals of the meeting. Try some tactics out and see what works best for your organization.

Benefits of a Discovery Workshop

There are several reasons why doing a discovery workshop for your project is important.

discovery workshops benefits

1. Creates a clear roadmap for the project

During this meeting, you can develop a project plan for the project and coordinate important details, including the budget and timeline.

The meeting also gives participants an opportunity to set out clear guidelines for success so everyone knows how they can meet the objectives.

During the workshops, you have enough time to see and get an understanding of the project from the client’s point of view.

It’s important not just to understand the project itself, the idea behind it, the industry in which the customer operates, and the market.

Both the parties benefit from this arrangement because it helps them to design a solution instead of just using the software.

2. Understanding the client’s perspective

Understanding the client’s point of view, the world in which the client operates, the nuances of the industry, and the specialized terminology enable you to form a cohesive and effective team.

This understanding creates mutual respect and the ability to take personal responsibility for solving a specific issue instead of just building tools to solve it.

It also gives you the courage to share ideas, no matter how unconventional they may be. It all affects the quality of the final solution.

3. Meeting consumer expectations

If a product doesn’t meet the expectations of its targeted consumers, it’ll likely fail. It’s no doubt the worst thing that could happen to any business.

Engagement is essential in product discovery workshops because it reduces the risk of a product failing and ensures that the end-users are completely happy.

Maximizing user engagement and satisfying their needs is necessary before production begins. It’s where product discovery workshops enter, targeting specific niches to help you identify the best products for your audience.

You can achieve this by involving the final consumers of the products during the early phases of the product development lifecycles. It helps create a user persona and map out the users’ functionality.

The end-user gets what he wants, and the company witnesses an increase in sales and revenue!

4. Reducing overall production costs

No matter what kind of awesome product idea you have, it can lose its value during the development process if it isn’t planned out properly.

Planning for potential challenges and roadblocks will help you avoid wasting valuable time and provide clarity to those working on the project, saving you both time and money.

A well-planned, intentional product costs less to build than an ill-planned, unintentional one. It means there are fewer products to choose from, more occasional tweaks to be made, and less time spent creating something that isn’t fit for purpose.

Collectively, this means that the product is faster to deliver and less expensive to build.

Here are just a couple of ways that a product discovery session can save you money:

  • Keep your project focused by reducing scope creep with well-defined technology and functional requirements.
  • Better feature alignment and better definition zero out the product scope on the features the end-user cares about, meaning you need to build fewer things and thus, spend less time building them.
  • Team alignment prevents reworking and changes from blowing out the budget in a huge way.

5. Increase production speed

Next, complex, overwhelming ideas can be simplified quickly by creating a structured roadmap that gives clarity and direction to all project team members.

Prioritization means that the essential parts of a project are completed first, and the project is finished by its deadline. Slow is smooth, and smooth is faster.

However, when you’re under pressure, a product development workshop can feel like a waste of time. After all, you already know what you’re building! Why bother with this exercise?

But in reality, you don’t really know what you’re creating.

A product discovery workshop will help you get a product shipped sooner by:

  • Learning to identify rabbit holes early and learning to avoid them.
  • Defining what you’re building and why.
  • Allowing for rapid iteration in the early stages of development so that you don’t waste time and energy going down the wrong path.

By taking the time to understand the product requirements early, you’ll inevitably save time later (even if it feels slow on the day).

6. Minimize risks and obstacles throughout the production

Another important reason for having an open discussion is that it can align people with different opinions.

When disagreements on specific aspects of a particular project arise, it’s best for everyone involved to agree on some common ground early rather than run into problems later.

Product risk is a major challenge for any company. Big digital products can be expensive, but they can also be very successful.

At the same time, however, digital products often fail, costing companies and people big time. By running a product discovery workshop, you increase the chances of your product succeeding and reduce the risks involved.

7. Enable bonding between teammates through improved communication

Teamwork means working together. During workshops, the client works with the team on the project. The team has open communication and transparency, which translates to a common understand­ing of the digital product’s idea.

It means that cooperating becomes a lot easier and creates the basis for long-term collaboration between you and your team members.

During the workshop, project managers can discuss the expectations for communicating with stakeholders and clients, which helps increase transparency throughout a project. Cooperation and teamwork are two of the most important aspects of any business.

If you think that building a good relationship among your employees is essential, then it’ll help make your team feel comfortable when they’re working together and also when they’re building a solid partnership.

Mutual understanding and the ability to freely express your thoughts and feelings without hesitation are essential for successful future communication.

Useful Tools for Discovery Workshops

Although tools are necessary for hosting a discovery workshop, remember that tools can also be a huge distraction if you go overboard with them.

For workshops in person, simple tools like whiteboards, large canvases, computers, and projectors are all useful tools.

If you’re running a discovery workshop online, here are some tools that can be useful:

Both options are fine because they’re easy to use and offer similar features. They work without issues or lag; you can turn on the camera and turn off the microphone. They allow participants to share their screens and have the option of recording the meeting.

You don’t need much more than that to select a conferencing tool. So, the choice between one or the other is just a matter of personal preference.

  • Miro as a digital whiteboard
miro screenshot
Miro Screenshot

Whiteboards are an essential part of every discovery workshop, so Miro is a perfect fit. It’s clean and straightforward to use and lets everyone share their ideas and collaborate.

It has all of these features you’ll need for your project, but it also comes bundled with a bunch of preconfigured whiteboard templates that make the initial setup much easier and faster.

At Iterators we love using Miro.

  • Figma for prototyping during a workshop
figma screenshot
Figma Screenshot

Figma is amazing as it allows us to quickly create visual designs for the elements we discussed during the workshop.

It has advanced collaboration features which enable multiple people to work on a prototype at once, get feedback, iterating and improving.

Google Drive is the gold standard for storage and sharing files, although there are plenty of other options. Google Drive is easy to use, has all the features you need, and just works plainly!

Again, just use the tools necessary for the workshop so you don’t distract yourself from the main point of it.

Using tools as a substitute for proper preparation, clear agenda, or any other aspect is precisely what you need to avoid doing.

Start Planning Your Discovery Workshop

That’s everything you need to know about discovery workshops. You can see that you can get a massive return on your investment by executing a successful discovery workshop. You can plan for the future, bring your team together by aligning goals, and avoid roadblocks that may appear.

If you’re looking for a highly-trusted professional team to help you design high-tech products, including UX/UI design, scalable infrastructure, or machine learning — we can do it for you. Come meet us, and we’ll explain exactly how we do it.

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