Guide to Digital Transformation: Discovery Part 1 - Purposes and Success

By Steve Yatson on 16 February 2021

In business for over a decade, productOps has developed a proven methodology to power major software development endeavors and digital transformation. Part of this strategy is a Discovery phase which we have used for platform development and data engineering projects for organizations of all types and sizes - from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, non-profits to government agencies. Discovery is an exploratory engagement that solidifies the vision of a longer term project, provides the tools to articulate that vision, and offers a clear and measurable definition of success. In this blog, the first part of a three part series on Discovery, we look at purpose and success.

Discovery Purpose and Success

At the start of the digital transformation process it’s important to clearly define the end goal. In other words, what does success look like? At the end of a successful Discovery engagement with a client, we’ve asked the right questions, gleaned the essential information and reflected an accurate picture of reality. After collaborating with our client and filtering the findings with an independent perspective, we can begin to build consensus around a clear path forward.

The Vision

Defining the end result, whether it’s building a next-generation learning management system or real-time data management for the aerospace industry, is critical to gaining trust and buy-in from both stakeholders and the team involved. Clearly visualizing and communicating what’s being created, how people will interact with it, and the value of the project is crucial. Circumstances may change along the way, details will change, and needs will continue to be discovered. But a successful Discovery engagement will build a vision that holds.

The Framework

We dive deep to discover the who, what, when, why, and how of realizing your vision. Interviews, white boarding and brainstorming result in a comprehensive set of artifacts, like the user persona and roadmap below. These documents support the scope and definition of the vision while providing a central focus for collaboration that all team members and stakeholders can not only speak to, but see themselves and their people represented in the project.

The User Persona is an aggregate of similar users

Let’s now touch on the front end of a user-interactable system. In some cases device data is collected through indirect user interaction or no user interaction whatsoever. In those cases the persona shown in Part 1 of this series and the journey map below may be tailored to admin interfaces as necessary. For this example a user journey map was created by the user experience (UX) team through a number of research techniques such as interviews and on-site behavioral observations. This combines emotional elements with behavior to provide recommendations to the organization from the incredibly important user perspective. This is not a “we should do this” approach but meant to be combined with market data, competitive research and other known business needs to inform decisions and create the best solutions possible.

Example of a user journey map used to detail end-user or customer touch points and emotional aspects
The Roadmap should provide solid milestones but allow for agile development

The Timeline

Many organizations are focused quarter-to-quarter yet know they need to do something to ensure longer term success. Often focusing on your business can be difficult amidst the day-to-day challenges of doing business.

The length of the Discovery engagement or phase varies. It is structured to allow a maximum of information gathering, informing and improving the accuracy of time and cost models for a longer term engagement with our consultants that could follow. Since we embrace an agile methodology, the discovery mentality persists throughout the engagement, as, inevitably, new information presents itself and influences delivery and functionality decisions.

To close out the first part of this series, critical questions you’ll want to ask before embarking on a large project are:

  • What can we do that will unlock our ability to capitalize on unforeseen opportunities?
  • When finished will we own the technology and therefore our destiny?
  • Will we be able to maintain what we build?
  • Can we further develop the solution in-house if needed?

A great partner will set you up for success in all four of these areas. In Part 2 we delve into the process of Discovery.

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