A collaborative discovery workshop can be a game changer for organisations seeking practical solutions.

Deciding how to build and implement a software solution are among the trickier elements of digital innovation. A lack of internal alignment or expertise can push the process beyond the abilities of a single enterprise. That’s why access to strong facilitation and informed external expertise is a must.

Combined in the form of a well-conceived discovery workshop, this kind of engagement sets you up for successful innovation because the focus from the outset is on developing a shared understanding of what is required. Right from the start, the team and the client immerse themselves in a process that centres on the needs and considerations of all relevant stakeholders.

Within days, the team can produce a workable idea of what the internal fix or product should be and transforms that idea into a prototype for testing and refinement by users.

Getting the process right

At NearForm, we start every engagement with a discovery workshop because it is the key to aligning teams and encouraging collaboration from the very start. Over the years, we have refined the process, recognising how much time and energy are wasted when clients are asked to create complicated documents encompassing all the aspirations they have for a project and when teams spend hours sifting through the various visions different departments have for a finished product.

Instead, we use a process-driven discovery engagement to quickly establish consensus among stakeholders on a route from strategy to delivery and to generate tangible assets to accelerate development and deployment, such as prototypes, plans and architectures. To ensure success, each engagement is tailored to the client’s specific context, experience and goals. This approach both minimises risk when validating proposed projects and optimises the potential for successful delivery.

Harnessing the power of workshops

With their strong social energy, collaborative dynamic and set focus, workshops can really accelerate progress in a way that no other technique can. For our discovery workshops, we bring key stakeholders together with a senior product designer and senior technical director to define the project goals and strategy clearly and with minimal delay.

The setting encourages stakeholders to communicate ideas freely, and our team gets to work harnessing these nuggets of information immediately. The workshop makes it easier to address challenges as they surface — for example, by letting ideas that may have sounded great on paper be abandoned quickly when shortcomings become apparent during open discussion.

Workshops provide the chance to contribute and discuss ideas in a natural way, so we can start using this valuable information straight away, just as we did for TELUS. What’s vital, of course, is that the discovery workshop produces not just ideas but real results.

Producing results

By following a focused schedule, an efficient discovery workshop can produce actionable results within a few days. On day one, our senior product designer and senior technical director get straight down to discussing and understanding your business needs, goals and ambitions, so they can extract the detail required to create a roadmap for your product design and development.

If all stakeholders commit to aligning their understanding of the specific problem on the first day, the team then can dive into high-fidelity customer journeys. Pairing design and tech, our team adopts a tag-team approach to requirements research and problem solving so they can transfer knowledge efficiently while maximising productivity.

The second day of the workshop generally concludes with a review of the concepts presented to the client and agreement on the direction to take. This is not simply an abstract discussion: The team often presents a prototype for the client to test, approve or propose changes. It is common for the team to have covered any outstanding issues and outlined a plan for delivery by the third day of a discovery engagement.

Real-time collaboration, the streamlined nature of design-led development and our proven expertise speeds up the process dramatically. In the space of 72 hours, clients often progress from a position of simply knowing they have an unresolved internal issue or an unmet customer need to one where they possess a working model of a viable solution they can test with users, a roadmap for future development and a deeper understanding of their products and processes.

Wrapping it up

If you choose to continue working with us after the discovery engagement, our development team can jump straight into working on your project, armed with the prototype and product roadmap. The rapport established during the workshop process creates a good working relationship between teams as they move forward into product development, maximising the potential for a fast, successful outcome.

Even if you choose to end your engagement following the discovery workshop, you will be armed with tangible assets, a deeper understanding of the problem you are trying to solve and the route to a viable solution. The power of the design thinking methods we use in our engagements helps to surface and test new ideas and build consensus around them. No matter how innovative the ideas generated during the discovery engagement, we ensure that every solution is feasible and optimal within the client context.

If the external facilitator of your design engagement maintains an unwavering focus on best practice applied to modern technologies, you can have confidence that they will make the most informed choices for modern technology platforms and practices. A constant feedback loop from solutions they have delivered and maintained previously will inform their engagement with you, making it easier and safer to make complex choices. This means you can innovate with minimal risk.

This method of discovery goes far beyond user journeys and prototypes. With outline architectures, workable plans and proper estimates, you enjoy the freedom to innovate, safe in the knowledge that all of the outputs you receive are feasible, powerful and actionable.

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