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5 Reasons to start every project with a discovery workshop

A collaborative discovery workshop can create the perfect space for an idea to be explored, challenged and developed.

Whether for an internal system fix or a new mobile app for customers, software solution development can be difficult to navigate. Done well, the process addresses the needs and thoughts of multiple stakeholders while transforming an idea into a working model to be tested and refined with users.

Having the right team on your side makes that easier. And combining that right team with a powerful discovery workshop is invaluable. That’s how we begin every engagement at NearForm because it’s the best way to align teams and foster collaboration from the start. Here’s why.

1. Understand the business context

At some companies, projects start with a series of meetings in which clients are asked to create a long, detailed document that covers everything the project should achieve. The project team will speak to multiple stakeholders across various departments, and they’ll all have very different ideas of what the product should look like. This can make the discovery stage complicated, time-consuming and frustrating.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Starting your project with a discovery workshop can condense that discovery period down to a matter of hours. With your key stakeholders and our paired team of a senior product designer and senior technical director in one room together, it’s easier to define the project objectives, strategy and vision. You can talk through your unique value proposition, your customers and how all the different parts fit together. Workshops provide the chance to communicate your ideas in the most natural way, so we can start using this valuable information straight away — as we did with TELUS , for example.

Products don’t exist inside a bubble. The opportunity for our senior product designer and senior technical director to discuss and understand your business needs, goals and ambitions in real time gives us the detail we need to create a roadmap for your product design and development.

2. Surface hidden issues before the project begins

There’s no better way to make progress on a project than to remove all other distractions. For three days (or half days for remote workshops), the project team works in an environment where the rest of the 9-5 fades into the background. You’re free from distractions from your phone or email, or interruptions from coworkers in the office or through Slack.

With space to freely focus your attention on the product, it’s easier for hidden issues to surface. For example, an idea that sounds great on paper could present challenges once you pick it apart in the company of others.

In the workshop environment, we can tackle these challenges as they arise. Some problems will have an easy solution, while others may encourage a change of direction in the project. Knowing this upfront is a vast advantage over finding out down the line when you’re in the prototyping stage, where you could run into delays or even changes to the product development.

3. Align your team towards one goal

Working across multiple teams can present some challenges. It’s often hard to bring everyone together at once or to find a shared sense of direction — especially if you’re managing a remote project . Our discovery workshops and design workshops make building those connections easy.

With all key stakeholders in one (physical or virtual) space, you’re able to work together at the same time. There’s a shared purpose for your time together and a common goal to unite you. The real-time collaboration shortens the discovery process considerably, so you can bring your product into development quickly and with buy-in from multiple departments. This also helps later when you’re planning resources and marketing for your launch.

Managing multiple points of view can be tricky at times, especially if someone has historically taken on the role of facilitating. We bring a dedicated, experienced facilitator to the workshop, so everyone has the opportunity to contribute and be fully immersed in the experience.

4. Build rapport between your team and ours

As we move forward into product development, our teams will be working closely together for a number of weeks — which is why it’s essential to quickly build a good working relationship between your team and ours.

Workshops allow us to get to know each other in a way that discussing documents through email simply can’t. It’s an opportunity for everyone to meet and understand not only your role in bringing the project to life but who you are and how we can best work together.

Being in the same space creates room for casual conversations over lunch, where we discover what you’re passionate about or hear about your family. It’s these conversations that create a great rapport between teams.  And because these impromptu interactions are so important, we built them into our remote workshop model: Our pre-workshop sync is where we say hello, walk through some of the technology and get to know each other.

Effective communication can make or break a project, and we highly value people here at NearForm. The workshop process makes it easier for everyone to feel comfortable and confident in discussing the project. The rapport that we build over these first few days continues throughout the project, creating a smoother journey from start to finish.

5. Create tangible resources to kickstart the project

Our workshops aren’t just a talking exercise. After spending three days with us, you’ll come away with real, tangible outcomes that help your project move forward at speed.

With all the time saved through real-time collaboration and design-led development , we’re able to hand a number of tangible artefacts over to your team at the end of the workshop. Most notable of these is a complete, working InVision prototype that you can share with stakeholders and test with users. Additionally, you receive a full architecture overview, a product roadmap and a list of milestones that will help you gauge progress throughout the project.

With a prototype in place and a product roadmap ready to go, our development team can jump straight into working on your project. There’s no waiting around once you’re ready to move forward. You’ll also be equipped with the details and deadlines you need to start making in-house launch preparations or commissioning partners for marketing, press or event support.

Set your product development up for success

Starting projects with a workshop makes sense for everyone. You come away with tangible artefacts and a strategic plan for how your product development will progress. And we get the opportunity to work with you to make that happen while building a rapport that’ll make the development process easy. It’s a process that sets your project up for success right from the start.

Insight, imagination and expertly engineered solutions to accelerate and sustain progress.