Let’s be honest - we are a lazy species. But here is the thing. The shortest way is not always the easiest one. And surely it doesn't come with all the astonishing views of the landscape around. Sometimes you have to come full circle to experience the fullness and depth. To DISCOVER. So, let us take you for a walk ;). Our guides in the second part of the Discovery workshops story will be Kamila Herezińska, Product Owner, and Maciej Wiśniewski, UX/UI Designer. They have the same background, working together in the same project’s team but their perspective is slightly different. But they both agree – Discovery workshops are mandatory for planning work anchored in reality.
Why Discovery workshops? Where lies the starting point of the team’s work?
- Meet PEOPLE behind the IDEA
- User Personas – product of Discovery workshops
- A compass for design and planning
Conducting workshops – what are the main challenges for PO
Benefits of attending Discovery workshops
Uses of workshop for daily tasks
- Planning anchored in reality
- How presence of UX Designer saves PO time and energy
- Client’s confidence of being in good hands
- Genuine benefits for client – the UX perspective
- How to loosen strain in the project and where are the problem areas?
- And why Discovery workshops are key to success in defining the bottleneck?
How does the Discovery workshops look for the Client’s team, Founders oraz top managers? Do they really see the point in doing extra work before even starting THE WORK at all? In the first part of the article we’ve shown the workshops’ benefits for clients at Inwedo:
Discovery workshops give a unique opportunity, time, and space to dive deep into the project. To meet without any daily distractions and tasks. To discover each other’s perspectives and ideas. And create new ones, that may save time and money on the following stages of work. For the team members, the validity of discovery workshops unfolds on several levels. Where does it start?
For the UX Designer, meeting in person with those who stand behind the idea is mandatory. In fact, people are the clou of the product. The importance of workshops lies in the unique opportunity to observe and identify their needs.
The most important question you have to answer is always: “why”? What brought them to this decision of creating an app at first? And personal experience is crucial for getting the right answers.
Truth is, you can read all about this in the final report. But papers don’t speak for people, right?
For me it is all about the conversation, emotions of people, their stories complementing the context, and descriptions of problems they are willing to solve. All that impacts on my way of thinking of the project and planning further work. I remember participating in one live workshop – with the swedish MMM. Each meeting had the same start. Standing in the circle, holding hands, we’ve been telling each other about the good things of today. It was a very special experience, this kind of approach to team’s work. A team that was created precisely for the purpose of one product. For the period of time, we’ve all joined as one group. With a strong sense of support and common trust.
Maciej Wiśniewski, UX/UI Designer
During the workshops, we have a chance to gather literally everyone interested in the product and engaged in the process at different stages of creation. Even the founders. It is the right moment to ask people specific questions. Each one of them has its own individual context of the product and represents a different target group. Therefore, in the time given, it is good to clarify what motivates their decisions and concrete approach.
The workshop helps in understanding who exactly will be using the product we are going to create. As a final result, we get a description of User Personas. Plus, common knowledge of who the end-user will be.
Sometimes, during Discovery workshops we gain extra space for a quick draft. Or even collect the first feedback. In the following, we are able to figure out the client’s impression of the topic. If the person in charge has any preferences concerning design style. At this point, a good UX Designer will be able to define how to adjust expectations to the user’s needs. That’s how, before even starting the real work, we get the right direction to follow.
People say ignorance is bliss. But does awareness always come as a burden? That depends on the use you will make of it. As a Product Owner, with each workshop’s day, you see clearly how much knowledge is there to gain. The knowledge that is properly collected will enhance everyone’s work and simply makes the product better.
For me the biggest challenge of Discovery workshops is always proper planning. I keep in mind that all the subjects we bring up will serve in preparing the final report and all preliminary materials. Project’s MVP, initial plan, initial roadmap and first mock-ups. That is a lot to prepare so we have to get as much crucial information as possible. We have to look in detail on all the processes we are creating the solutions for. In such a context, workshops seem to be really compact. You wish to ask your client about absolutely everything. It is a big trick – planning the workshop in such a way, to get key information in the time given.
Kamila Herezińska, Product Owner
Having all this in mind, you may ask yourself: how not to go crazy? So many tasks in (always!) not enough time. Well, when you feel completely lost – look for a hint to follow. To comfort you a bit, here are few benchmarks that our Product Owner takes into consideration while planning Discovery workshops:
- Is it the first or another phase of the project?
If we already know the client and the project, that gives us some advantage at the start. We have the base, know the processes and work specifications. We can lean on cooperation which already exists between our and the client’s teams. And extract the best out of it?
- What are the project’s duration and complexity?
Preparing workshops for a 3 months lasting project is a totally different cup of tea than planning for one that can eventually extend to a year. In the first case, you can plan much more in detail. But when the scope of work is more complex, the estimation gets much harder. You have no choice but to trust your experience, make assumptions and get the details in the following stages of the project. Truth is though, that with each project finished, you master flexibility in planning and coordinating work. Therefore, adjusting the initial assumptions to the future circumstances becomes kind of your superpower ;).
- Is the brief comprehensive enough?
And how much more information we are able to receive from our client, prior to the workshop’s start. Extra materials describing the current process, indicated problem areas, documentation. All these give us a chance to study the client’s modus operandi and learn about his needs. And this is a priceless cornerstone for future cooperation.
This process is quite complex, that’s why we have in our team a strong product owner competence. About our approach and the crucial meaning of Product Owner you can read here:
Choosing the right people to participate in the workshop is of key importance for its success. It is usually the first opportunity to meet clients with the team and the first step of building mutual relations. Selecting participants should be based on the scope of work, certainly. But, each project role contributes to the workshop with a unique perspective. And each person can ask a distinct and key question. The one that could never be asked if not for its presence.
Successful communication during workshops between clients and the team depends on each other’s attitude. But the main role here belongs to the workshop facilitator. This is a person of great power to relax everyone. Thanks to mastered interpersonal skills it is able to set the most positive tone on the team spirit. And that’s the best starting point for mindful and qualitative further work.
As mentioned before, using the workshop’s method gives you a unique time and space for building connections with your clients and discovering their needs. The actual advantages of the workshop are a bit different for the client and the team. Below you will find examples on how our team members experience this influence.
Discovery workshops are a golden opportunity to introduce your team to clients and everyone engaged at their side. But there is much more than that. It is your chance to let them experience how the team works. And how exactly you create solutions to clients’ needs. That helps in building trust on the client-team line. Even before the project’s kick off ;).
During the workshop we meet all stakeholders. Some of them we may not be able to reach on the next steps of the project. Therefore it is so important to use this chance and address questions of their field of operation. Most often they are going to be the first users of our app. Throughout Discovery workshops we can gain their trust and start dialogue. But more importantly show them that solutions we create are going to be dictated by their needs.
In the last workshop, with Billfinger, we had 5 sessions, per 4-5 hours each. Rene Krol, Technology Manager had a chance to hear what questions we ask to his team and how well we understand their intentions. And he started to trust us as partners. Based on the final report and collected knowledge, we have proven to understand all aspects of the project and that we really have adequate solutions. Therefore, at the moment of starting the project, the level of trust from the client’s team leader was much much higher.
Time of Discovery workshops may feel really intense. Just think about it – few days with people of different origin, languages, time zones. Completely strange to each other. And you have to meet and focus on working hand by hand, for long hours. Therefore finding the middle ground is so important. And it is a huge challenge. But when you remind yourself that on the other side there is not only a project role, but an actual human being, things get much easier.
When you reach the middle ground, as Maciek wisely remarked, the client-subcontractor opposition disappears. We work, talk and do our best to create something together.
As we noticed, Discovery workshops gather literally everyone interested in the product. There is one really tricky aspect of deep communication with such a complex group. It happens sometimes, that among the client’s team people have completely contradictory ideas of needs and solutions. And it is our role to sense a moment to interfere with the proposition of satisfying compromise.
We already know quite well the value of actions taken during discovery sessions. But when the dust settles, how much of it stays in the daily work of our team? Let’s see if we can trace and discover the influence on the following project’s steps.
Discovery workshop is a great tool to decompose, important for the planning, aspects of the project. The client defines the whole MVP and we have a chance to verify if we are capable of making it real. There is time to go through all the information collected and decide if we have everything to create the product. The workshop is a key element of realistic planning for any further work. You can say that without Discovery, estimation in the project boils down to just vague assumptions.
Usually, as a workshop’s result, our UX Designer is able to draft the first mock-ups. Beyond that, like PO, you create the final report with all the goodies included. So then you have the initial roadmap, personas definition, preliminary roles layout, technology proposal, description of the current process, and scope of work. Those things compose your knowledge and phenomenally organize the stage of planning.
Participation of UX Designer in Discovery workshops is crucial for future design and mock-ups preparation, said Kamila. First, mock-ups are formed as an integral part of the report, soon after workshops. Sometimes they are so well-made that serve as working material. “As it happened in our current project. We just have to consult subtle upgrades with our, deeply pleased, client” – she continued.
I guess you will not be surprised by how much time and energy it saves in the initial part of the project. Giving us a chance to look forward and prepare mock-ups for the following sprints in advance.
Working as PO you know exactly how precious it is to have the client’s trust in your team’s competencies. And how much of it comes from showing the engagement during Discovery workshops, in the real time. As mentioned above, having a UX Designer by your side saves you time and energy, but it can also, literally, break the deadlock.
We had “a situation” recently. We all got stuck on some modul and Maciek was the one to step in with the proposition, drawing live during the workshop, bailing everybodies out ;). That was a clear sign for clients – they are in good hands.
For UX Designer Discovery workshop is bliss. It is a moment of drawing the initial user’s path. But – once again – what comes out of it for the client? For those members of his team having no experience or knowledge about creating a product. Of course, they have a unique chance to see exactly how the process looks, in detail. So then, in concrete terms, to:
- get acquainted with the whole process roadmap, tasks blocks, and proposed design,
- ask all and any under table questions,
- gain precise and precious knowledge that settles and lasts forever,
- make decisions based on viable indications, ergo less burdened with the risk of error.
The whole UX outcome mentioned above is a real set of benefits but comes as a challenging task. Impossible to achieve on a daily basis, but with a great impact on it.
Clients are experts in their field. And software is for them a tool, not the goal. They have their own goals and would have to spend an enormous amount of time learning skills we already own, to bring us all the data we need for the project. In consequence, a specialist of a different field would lose time and money on things that we make quickly and effectively. Using the precious time of the team on learning how to create products is time dating and pulls clients back from their priorities.
You may say that after Discovery your work will never be the same. Kamila says she cannot imagine the project’s kick-off without prior workshops. Without the time of creative work on building the solutions, mutual relations, and partnership with clients. This helps in being attentive to the possible problem areas. Where are the main ones, from the PO’s perspective?
- Getting to know and unravel processes at the client’s side, that requires a further upgrade.
- Triaging main targets of the project, as guidance to follow in its next steps.
- Building deep, strong, and qualitative relations with clients.
All these are possible to achieve on Discovery workshops. It results in fulfilling the aspiration we share at Inwedo. We seek for the kick-off to be just a sum up of the follow-up agreements with the client. And we succeed as, for instance, in the current project (with Bilfinger).
The client, coming to the software house, brings up heaps of the typical scenarios on making an app. Usually, in a work based on such assumptions, the final result depends mostly on a set of circumstances. Discovery workshops reverse this situation. As mentioned before, it allows you for realistic planning based on the real needs. We get to know the right questions, which elements of the app are crucial, and what can improve the process. We collect all the contexts essential for having in mind the whole picture of the product. Even when you work just on one tiny element. Unawareness of details of the next step in the project may be a bottleneck. In what way exactly? Here is an example from Maciek:
Imagine starting the project without Discovery workshops (impossible at Inwedo, but hypothetically). And we have no idea about the goal of the first modul design. No further context. Neither the knowledge that it will be connected to the customers database. So then, on the estimation level, we make pricing on 100 working hours. Later on it will turn out to be a very complex work of integrating all the elements. And the working hours increase to 500. Discovery workshops help to detect and reduce the possibility of stepping on such surprises by 90%.
At the design level, it is extremely difficult to prepare an application for everybody’s use. With so many contexts it is hard to guess what may pop out on the way. Discovery workshops highly increase the chance to predict the unpredictable. But only if you are deeply engaged in cooperation with clients, not simply ticking tasks.
The significant outcome for daily co-working with clients is their stress reduction. Tension bound to not knowing the software company’s specific working method does not exist here. Knowing the team, on both personal and professional levels, clients have no more doubts if we are their best project partners.
Discovery online – the workshop value
Discovery workshops can be carried out either online or live. Emphasizing the importance of meeting in person you can have doubts if online workshops come with equal value. After a year of using the discovery workshop technique via different communicators, we can say, with full confidence, that not the medium but people using it are the workshop’s biggest value. And how they understand the whole context. Projects we’re involved in at Inwedo are mission-critical. It is important for both the client and our team to fully understand the situation. Therefore, even though preparing a brief is already a strenuous task, we hardly recommend processing discovery workshops in each project taken.