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Discovery sessions help you focus on the problem, not the solution

Published over 1 year ago • 3 min read

If you’ve been reading InsideProduct for a while, you’ve probably picked up by now that I focus on solving the right problem and ignoring everything else.

I’ve found that one, or a small series of discovery sessions are an excellent way to identify what that problem is and also understand the constraints you have on your solutions.

So in this issue, I’m going to focus on discovery sessions and explain how you can use them to make sure you’re tackling the right problem and that you have sufficient information to get started on providing the right solution.

If you’ve worked in large enterprises, you probably hear “discovery sessions” and the implication that they happen at the start of a project and wince. Your mind might go to those dysfunctional project kickoffs or months of endless requirements sessions.

I’m not advocating sessions like that. Discovery sessions have a couple of specific purposes:

  • Understand the problem you’re trying to solve.
  • Determine if the problem is worth solving (if not, STOP!)
  • Understand the key constraints, risks, and assumptions relevant to crafting a solution.

You establish a broad view of the problem space so that you’re better positioned to do deep dives on specific portions of the solution iteratively.

To break away from the requirements phase paradigm, I’m sharing some descriptions of discovery sessions from the world of development agencies.

These agencies build solutions for their clients and have to bid for every job. They can’t afford to do long drawn out requirements phases, and they need more than cursory information going into a project.

I realize that when you work inside an organization, you probably don’t have to bid for work (although some teams do). That said, some things that agencies do to understand the expected outcome can be very useful for internal product teams. Teams don’t use these practices and approaches nearly as frequently as they should.

Keep an eye out to what you can learn from a different, but related, domain, and think about what you can apply back to your situation.

And as always, if you have questions or thoughts, reply to this email and let me know!

Resources

The Benefits of Having a Product Discovery Phase with Your Dev Team

In the software development industry, it’s common for organizations to approach development agencies like the one Johanna Lozano works at with a product they want to create. Sometimes those ideas call for a huge product. Sometimes those ideas call for a fairly small product. Either way, there are still uncertainties such as potential users, the product functionalities, or monetization strategy. These uncertainties make planning and bidding difficult.

Johanna finds it a good practice to bring together different roles to better understand the product idea before embarking on an entire project. A benefit that you get from this phase is that you can define a baseline to compare against. That comparison will tell you if your product is accomplishing everything that was expected of it from the beginning.

In this blog post, Johanna shares what the Discovery process is all about and why it is essential for a successful software development project.

Discovery session for the new project. Step-by-step

Iryna Korkishko shared Syndicode’s experience with discovery sessions they provide for their new clients. Even if you aren’t planning on working with Syndicode, this explanation can be very helpful if you want to understand what a discovery session is.

Discovery Meeting: Why it’s at the heart of everything Solutelabs does

Solutelabs used to send proposals and quote a price and never heard from their prospects. As they tried to figure out what was going wrong, they decided they needed to understand their prospect better. One way they did that was to hold discovery meetings with potential clients.

Karan Shah explains why discovery meetings are worth the effort, how these meetings help turn complex ideas simpler, reduce uncertainties and pave the way for a ‘surprise-free,’ productive collaboration.

How to Run a Discovery Session to Get to Know Your Clients Quickly

Wil Brown explains how a discovery session allows you to zoom out and look at the bigger picture before dealing with the nitty-gritty details. It also allows you to understand the business context, operations, audiences and marketing techniques uses allowing you to find value-adds.

The discovery session blueprint

Simon Kelly explains that for independent web designers, the way to earn more money and grow your business is to stop talking about deliverables and start talking about outcomes. By focusing on outcomes, you help your client solve the right problem and position yourself as a business consultant.

Simon explains how you can use a discovery session to talk about outcomes. In a discovery session, your job is to guide your prospect / client to understand the business goals behind their projects. To do this, you need to dig deep and ask questions that may be a little awkward. But once you do, you can become a partner in the process and be someone they want to work with.

Thanks for Reading

Thanks again for reading InsideProduct.

If you have any comments or questions about the newsletter, or there’s anything you’d like me to cover, just reply to this email.

Talk to you next week,

Kent J. McDonald
Founder | KBP.Media

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