December 20, 2021
Working with an outsourced team can be a challenge. Different locations, time zones, and sometimes even cultures. You're in one location, while your hired team is elsewhere, building what will become your product.
How can you make sure that your vision is reflected properly in the finished product? Laying the foundation for productive knowledge transfer between yourself and the team is crucial.
Meet the secret weapon: discovery workshops.
We always suggest—insist even—that our clients take part in the discovery phase, because we know how we start our journey reflects the outcome.
Until recently, we've advocated conducting the Discovery Workshops on-site, but due to the current global situation and teams working remotely (ourselves included), we switched to organizing remote workshops with great success.
The Discovery Phase is meant to unravel the truth about your business and its needs. We are not experts in your particular field—you are. And you will be our gateway to your business.
Being part of several workshops I've learned that getting to know each other as people and achieving alignment is the gateway to smooth future cooperation.
In this post, I'm going to outline how we organize Discovery Workshops at Monterail 100% remotely, what you can expect to get out of them, how to prepare, and why you shouldn’t skip them.
The Scoping Session
The journey begins the moment you contact us. One of our Account Managers takes you under their care, sets up relevant calls, listens closely to get to know your ideas, needs and requirements. This stage varies greatly, as your specification can be written down in four forty-pages-long PDFs or one, highly condensed email (we've seen it all).
This first phase is the initial scoping session. Based on our experience, your specifications, and some research, we provide a ballpark estimation.
This estimation is not completely accurate... because it can't be. You say: “I want a car,” and tell us the color and some other details, and we then tell you that the cost can vary from X to Y.
But to close the deal we need something more detailed.
The Discovery Phase
In order to validate your business ideas, we need to understand your objectives and have an interpersonal conversation—in comes Discovery Workshops.
That’s when you and our team composed of a designer, developer, business analyst, and project manager, meet remotely (we love using Zoom) for a few sessions over two days to reach a mutual goal.
Workshop goals are crucial and defined as such:
Understanding business goals, user needs, and technical feasibility.
During those two days, we try to get down to the nuts and bolts of your idea and start building the documentation.
Building the documentation, we are in constant inquiry mode: asking a lot of questions via calls or Slack.
Some may seem boring to you, but they’re really important to us. Some will be tough, but necessary, and it's easier to ask them during an online meeting.
There's less of a chance of miscommunication face to face than in an email thread. Plus, the two-day timeframe brings focus and a sense of importance and urgency.
Sometimes a workshop is just a compilation of necessary questions asked in the right time and order.
The ideal outcome—we establish your users’ problems and how to solve them with your product.
Common understanding of groundwork for constant validation of business goals, user needs, and technical feasibility.
Up to this point, we managed to establish what our destination is. Now, we need to map out the road that will get us there. We need a proper documentation.
For that, we do a mash-up of sitemaps, user flows, user stories, and clickable prototypes using tools like Mural.
We don't do static wireframes or designs, because there is always movement in interface design. Always an origin and a destination. It's important to capture the journey, not the design of a particular screen.
Using Mural, which lets us collaborate remotely and acts like a virtual whiteboard, we can go through the notes and app workflow plan together.
The workshop gives us the unprecedented ability to visualize the whole system on a wall or a whiteboard.
We get a few hours to document all the steps of the user and accompanying system actions and see them as a whole, looking for problematic areas and reacting.
We start the documentation during the workshop, but finish it in about a week after and send it to you with revised and detailed estimates.
Here’s what you gain by participating in the workshop:
The idea of the Discovery Phase is not only about the design, development or the process itself. It’s about embracing the human side of business and software development.
In order to fulfill our mission, we create a relationship with our client and strive to deliver something true and authentic.
This personal connection is crucial as people look for cultural fit with who they do business with. We always make sure to remember that.
See what else impacts the final design of your product: