Agile Discovery Workshops: How To Run One & Why
Every product begins with an idea, typically a solution to a problem. But that’s about the only thing that is true of all products - everything else becomes unique as soon as you begin taking in end-users, your team, functionality and every other part of a project.
What’s the best way to align this product vision with your reality?
Why is discovery important? Because, as the name suggests, discovering more about your product’s end-users is the only real way to create a product that doesn’t just fit your idea, but actually works for your customers.
What is a Discovery Workshop?
A discovery workshop or session is the process by which you break down an idea for a project into tangible requirements. To find out what requirements you need, you must define the users who will be interacting with your project. To do this, a workshop should cover:
What your product is going to be?
Who are the users?
How will those users interact with it?
What frustrations will present themselves?
When we invite a client to our discovery workshops, we only really expect you to bring your idea for a product and some ideas about end-users. However, some clients come with their own internal user persona documents, which can help expedite the process and lend a framework to the session.
Ultimately though, the discovery session is a fairly defined process that involves mapping out:
User Persona Creation
A persona is a fictional, yet realistic, representation of a typical user or customer. Personas should be utilised in the early stages of the design process, where they will help influence design decisions by prioritising user needs before any development is undertaken.
The real value obtained from personas is the goals and motivations that are identified. Understanding these contribute towards a user-centric service or product. By generating multiple personas it allows teams to make better decisions based on the defined goals and motivations.
Step one is to define our user persona types. These are typically done by age bracket, job role and personality traits. This can be everything from how technologically skilled they are through to how they commute to their roles.
Defining User Needs/Frustrations
Each user type must then be mapped to needs and frustrations - what is it they need from the product? What challenges will they have?
One user, for example, may not be digitally savvy and may struggle with complex UI elements. Another may be digitally native and be accustomed to nav features such as collapsible burger menus. Only by properly defining these users can you understand their unique requirements.
Once we have a good idea of each user type and their behaviours, we can then begin journey mapping. This phase involves drawing our tasks, sub-tasks and the UI issues that accompany the tasks.
Take, for example, a day in your life. If a ‘project’ is making breakfast, consider all of the tasks that go into it. It could be: get dressed, go shopping, purchase materials, assemble breakfast, cook, eat. Why are we talking about breakfast? It’s just a way to show the sheer extent of tasks and actions that go into each final outcome.
When you’re launching a digital product, these tasks become even more difficult to define - as many digital tasks are not definite certainties like in our breakfast example.
Hence the importance of a discovery workshop and journey map. We’ll take your initial idea, build the user personas and then help draw out the tasks each of these users needs to accomplish when using your product. This helps spot challenges they’ll have and prompt ideas for solutions.
What are the outcomes of a Discovery Workshop?
The journey map isn’t the end of the process - instead, we’ll take that map and begin applying the MoSCoW prioritisation method. This method is an agile standard and involves mapping the ‘Must-haves’, ‘Should-haves’, ‘Could-haves’ and ‘Won’t have (for now)’ features at launch/early in the development cycle.
Using this method is invaluable in showing you both the potential and the limitations of your project. It helps define what your product needs to be usable for your end-customers, what it should include making it intuitive and accessible and what could be included if you can budget for it.
Why do a Discovery Workshop?
Without a discovery process, there’s no way to challenge your original idea and add the realities of actual user issues into your project. The process is critical to understanding what you actually need your product to do - not just what you ‘think’ it should.
Even in an existing team with a living product, a discovery session can help your team reframe the user journeys of your projects and bring a better design perspective that improves your processes and product. See what we mean in this iamproperty case study.
If that’s not enough to justify a few hours of discovery, consider the cost element: without knowing exactly what your users NEED, versus what you ‘might like’, your project costs can soar into uncontrollable outer limits. With a user-focused discovery session that outputs the must-haves, a project can be more accurately budgeted for.
This saves you, and your agency (maybe us) a lot of time and pain. If you choose to attend our own discovery workshop, for example, you’ll receive a link to a Miro board that details the entire user process and journey as well as potentially, sitemaps and user flows. This is yours to use as you wish - but we’ll also use it as the basis of our quote, so you can see that we don’t base prices on guesswork but instead on reliable requirements created as a result of the discovery workshop.
All of this is just a long way of saying this: it’s not what YOU think a product should be. It’s about what that product should do, and discovering what your users actually need from it.
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