VOLO’s Approach to Software Product Discovery Workshops
27 Sep 2022
The high demand for software development services and the complex and multi-layered structure of the market have made it a no-brainer that holding well-thought-out and thoroughly structured discovery workshops with clients is a great way to touch base with them.
Business owners, when approaching a software provider, oftentimes overlook the importance of a software product discovery workshop. They are in a rush to dive right in and discuss the rates and the team’s technical background and knowledge on the first call hoping to kick off the process of their software product development immediately. This sort of a rush, however, can be quite risky and might result in project failure if the software partner turns out to be equally uninterested in the discovery workshops.
The reasons behind such an approach toward software project development is the lack of knowledge and experience when it comes to selecting the right software partner. When you skip a business discovery workshop, you miss so many important details that could be decisive in the successful development of your project. For instance, you risk choosing a partner who is not able to deliver the type of software that you want, or lacks the required depth of tech knowledge and skills that are necessary for the creation of your future product, or does not quite understand your business needs and expectations.
That’s why it’s crucial to first carry out a detailed discussion with your software partner of choice and hone in on the project scope and details, business goals and expected outcomes. This way, you can avoid further misunderstandings. Only then can you move on to topics like costs, proposals, team rates, team qualifications, etc.
At VOLO, we have been building strong and long-term partnerships with local and international clients for almost 16 years now. Having worked on over 170 projects of varying complexity and partnering with multiple international clients of various backgrounds, we have come to understand that good communication is one of the main building blocks of successful project development.
Thus, in order to lay the foundation for a successful partnership, we started investing a great deal of effort in the development of a properly thought out onboarding process and a discovery phase. As a result, we achieved the regular delivery of discovery workshops which are now an inseparable part of our software product development processes.
These workshops are not only business- and tech-oriented discussions that are a preamble to project kick-off. They are first and foremost a way to understand whether you and your client are a good match - whether you are able to communicate efficiently and effectively. In other words, a discovery workshop helps you see whether you vibe with your future business partner or not and whether you can build a foundation of mutual trust and understanding.
Discovery workshops also help us ensure that nothing gets lost in translation. This is not about language barriers. (Our business development team members and tech leads communicate fluently in English and German, which means that language is rarely an issue.) It’s about translating an idea into the right digital product, the goals and scope of which are clear to all sides involved.Since clients don’t always know how to clearly articulate their ideas in “tech talk”, business discovery workshops give them the opportunity to do just that. Our experienced business development specialists and business analysts help them navigate the entire process by asking intentional and purposeful questions and guiding them towards their goal.
Let's Break Down the Structure of Software Product Discovery Workshops at VOLO
At VOLO, software product discovery workshops usually consist of up to 3 sessions. Depending on the client’s needs and goals and on how prepared they are project-wise, the workshop can also last only a day or two. Since the dates are aligned with the client, the workshop may or may not be held on consecutive days.
Here is a high-level breakdown of our workshops:
- An initial sales call before the discovery workshop proper. This call is held with our business development team with the purpose to identify the main needs of the client. We also determine how the business development workshop will be held - whether one session will be enough or if there’ll be a need for more. After the sales call, the further development of the discovery workshop depends on the client, the information he has provided us with, his goals and needs. Generally, we have two different cases for the workshops.
- If during the first call it turns out that the client already has a clear roadmap and project scope then we move on to the second session to discuss the project implementation details. Our technical representatives, the project manager, and the designer join the second meeting to clarify the business-specific needs, product features and functionalities, and other relevant details. At this point, we also discuss how the future project is going to support the business vision.
- Having all this data at hand, we are then able to come up with the right tech stack, tools, and infrastructure.
- A third meeting may or may not happen depending on the client’s wishes or interests, as well as on the results of the second meeting. If everything is clear and decided upon, then we close the business discovery workshop at this stage. If not, we plan a 3rd session. The agenda of the latter usually includes a Q&A regarding the technical aspects of the project.
- If the client comes to us with just an idea and needs our help in shaping its project scope, then the discovery workshop is organized in a more detail-oriented manner. After the sales call, we plan the first session of the discovery workshop.
- During the first session, we dig into the background of the business idea and try to understand why the client has come up with it, what problems it will solve, who the target audience is, etc.
- The second session is more technical. Our business development team members are joined by a project manager and a business analyst. Together, we plan the creation of a high-level project roadmap and milestones. The tech lead might join us too, provided the tech stack preferences are already known to the sides involved. If they are not yet known, we shape the project roadmap and figure out the tech stack that suits the best to the business needs of the client.
- Often, after the second session, we decide, together with the client, that there is a need for a dedicated business analyst to fill the gaps in the project implementation planning. This is already a separate paid service and if the client decides to give it a try, it will basically be the third session of our software product discovery workshop.
- During this final session, the business analyst and the tech lead walk the client through several technical approaches to the project implementation. They work on the creation of a business documentation as well as go through the project roadmap adding more details and arranging its components more scrupulously.
- At the end of this session, the client gets a well-structured and detailed blueprint that includes the ins and outs of the project implementation process. This helps the client understand his/her technical needs and decide whether we are the right partner to work on the development of his/her project or not.
Common Mistakes in Product Discovery Workshops We DON’T Make at VOLO
You come to us with an idea and a clear vision on the outcome of your idea. We are here to help you understand the process that will lead you to the desired outcome. We focus on the “what”, the “why”, and the “who” of your project, not the “how”. We are not here to teach you how your product is going to be developed because that’s why you needed our partnership in the first place. We are here to help you clarify your tech needs in order to develop a product that brings value to your business and your customers.
Here is a quick list of the common mistakes that a lot of business owners encounter at product discovery workshops:
- Too much focus on the delivery: If you notice that your future tech partner is too obsessed with proving to you the high quality of their services and the ways they are going to deliver your product, you better reconsider the partnership. The discovery workshop is not an educational program for you, but a strategy session to help you build your business further with your new business partner.
- Limited understanding of the value that the right software may bring: When you don’t know the challenges or the biggest frustrations of your target audience, you cannot create the right UX and platform infrastructure/architecture thus your product cannot be of value to your customers. If your tech partner doesn’t mention this and doesn’t put an essential focus on this aspect of your project, then you might end up with a product built for no one.
- Leadership buy-in: Product discovery workshop mistakes don’t just come from the tech partner’s side but also from the client’s. Sometimes the managers and executives are too biased and/or confident about their ideas of the given project. This can lead to project failure if they refuse to listen to all the specialists involved and accept more professional opinions on the matter. At VOLO, we try not to be too pushy with our future partners about their ideas. We prefer to be wiser and direct you toward the ideas that you may not have considered. We listen to you, we hear you, and we ask questions that you might not have thought about. This way we (and why not, you as well) understand your objectives and expectations much better. Also, we like to question and, sometimes, disagree with your ideas, so don’t be surprised.
If our approach to software product discovery workshops has caught your attention and you would like us to have a look at your project, feel free to contact our team and discuss your product development ideas with our experienced specialists. Together, we can achieve great things.