blogApril 22, 2021

How to start building quality digital solutions - Discovery Phase

Our Playbook

Article presentation

OceanoBe has louched a new video series in which we are talking about the software industry and how you can start building quality digital solutions for your customers. In today's video, we dive into the Discovery Phase and learn more about the importance of Design Sprint. 

If you missed our first episode here is the link - How to deliver structured software solutions. 

Below you will find our new video on Discovery Phase - How to start building quality digital solutions. If you are in the mood for a quick read, you can find the transcript below. As always we are looking forward to hearing from you. Enjoy and let's talk software! 


 


Video Transcript

Hello there, my name is Diana Tamas and I am the CoFounder of OceanoBe Technology. 

If you have been following us, you probably know that we have started a new video series in which we are going to share our insides on how we approach the work we do, as we call it our Playbook.

Today we are going to talk about how we start working with a new client for a new piece of innovative software. Here at OceanoBe, we call this in our Playbook the Discovery Phase. 

This phase, as the name has it, is the one in which we discover the client’s needs and wants and even a little bit more. It’s not quite an easy task to dive deep into one’s business, but we believe that this is the exact step you need in order to make any software project successful. 

Why you need Discovery Phase

First of all, we have to agree on an important item. In order to build smart, efficient, and innovative solutions you have to be quite set on what exactly you are trying to build and have some idea of how it should look like. Working without any guidance will prove most of the time cost-effective and you can find yourself with a solution that is not helpful or even discourages end users because it doesn’t bring value to them. 

So, in order to properly create a feasible piece of software, you need to know what your client does, who are its end users, what the issue is, and how you can design the best solution that will not only solve a problem but actually make it irreplaceable to day to day activities. It might sound easy when put like that, but it is quite a task you need to tackle. Although some software companies might overstep this phase and cut the costs down, we believe that investing the time here at the beginning will prove more beneficial in terms of costs and the overall result of the project. Seeing the big picture is more important than having a short win now. 

So, in a nutshell, this stage means getting to really know your client and the challenges that are faced by their employees, customers, and users. Setting this stage properly will enable you to deliver quality, innovative solutions to your customers.

What is Design Sprint

Enter the stage of the Design Sprint. If you are a professional working in the industry, you probably are familiar with this approach. In our case, the Design Sprint is a 5-day process that allows us to answer critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. It’s basically the fast-forward solution that allows you to see the future and if that solution is worth the time and effort to be built. You may wonder how you can provide such a speedy result in just 5 days… Well, the answer is all about preparation. We have a so-called battle-tested process that any team can use and it’s going to pay up, trust us. 

Stages of Design Sprint

I am going to take you through the process of our Design Sprint that includes setting the stage and each day of this process. 

Like I mentioned before preparation is everything. If there is anything you take away from this video today it should be this. Without having the proper stage setup you will probably fail to deliver the best you can in your Design Sprint. 

What exactly does setting the stage mean in our view?

Well basically you need to:

  1. Define the problem you try to solve and be very specific about it. 
  2. Gather a team of 3-5 people to work towards a solution and a decider.
  3. Have a facilitator for the team
  4. Timebox everything
  5. Create sketches
  6. Ask the client ahead to bring in 5 people that are in the target group for some user interviews.
  7. And last, but not least, “No distractions”, so clear your schedule and make sure you have 100% focus on the project at hand.

Once you have all your set up the stage, then you will have a clearer idea of what you are going to achieve, how, and why. After that, the real fun can begin… 

Like I said here at OceanoBe for the Design Sprint we use a 5-day process and I am going to take you through each day. 

So… Day 1 is about mapping and understanding the problem you set out to solve. As you may imagine this is all about the end-user, when, why, and how we can make the life of everyone easier, better… The goal is to gather as much information as possible in order to respond at the end of the day to a very important question “Why should the customer use our product and what does he expect from it?”.

Since this is a brainstorming day, we recommend that you start the day with a set of questions and objectives in order to make the most out of the time allocated. We discovered that focused brainstorming is quite more creative and productive for the team. So here are a couple of questions you should consider adding to your days objective:

  1. Why is this a problem? 
  2. Who is the user and what defines him as an individual?
  3. What other solutions are there and what have you tried so far?
  4. Ask the client experts in this domain everything they know about this problem.
  5. Define a domain vocabulary and explain what every domain-specific word means.

As you can imagine it’s quite an intensive day with lots of information, energy, and innovation at the table. With all this in mind, you will have a great start the next day.

Day 2 is Lightning demos and sketches day. This is where we start working on solutions and we do some lightning demos, which means each team member does a demo for 3 to 5 minutes in which he presents an existing solution to a similar problem. We use timeboxing and also notes on the whiteboard. After this, each team member will submit a sketch of their own and will do so anonymously. It’s not going to look a lot pretty, but don’t worry about that, just make sure that every idea presented is self-explanatory so that on day 3 you will have a clear view.

Day 3 is about analyzing and decision time. So you will start the day with the whiteboard filled with creative ideas. Since you don’t have the time, money, or resources to test each one of these ideas, it’s time to have an in-depth analyzing process so that at the end of the day you have a solid solution to present, one that has more chances to succeed. What we do, here at OceanoBe, is to allow each team member to ponder in silence over the wall and create his own opinion. After that, we debate. Remember we talked in the setting stage about having a decider, well here he comes in handy because he is the one that will have the final say on the ties situations. At the end of the day, the best idea will be featured on the storyboard. Remember it’s all about what is best for the end-user, so ego it’s one thing that should not be allowed at the table today.

Day 4 is prototyping day and in one day we will create a prototype that will be tested by the end-users on day 5. It might sound very intimidating, but it’s not. You have already a clear idea of what you are doing, all you need is the right tools to get it going. For this part, we recommend using a tool such as Marvel or Invision that will allow you to have at the end of the day a realistically looking prototype on which you can perform tests. Each team member will have a clear set of responsibilities. At the end of the day please keep in mind that you need to build enough quality into this prototype so that you can just learn from it.

At the end of a busy week on day 5, it’s time to test. The customer has identified at least 5 end-users who fit the profile of the users that will eventually benefit from this software solution. It’s important to have set up monitoring tools so that you can watch the reactions of the testers. After that, follow up with questions and as they say “leave no stone unturned”. It’s mostly a learning day in which you analyze what you need to adapt in order to make complete the vision of your solution. It's also a time to pause and reflect on what has been achieved and to manifest gratitude for the team members.

At the end of the Design Sprint, you are going to enter Delivery Planning. That is the time to prioritize features and show milestones and costs. This plan will be presented to the product stakeholders, that in turn will have to analyze internally and approve or adjust. Although the planning of delivery can be a tricky business, you have to remember that all the critical decisions have already been covered in the Design Sprint, so you already have a feasible idea, all you need is to get it approved. 

Benefits of using Design Sprint

Finally, I want to leave you with some benefits on why you should use Design Sprints. 

  1. First, this demonstrates a very creative and fast innovative framework, providing a testable prototype in such a short time frame allows you to showcase all the best that the team has to offer.
  2. This will create a bond between the two companies, you and the client, like nothing else. In some ways, you can see it as team-building between companies.
  3. It will allow you and the customer to see that the idea “has or not legs” so to say. Having a clear “no” at this stage it’s not a bad thing, on the contrary, it’s the best thing that will save time and money. And of course, that also means that you can go back and revisit the concept with your client. 


Ohhh... it has been a long video but we had a lot of ground to cover. If you missed anything and want to revisit the information you can always go on our website page Our Playbook and check out the information. Also if you have a more specific question you would like to ask, please feel free to do so with either a message or a comment. Thank you all for watching and don’t forget to subscribe to our social channels. See you next time and have a great coding day!