workshops
21 Jun 2022 22 min to read

Product Discovery Workshop – Step-By-Step Guide for Software Projects

Developing digital products is a tricky business. Where should you start? What should you focus on? Will the product be liked by the customers? Are the stakeholders on the same page? All of these concerns are very important and one must know the answer to these questions before embarking on the journey of product development.

Product Discovery Workshop does exactly this, it brings all the important stakeholders into a room to talk about and address these questions.

In this article, we will go into the details of what a discovery workshop is, what are its main goals, who should be part of it, and what steps should be followed for conducting a discovery workshop. Furthermore, some useful tips will be shared at the end that will ensure that a successful discovery workshop is conducted.

 

What is a Product Discovery Workshop?

A product discovery workshop is an interaction between the project team and the clients for initiating and setting project goals and scope for the development of a new digital product.

It is used to bring all stakeholders on board to initiate the process of developing mutual understanding, agreed development process, the scope of the project, and setting expectations of all the stakeholders involved.

In a product development lifecycle, the product discovery workshop falls into the planning phase which streamlines the process of development of the product.

A product discovery workshop involves collective decision-making, assessing and discussing the technical feasibility of a product, considering the budget, consulting the domain experts, and doing other such activities that set a proper roadmap for the product development.

 

Goals and the Expected Outcomes the of the Product Discovery Workshop

For the development of any digital product, whether it is intended for internal use, or needs to be delivered to an external client, there is a need to completely define the scope of the project and to list down the key objectives that are intended for the product. Thus, the primary goal of a discovery workshop is the assessment of the scope of a project before the actual work can begin. Furthermore, the market is filled with digital products, in most cases, any product that you intend to develop would have competitors in the market already. Another goal of the discovery workshop is to assess how your product will be able to stand out.

The end results can vary depending upon the type of product being developed and the business objectives. However, some of the most common results of a product discovery workshop are discussed below:

1. The Basic idea of Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

During the sessions of the discovery workshop, the key product features are discussed by the project team and the clients, which helps in agreeing upon the most important features, thus constituting a basic idea and definition for an MVP development. The design of the product and its key functional requirements are taken into consideration as well.

2. Needs of Target Audience and User Personas

The most valuable customers are identified with the help of the clients and their needs are understood. It is important to develop user personas for the most important audience. The real users of the product should also be included in the discovery workshops to understand their needs and expectations. Furthermore, the pros and cons of the stakeholder expectations are also identified.

3. Competition Analysis

An in-depth analysis is done to understand the solutions currently available in the market and efforts are made to identify the strengths of the product that will make it stand out in the market.

4. Cost Analysis

An initial financial estimate is established for the product and is presented to all the stakeholders involved. This sets realistic expectations in terms of cost.

5. Timeline Analysis

The development timeline is discussed and estimated time frames are proposed for various components of the digital product. Timelines are defined for the expected completion of product deliverables.

6. Product Development Plan

A product development plan is developed which is intended to serve as a guiding document for the development phase, thus streamlining the development process.

A key outcome of a discovery workshop should be confidence that the client and contractor have the same understanding of the project’s main objectives and key elements. Moreover, workshops are a great opportunity to influence each other and refine project assumptions from the beginning. This is the phase of the project where change is least painful. Mike Jackowski COO, ASPER BROTHERS Let's Talk

 

Who Should be Involved in the Product Discovery Workshop?

Product discovery workshops are intended to call all the stakeholders of a product to discuss the development of the product. Therefore, all the stakeholders should be involved in the workshop. This means that in addition to the project development team, the clients should also be part of the workshop. Special focus should be given to the requirement that someone who knows the target audience quite well should be involved in the discovery workshop.

The discovery workshop has members representing various different areas of the product, in that way, they are quite diverse and contribute valuably to the process. The exact list of stakeholders will vary depending on the type of the product and the company. However, some of the most common stakeholders who are part of a discovery workshop are discussed below:

Facilitator

A facilitator should be part of a discovery workshop. An ideal facilitator will have good familiarity with all aspects of the product, this includes the development, design, business, and user requirements of the product.

Design Team Members

Representatives from the design team such as UI/UX designers should be part of the product discovery workshop to discuss the initial design of the product. They would also be able to address any queries regarding the design and will be able to comment on the feasibility of a proposed design. 

Development Team Members

The developers should also be part of the workshop. They will be able to address the technical aspects of the product. They will be substantial for the confirmation and feasibility of the key functional requirements of the product.

Product Manager

The product manager would be important in defining an initial roadmap for the product and will be able to contribute to the development plan.

Product Owner

It is very important to understand the requirements of the user of the product. The product owner will contribute to the definition of user stories and user personas which will help in understanding and prioritizing the user requirements.

Business Perspective Stakeholder

A representative of the client organization whose responsibility is to discuss the business goals associated with the product.

Customer Perspective Stakeholder

A stakeholder who either understands the needs of the customer very well or is part of the group which is going to use the product. This stakeholder will give valuable insights which will result in the development of a product that addresses the requirements of the customer.

 

Main steps of the Product Discovery Workshop – Entire Process

The Product Discovery workshop follows a systematic approach for initiating the work on the product. Every project needs to be properly scoped and specified before any production can start, regardless of whether it’s custom software for internal usage in a major corporation, a mobile application that links business to consumers, or any other form of digital products and solutions. This is particularly true when clients only have a vague idea of what they want their product to look like and ask the development company to specify all of the other crucial details. The actual steps and the importance of these steps will depend on the type of product under consideration, although there are some main steps that are considered in most product discovery workshops. The details of these steps are discussed below:

Step 1 – The Objective

The first step is to understand the objective of the workshop and set an agenda. The inputs required for the workshop, the main points of discussion, and the key deliverables of the workshop should be taken into account in this step. The objective should be communicated to all stakeholders involved and it should be ensured that everyone is willing to participate and able to understand the importance of the workshop.

Step 2 – The Participants

All the stakeholders will be the participants of the workshop. As discussed earlier, this includes design team representatives, development team representatives, product owners, product managers, facilitators, and stakeholders representing business and customer concerns. The workshop team is usually made up of 8-10 people representing different concerns about the product. Consider those who are familiar with the target audience as well as the team that may be producing the product when deciding who will be part of the workshop.

Step 3 – Product Vision

You have the opportunity to motivate the team by showcasing the excellent product you’ll be creating when you present the Product Vision during the discovery workshop. The team comes together because of the vision, which gives them a goal and inspiration.

When discussing the product vision, be sure it clarifies the product’s present and future states and aids in establishing the strategic directions that are essential to the project’s success. It should be able to be used to acquire a larger view of what the team hopes to achieve with the product and generate a shared understanding of what has to be built. It should also capture the target audience, user needs, important product features, and business objectives.

Step 4 – Elevator Pitch

The product is explained in the elevator pitch in a manner that any listener can grasp quickly. When you do a discovery workshop, crafting an elevator pitch can help you refine the team’s vision for the product and highlight its competitive advantage.

In this step, an elevator pitch is crafted by involving all the stakeholders and asking them to brainstorm. During the brainstorming consider some questions like:

  • Who stands to benefit from the product?
  • Why is our product needed in the market?
  • How will it help the customers?

Step 5 – User Personas

In this step, personas are created which represent the target audience. Creating a persona requires doing research on what kind of customer the product is intended for, and what their needs are, and turning these insights into a fictional character. This fictional character is called a persona.

The process can be started by brainstorming who the participants think the customers of the product will be. These personas can be further refined by doing discussion sessions and performing research on the customers. The important things to consider are:

  • Who the customers are in general
  • Their demographic information, behaviors, and preferences
  • Their problems
  • Their needs and expectations
  • How our product can benefit them

Step 6 – Value Proposition

It is very important to spend some time crafting an excellent value proposition. It would require brainstorming and research to find out what is the most the market demands are and how your product fits in and fulfills those demands and needs.

For making a value proposition, consider two sides of the picture, first use the personas identified earlier to find what the customer needs and pains are, and then do thorough brainstorming on how our product will provide them value and how it will make their lives easier.

Step 7 – User Story Mapping

By envisioning all the work that would be required to develop the product, you can then organize it into a format that will make the project development process easier and more manageable. This technique is known as user story mapping. The output of this technique is a user story map.

The process is started by thinking of scenarios of how the users will use the product. For example, a tax returns calculator application will assume a scenario in which a person has specific characteristics and will use the product to fulfill their needs. In this way, the personas can be used to imagine the scenarios in which users will use the product, thus forming user stories. After the user stories have been written, they will be organized in a way that will help in the development work.

The general procedure to be followed in this step is:

  • Identify all of the user tasks – Every step the user will take through the product from beginning to end is recorded by each participant on a note.
  • Organizing Tasks – Arrange the identified tasks in the sequence that the user will carry them out.
  • Group Identification – Find logical groups into which the tasks can be organized. These groups should be designed such that they are representative of a wider goal that the user wants to achieve.
  • Assignment of tasks to Groups – Break down the groups using the user story tasks identified earlier, such that a combination of those tasks can accomplish the wider goal of the group. Place the user stories under each group. Thus forming a user story map.

Step 8 – Prioritization

In this step, the functional specifications and main features are identified and listed. After identifying all the features through a brainstorming session, the features are ranked in the order of their importance. The importance would depend on the value that the feature is providing to the user. The user’s pain points and expectations would be a very important contributor in this step. The most important features are prioritized in the development.

An important question should be which features can be removed without stopping the user from achieving their goals. The features which are essential for achieving goals would need to be identified and prioritized. This step will make sure that the development efforts are focused on the features that are most important and will provide value to the user in the initial iterations of the developed product.

Step 9 – Wrap up and Summarize

At this stage, the product vision is clear, an elevator pitch and value proposition have been crafted, the target audience has been identified and their personas have been made, user stories have been mapped and the most important features have been prioritized. The next step is to wrap up the workshop by summarizing everything that happened throughout the workshop to ensure that everyone is on the same page. If there are any disagreements they should be resolved before proceeding toward the development phase.

 

Important Tips for Product Discovery Workshop

Product Discovery workshops are very important for developing successful products and there are some best practices that should be followed to conduct a successful workshop. In this section, some of the best tips for product discovery workshops will be discussed:

Defining Scope of the Workshop

It’s a good idea to define the scope of the workshop so that all the participants understand what they have to focus on and what are the key concerns of this workshop. Try to describe this in as much detail as possible to convey it sufficiently. Encourage the participants to prepare for the workshop keeping the scope in view.

Work Collectively on the Workshop Agenda

The agenda would vary from case to case as it depends on the business goals, and the scope identified earlier. Make sure to include all stakeholders when defining the agenda. Scrum masters and business analysts are in charge of setting the agenda, but we should never forget to consult the software development team and invite comments from our business and customer stakeholders as well.

Tolerant and Open to Changes

The agenda should be decided, but it does not mean that there can not be any change in it. As the workshop progresses, the understanding of stakeholders will mature and there might be a need to change the agenda based on the information gathered in the initial part of the workshop. There should be openness and tolerance towards such changes, provided they are taking the workshop towards the end goals.

Including Customers

It is a great idea to involve the customers or end-users of the product in the product discovery workshop. It can be done by directly involving them or by being in touch with them to better understand their needs and expectations of the product.

The Focus should be on Problem Validation

The value proposition, target market, company goals, business strategy, and unique selling points of the product should be the focus of your product discovery workshop. It is fine to evaluate important user interface concerns and architecture issues throughout the discovery process, but the priority should be on the problem validation. Instead of trying to figure out how it works, it would be beneficial to focus on lowering the risk of producing something that no one needs or wants.

 

Conclusion

The product discovery workshop is a very effective way of starting your journey to move towards a successful product that addresses the needs of the customers and provides them with value, at the same time standing out in the market among the competitors. Irrespective of the size of a product being developed, it is always a good investment to spend time on product discovery workshops to set a path that is less risky and will ensure that the product will be beneficial for the end-users.

 

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