Discovery as a Foundation for Success


Posted by Jamie Black

Topic(s): Best Practices, Business Tips, Change Management

Read Time: minute(s)

Why Is Discovery Such a Crucial Step? 

Discovery sessions are key to ensuring that a project will result in the desired outcome for our clients, our partners, and ourselves. They provide a forum for all stakeholders to build a common understanding of the challenges of the current processes and tools; the needs that must be addressed by the solution; project objectives; and potential hurdles and pitfalls. A productive discovery session resolves misunderstandings and sets the tone for open, clear, and consistent communication. It is a critical first step to ensuring team buy-in and is essential to maximizing the benefit you receive from the project. Learn more about managing change. 


How Can We Ensure a Fruitful and Effective Discovery Session? 

Have the right people in the room. 

First and foremost, you must include those in the trenches who perform the process. The more people with this perspective you can include, the better. Only they can offer an intimate look at process details; practical feedback regarding shortcomings, nuances, and time involved in the current approach; and a thoughtful wish list of essential features in a new solution. They will ask the right questions, and their answers will provide invaluable insight.  

Next, be sure to include senior management and the business process owner(s). These are the people who understand the big picture—e.g., political implications, budget and time constraints, your organization’s vision, and overall goals. They can speak to how process challenges impact the execution of your organization’s strategy. 

Be completely candid. shortstaffed

It’s important to make the discovery session a safe place to voice concerns and provide honest feedback, even if the conversation becomes uncomfortable. Are you short-staffed? Is your team relatively inexperienced? Are they lacking technological savvy? The more we understand your true challenges, the better we can design an implementation plan to tackle them. 


If We Don’t Include the Right People, What Could Go Wrong? 

In a word, everything. failure

Without the right people in the room, you risk wasting countless hours, and losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Failing to reveal key considerations up front can lead to process gaps you may not have the budget to fix. You might end up having to change or shrink the scope of your project. You might have installed the wrong software and be forced to start over. Worst case scenario, your implementation could result in complete failure. After all, a whopping 70% of IT projects fail.  

Change management research has revealed that making a decision about a significant change without input from your whole team will likely engender frustration and resentment, creating project adversaries instead of advocates. 

If We Prioritize Discovery, What Could Go Right? 

When all stakeholders have a voice in discovery and project goals are on target, everyone wins. As the US Navy Seals say, “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” When you focus on conducting each step of the implementation—starting with discovery—correctly and completely, you will see your desired results more quickly. In the words of our President, Jamie Black, “Take your time. Do it once, do it right.” 


"I have been involved with this kind of software implementation system upgrade for many, many years...when I started to go through the procurement process, I could never imagine it would have gone so smoothly, with this level of success."   

-Dongmei Li, Assistant Controller–Corporate Accounting at Chicago Public Schools    

For more on this topic(s), see: Best Practices, Business Tips, Change Management

Originally Posted on 04 October, 2023

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