A proper discovery assessment report is really a business plan as it relates to your technology. It’s an investment in what you might not know
Software application ideas may make things easier from an IT perspective, but does it provide enough data to company leadership and administrators?
Sound discovery reports should be a structured document. It should summarize what the project is, why it was conceived, and then move into the findings
Setting off on a software application development journey can be a lot like buying a car. Very rarely do you enter the dealership knowing exactly the make, model, horsepower, wheel size, leg room, and options you want in your new vehicle. In most cases, it’s a process of learning, testing, and asking the right questions to determine the car that meets the needs of everyone who might be traveling in it.
In software development, we call that a Discovery Assessment.
“If a customer comes to me and says I know exactly what I want, I’ve answered all my own questions I’ve done my own analysis, I’ve spoken to the end users, I’ve spoken to the investors and I know exactly what everybody wants, then fine we’ll build what you asked for,” says Liberty Fox Technologies’ President, Bill Evans. “But most customers have an idea, a thought or a genuine strong belief that they have an idea to solve a problem, but they really haven’t gone through the course of vetting that idea, confirming that it really is going to solve their problem.”
A software application idea may make things easier from an IT perspective, but does it provide enough data to company leadership and administrators? Or maybe the results will suit the executive suite but create a workflow that makes the end-user want to scream. The most economic and logical answers can be found in the logical, if sometimes ignored pre-production process called a Discovery Assessment.
Bill Evans explains.
“The time to ask how this software will affect your business, accomplish your goals, and affect your business plan, is part of defining a project as opposed to outlining an idea.”
Are discovery assessments typically relegated to smaller companies that don’t necessarily do a lot of customized software development?
“Not necessarily. We’ve done discoveries for Fortune 500s and done the same for small organizations and medical practices. It really comes down to the maturity of the thought process around what they’re trying to accomplish and their ability to refine that scope.
If they have a team dedicated to refining that scope, they may be able to do that with a little bit of coaching, but if they’re very busy, like I imagine they are, they may use the development team to coax the information out of them.”
For those that come with a well-thought-out plan, discovery still plays a role (albeit not a separate project), correct?
“If the customer really does have a very strong grasp of what they want, there is a little bit of mini discovery that’s involved in every development process. And if we ask enough questions and get enough answers that we can provide a price, then we can move forward. But if we ask questions and the result is that we have more questions, and those lead to more questions, then we have to pump the brakes and go back to discovery.”
Should you be looking at Discovery Assessment as a cost or a time savings or both?
“I would say discovery is more of risk management as a relates to investing in your software. What you should be trying to accomplish is avoiding the situation where someone finishes your project and you say, ’you’ve built exactly what I asked for but not what I need.’ A Discovery Assessment tries to avoid the scenario where you make an investment that’s not well thought out and creates more problems than it solves.”
What role should the intended technology platform play in the Discovery Assessment process?
“If I’m trying to sell you a car, I don’t necessarily ask if you want a Ford or Toyota. I’m going to start with, do you want to four-door sedan? Do you want an SUV? How many seats do you want? The answers I get from you might actually guide my technology decision so even though we do a lot in Microsoft.NET, some of the questions you answer might make me decide that PHP is the best path forward.”
A proper discovery report should be a structured document. It should summarize what the project is, why it was conceived, and then move into the findings. If you have an existing application, what are the gaps you need to address? If you don’t have an existing application, how are you handling things today? It should allow you to summarize the project to corporate leadership, justify the expense, and most importantly, use it to entertain requests for proposals from competing software development companies.
A proper discovery assessment report is really a business plan as it relates to your technology. It’s an investment in what you might not know.