Why invest in a Discovery Phase?
Achieve alignment between stakeholders.
The Discovery Process
Would you build a house without a blueprint? How about a high-rise without a rock solid foundation? When agencies begin building complicated and expensive e-commerce projects without an upfront strategic plan or foundational data, the project is setup for failure.
The Discovery process creates the blueprint and provides the foundation for any complex e-commerce site. An upfront Discovery saves time and money before a single line of code is written. The result is a sensible and strategic plan detailing the steps necessary for a successful build.
There are many benefits to Discovery. A benefit that is sometimes overlooked is the cohesion that Discovery brings to teams involved in the project.
Often, when a project kicks off, there are many disparate teams with different ideas about how to proceed. Marketing is focused on how the site will bring in more business, IT is all about platform performance, Product Managers need to know that products will be easy to find. Each department has its own metrics by which to measure success.
During Discovery, these different needs are addressed. A representative from every department is interviewed about their desires and goals for the site. When all of these are collected, a big picture view comes into focus. As different viewpoints are examined, a holistic strategy emerges that takes into account various department requirements.
The result of this team effort is that previously unknown details and issues begin to surface. For example, Customer Service reps may be receiving calls about how difficult it is to find product manuals. Typically, they direct the customer to the manual on the site - problem solved and no one outside of CS knows this is an issue. However, these calls take time and effort away from other tasks, and result in a less than ideal customer experience. The information architecture of the new site can easily address this issue.
Once challenges affecting each department are brought to light, the strategic plan can address each of them. This leads to efficiencies across the business and happier, more productive teams.
Overcoming Platform Paralysis
“Company A is really killing it with their e-commerce platform, we should go with that!” says one manager. “No, I’ve heard that they have problems interfacing with our ERP… let’s go with platform B” says another. Then IT chimes in. “Platform B? You’re kidding, right? Platform Z has the best performance by far!” This circular back and forth results in delayed decisions, and sometimes causes the selection of a less than ideal solution.
Choosing the right e-commerce platform for your business is very important. Choose poorly, and you are stuck. Choose wisely, and your business can grow to its full potential. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Licensing, cost, support, and integration with CRM, ERP and other systems are all necessary considerations. So are the products that you sell and the rules that govern their sale. Opinions on the best platform will inevitably differ amongst team members. Unfortunately, these opinions are usually based on incomplete research, hearsay or hunches.
A Discovery allows team members to voice these opinions. Then, the data either validates or refutes them. Data-driven requirements collected through Discovery inform the platform decision. Each requirement is scored relative to the functionality of the platforms under consideration, allowing team members to make a calculated decision. This process removes guesswork and emotion from the equation, and the right platform is selected based on data and industry best practices.
Filling in the Gaps
Discovery brings internal teams together. It also exposes areas where additional help may be required. An outside team can fill in the gaps in expertise during the project build. Discovery identifies where these needs are, allowing the team to get organized before the build starts. Having a strong team in place can be the difference between a successful site launch and a troubled one.
Often, the agency who conducts Discovery can provide a team of experts to augment the internal team. The ability of the teams to align with one another must be considered when selecting an agency. Teams will be working closely together and sharing sensitive information. Trust and honest communication are vital to uncover issues and provide solutions for the best path forward.
When a Discovery is done right, every team member feels as if their concerns have been heard and solutions to their problems have been addressed within the strategic plan. Next steps are clear, and the resulting requirements are concise and data driven. With the blueprint and foundation in place, there are fewer surprises during the build, and scope creep is kept to a minimum. The project starts strong and teams work closely together towards a common vision.