How to conduct a tech product discovery workshop

Discovery workshops are a critical part of the process for developing successful technology products. Done well, they lay the foundations and define the path to deliver innovative software products; done badly or not at all and you can end up with a product that doesn’t do what you or your customer wants, which harms your reputation.

So how should you approach a discovery workshop to get the most out of the process?

What needs to be achieved?

A digital product discovery workshop lets you know exactly what you need to initiate a successful product development, so before embarking on one, it’s important to understand the outcomes you need from it, whether that’s an MVP, a ready-to-go product or an upgrade to an existing one.

Workshops are about exploration leading to discovery and the goals should be set to reflect this; otherwise, you end up with a talking shop instead of a workshop.

At Incepteo we make sure that goals are clear and centred around discussions that dive deep into key areas. Our team drives the detailed discussion to establish clarity of the product vision for everyone involved. It’s essential to gather every stakeholder’s input regarding their own needs, aspirations and ideas for the product, along with a validation of the initial overall requirements that have been identified.

It’s not just about coding: Taking a broader view

Focusing discovery discussions on the key components of a product ensures that you’re talking about the right subjects in the discovery workshop; these should include:

  • The Organisation: its vision
  • The Product: purpose and value
  • Brand Styling: aspirations for the product
  • Features: set and roadmap
  • CX and Onboarding: the audience character and their journey
  • Commercial and Buyer: creating the bigger picture to include sales and marketing
  • Customer Support: helping users and building loyalty

Working towards building awareness and understanding of these key areas and starting with clear goals for the workshop will ensure that the scope of the project is clearly defined before any product development starts, and will establish a common understanding and shared expectations from the beginning.

There’s a common misconception that great tech discovery workshops are all about how the software will work, what it looks like for the user and the experience you’re trying to deliver but this isn’t enough on its own, as we will see.

Setting the agenda

Innovative, exciting and entrepreneurial products come from great partnerships between the client and developer. To achieve this there needs to be an investment in understanding the business for whom the product is being developed and its strategic aims. This is why our goals for a product discovery workshop encompass such broad areas.

Awareness of the range of what needs to be covered directs what information you will need. This, in turn, sets the workshop agenda which should look like a set of focused and concise questions that spark deep discussion and thought, so that even the very first step you take on your product development journey will be in the right direction.

Avoiding the pitfalls: Why workshops work 

Investing time in a purposeful and well-conducted product discovery workshop is the best way to avoid problems further down the line that could prove costly, time-consuming and even catastrophic to the project.

One essential role of these workshops is to create a clear understanding and a set of shared objectives for everyone involved. Without it, you will get challenges to the dynamics of the teams involved which can lead to frustration and individuals or groups working towards different results. When team dynamics start to break down, so does communication and a vicious circle ensues.

Another pitfall we want to avoid with our workshops at Incepteo is that without a proper understanding of the full scope of the product, you are probably going to underestimate the development costs. Without the right level of investment, the product will not be able to achieve its full potential and risks never being completed.

It’s also worth repeating that taking time to understand the client and their market helps ensure that your product idea fulfils a need. No one wants to waste time or money developing a new app with no market or creating a product that misses a market opportunity; this major fail is deftly sidestepped when discovery workshops do their job properly.

Failing to take the time to understand how users will interact with a product is also a risk of rushing into development without a thorough product discovery process. In our experience, starting without this insight guarantees a very high probability of failure whereas a thorough, deep-dive during a properly conducted workshop reveals all the insight needed.

The following potential dangers of a rushed product development highlight the importance of investing adequate time and resources in a discovery workshop.

The benefits brought by an effective workshop

As well as avoiding the common pitfalls in product development, a successful product discovery workshop can bring other benefits:

  • Establishes why you are building this product and for whom, which underpins better decision-making later.
  • Sets out a clear set of business and product goals in a project roadmap aligned to your customers’ needs. The initial product idea will be improved by developing a better understanding of the required outcomes.
  • Builds a better understanding of the product upon which to build an accurate evaluation of cost.
  • Reduces overall development costs by building the right product from the start.
  • Better production speed due to clarity of the end-product.
  • Minimises risks and potential challenges identified and addressed early on.
  • Builds understanding between our team and the client’s and establishes good team dynamics at an early stage.
  • Saves time and maintains focus by running a targeted workshop rather than a series of individual meetings spread out over time.

Leading with a different approach

Product discovery workshops are nothing new and the benefits are obvious. Many tech products developers use them, but the difference lies in their approach; this is where the added value can lie when working with the right development partner.

Our entrepreneurial approach and understanding of start-ups drive our innovative approach at Incepteo, and we bring this to our discovery workshops, helping us to build a rapport with similar clients – who want to build and launch exciting and disruptive new tech products onto the market.

Challenging assumptions

We don’t just look at the product, we take care to understand the business context and its market environment. This focus on the client and their customers, as well as the product, lets us understand what they want to achieve. We can also approach each project with an open mind, avoiding the assumption that we know what the client wants.

We also know that it’s important not to hold back from asking challenging questions because they often give clients a clearer insight into a business and make them reassess their own assumptions when given the opportunity to think in-depth about what they’re asking for.

A product discovery workshop should be an exciting and challenging stage in the process, leading to better understanding and a genuine working partnership which leads to a clear engagement and a longer-term relationship.

A workshop should be the first step of your product journey, where disruptive creative thinking aligns with a product that’s fit for purpose; we’re always ready to work closely with you, accompanying our clients from the start through to execution as well as ongoing support for your business.

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