You found the land for your dream house. You’ve chosen the builder and architect. You’ve picked “weathered gray” for your siding color. Time to start digging! But did you look closely at the lot? Did you see the giant limestone ridge hiding under the grass? Did you know blasting through it will add $50,000 to your construction costs?
A little discovery on the front end would have been nice.
Building a successful technology solution is no different than building your dream home. While excitement and/or urgency often drives us to start right away, a big implementation is only successful if you take your time and use thorough research and analysis to ensure no metaphorical limestone ridge is hiding just below the surface.
That discovery process – the research, exploration and planning you need to take before any work is begun – is a crucial phase of any new technology project.
Dangers of ditching discovery
Once you decide to engage an outside IT solutions partner, you may feel like you know exactly what you need from them. After all, you’ve done enough of your own due diligence to determine you need some additional assistance. But as Web development shop Sanmita writes, be careful what you think you know:
“One option is to go forward with in-house discovery. Think about it: it’s already your job to think about how you can best serve your users … But, proceed with caution. Be mindful of your assumptions and internal bias. This process takes time and effort, and it can be frustrating to admit failures to make the improvements necessary for success.”
Good advice. If your internal team is not experienced with conducting a thorough discovery process, you may not know what you don’t know—and those unexpected surprises could easily get you into trouble down the road.
Beware of skipping it all together, too. The prospect of saving time and money can be alluring, especially when you’re considering the budget of some pricey new initiative. But forgoing the discovery process can actually cost you even more once you’re further down the production timeline. And fixing errors that should have been spotted before the project began can drastically throw off the budget and the calendar.
Don’t just treat symptoms
There’s nothing I hate more than a doctor prescribing something for my symptoms without helping me understand the root cause of my illness. Yes, it’s easy to throw bodies at a project, but an effective IT partner should be working to solve your underlying business or technology problem, not just sell you a short-term solution.
That discovery process begins in the initial conversations, which allow everyone to fully understand the pain points you’re experiencing and helps identify potential solutions for that pain. Both you and the IT partner need to fully understand the problem, research solution alternatives, and commit to an approach, timeline and cost to solve the issue.
The solution that works best for your business may be especially complex and could require an assessment to help define the problem and design a solution. The typical process for conducting a solution assessment involves seven steps:
- Understanding the current state
- Assessing the current state against best practices
- Completing a gap assessment
- Designing alternative scenarios for solving the problem
- Collaborating on the best solution
- Building and gaining consensus on a roadmap to solve the problem
- Executing the roadmap
I’ll give you an example how this pays off: A recent client asked us to assess their new billing system architecture. During the discovery process, however, we discovered the company had significantly changed their business strategy, but IT was unaware of this shift. As a result, the billing architecture they developed was no longer appropriate. This discovery allowed us to help the client develop the attributes the new billing architecture should have to meet the new business strategy.
This kind of up-front collaboration is essential for building a long-term relationship with your IT solutions provider. It gives them a better perspective on your project (and its stakeholders), and it allows both of you to determine that common purpose as you solve each challenge.
Just remember to choose a partner with the necessary discovery experience. Your home builder should know enough to look under the ground before he starts delivering lumber; the same attention should be given to your next IT project.
Rod Mack is Chief Delivery Officer at Veracity Consulting, a tech consulting team of problem-solvers and truth-tellers who deliver customized IT solutions for commercial and government clients across the U.S. Share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter @engageveracity.