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The A.K.A. Process: Discovery & Reflection Phase


In the first post of our series discussing our design and development process, we'll look at the first step of any new project - the discovery session and reflection document.

Any new website design and development project we undertake here at A.K.A. begins with a thorough discovery phase, which we believe is the most important phase of the entire project.
 
A discovery phase begins with a detailed discovery session with the project stakeholders. This is where we learn about such things as:
  • The organization as a whole
  • Brand
  • Audience
  • Challenges
  • As well as defining what success of the project would look like
 
There are some things we prepare before the session like:
  • Thorough review of any material provided by the client to help us understand who they are, i.e:
    • Audit of their existing website
    • Competitor or champion websites
    • Documentation they have shared, such as marketing plans, branding guidelines, current marketing material collateral
  • Questions and topics for discussion

We often say the discovery phase is like performing organizational psychotherapy. Here are some tips that we find useful:
 
Don’t share questions beforehand. We find we get more open, direct and less scripted responses than if they are overly prepared.
 
Prepare some less obvious lines of questions. These can be very revealing like internal technical capabilities, misconceptions about them in marketplace, human resources needs, etc.
 
Keep the participants list to a small group. If more than 4-5 stakeholders need to be included, consider breaking it down into separate sessions based on the functions they perform within the organization.
 
Be versatile and adjust the approach based on the client. Some client’s need lots of priming (so be ready), while others will tell you everything you need to know based on a single question.
 
Always keep their unique value proposition in mind. Always keep in the forefront of this process trying to determine the client’s unique value proposition, their target audience and what this audience needs.
 
Have a separate conversation with the CEO or Executive Director. They may be able to share important strategic nuances that other stakeholders may not be aware of. It always helps ensure buy in later on if the CEO or ED feels that their voice has been accounted for even though they may not be involved in the project. 
 
Have one person drive the questions and the other taking meeting minutes. Have someone dedicated to taking copious notes while the other person drives the discussion so nothing is lost or forgotten.
 
Once the session is complete and any outstanding questions have been resolved, A.K.A. synthesizes these findings in a Reflection Document. The document not only acts as a guide for our team as we move forward with the website design and development process, but also helps ensure a shared understanding and consensus amongst the client project stakeholders, as they have to approve it. If everyone has agreed and signed off on “this is what we have said and this is where we are going”, the likelihood of project success increases dramatically.
 
Have you experienced or implemented a different approach? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
 
Posted by Alexa on 6/25/2015 9:50:04 AM


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Jassmin Nicoloff
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416 323 1981 X 233
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