Project Discovery is one of the first stages of creating a digital product. This process aims to collect as much information about the project as possible, including its business and technical objectives necessary to determine the next steps of the design and implementation.
How does a Business Analyst contribute to the discovery stage? Their job involves extracting and analyzing data, objectives, as well as stakeholder needs and then transforming the gathered information into requirement specifications. Moreover, the BA helps identify the gaps between what stakeholders say about the planned product and their actual expectations. These steps aim to ensure that the final product meets the specified needs and helps achieve the business goals.
Discovery stage: scope of works
Project Discovery is a complex set of work and workshops that enable the following:
- Identifying and prioritizing customer requirements
- Analyzing the needs of the product target group(s)
- Assessing the market potential of the project
- Determining the time and cost of implementation
In other words, discovery is a process of data acquisition and identification, which leads to the determination of the purpose and potential of the designed solution. This phase is crucial as it ensures that the planned implementation is fully justified from a business perspective. Discovery allows the assessment of the value of the prepared solutions and helps create a product that users will appreciate, leading them to become more attached to the brand.
Gathering and Understanding Project Requirements
Requirements elicitation refers to the process of identifying requirements from various sources, utilizing different techniques such as interviews, workshops, observations, or document analysis (we discussed these techniques in a previous article about business analysis). The sources of detailed knowledge include information obtained from the customer and the target group of the product.
During the initial part of the discovery phase, Business Analyst conducts stakeholder interviews. These interviews are conducted in a structured manner with specialists in their respective fields, using a pre-arranged questionnaire that the interviewees receive in advance.
The purpose of requirements elicitation is to:
- Identify all required functions, expectations, and constraints.
- Orientate requirements about the project vision.
- Detail high-level requirements.
- Isolate functionalities that the customer does not need.
In the beginning, the business analyst should plan their approach to requirements elicitation. This avoids distracting the interview participants from their daily activities, which could discourage them from actively participating in the workshop.
The business analyst is primarily responsible for the correct, exhaustive, and reliable collection and identification of:
- Functional requirements
- Non-functional requirements (e.g. performance, security, system monitoring, etc.)
The BA’s primary role in the discovery process is to define the customer’s needs and determine which functionalities should be included in the designed software. Formulating the functional requirements clearly and correctly allows the developers to implement them according to the actual needs of the stakeholders.
Techniques for Requirements Identification
Business process flow (AS-IS -> TO-BE)
The process of identifying requirements for a new IT solution starts with analyzing the current business process (AS-IS) to identify inefficiencies that can be improved. Sometimes, a new IT solution is needed not because of a flaw in the current process, but due to a shift in the organizational direction.
After assessing the current system, the next step is to discuss the target solution (TO-BE). It’s important to consider that a customer’s perception of a business process may be influenced by their habits and practices. As business analysts, it is our responsibility to identify all of the explicit and implicit requirements of the customer to determine what solution they are actually aiming for.
Context diagram and ecosystem map
The context diagram and ecosystem map are essential for defining the accurate scope of a project. The ecosystem map provides an overview of all systems relevant to the designed solution, including the system environment and external platforms that might not impact the solution directly. This map should include every system with which the solution communicates. On the other hand, the context diagram establishes the system boundaries and interfaces between the designed product and external platforms, actors (potential users), and data used.
Overview of the new system’s functionality
After defining the vision for the new system and the surrounding ecosystem, the next step is to discuss the main functionalities of the solution. During this stage, the business analyst aims to identify all the elements that impact the product’s quality, complexity, and sophistication.
It is beneficial to involve developers in the workshop at this point to assess the feasibility of implementing the discussed requirements. By aligning business needs with technological capabilities and constraints, it’s possible to identify dependencies and assess opportunities, risks, or potential conflicts. Collaboration with developers is crucial to determine the project’s complexity, time consumption, and resource requirements.
As a result, the business analyst acts as an intermediary and mediator, communicating business requirements (functional and non-functional) from stakeholders to the development teams.
Identifying requirements through modelling is another way of ensuring that all stakeholders have the same understanding of an issue. Sometimes each stakeholder sees the same aspect differently, which can cause misunderstandings and make it challenging to develop consistent project requirements. Modelling techniques can be very effective in such situations, as the model developed is usually shorter and easier to understand than a natural language description, making it easier to achieve general agreement among stakeholders.
The most common type of models used in business analysis are diagrams of various kinds. They allow the system under construction and its context to be presented from multiple perspectives with an appropriate level of abstraction, focusing only on the relevant aspects and ignoring all the “information noise” surrounding them.
The modelling process is not mandatory, but it can significantly help with the validation of assumptions and the correctness of the data collected. Modelling accelerates the detection of contradictions, finding simplifications, and optimizing the solution.
Documenting during client workshops
To complement the final requirements specification document all notes and recordings collected during the workshop can be used. While they may not necessarily be included in the official documentation, keeping them for future reference or establishing a chronology of changes made to the collected requirements is recommended.
Key Discovery Phase Deliverables
When planning the Project Discovery phase, we should establish with the client a set of deliverables we want to obtain as a phase and process result to help us do so.
The primary deliverables of the discovery phase are:
- A list of business objectives with the definition of the KPI measure and its value required to achieve the goal.
- List of stakeholders.
- List and description of target user groups with their prioritisation.
- Service ecosystem map with context diagram.
- Use-Case Diagram with a description of cases.
- List of functional requirements.
- List of business processes in the project scope together with activity diagrams.
- List of non-functional requirements.
- Product Information Architecture.
- The logical and physical architecture of the system.
- Project scope and implementation approach.
The deliverables developed during the discovery phase play a crucial role in ensuring the project’s success by preventing conflicts and ambiguities in the later stages of the project cycle. They serve as a foundation for communication between stakeholders and the implementation team, isolating critical aspects and providing a reference point for decision-making to ensure alignment with agreed work direction and stakeholder objectives.
The discovery process is a crucial step in ensuring the success of a digital project, and a skilled business analyst plays a pivotal role in this phase. BAs employ modelling and diagramming techniques to clarify stakeholder objectives, needs, and requirements while identifying constraints and risks that may impact the final product quality. Before moving on to the next stage – Solution design – a product workshop is held where the developed deliverables are presented, objections are discussed, and necessary adjustments are made.
At Infinity Group, we have been guiding clients through the discovery process for years, utilizing DXP platforms to turn business needs into comprehensive digital solutions. Our case studies showcase our success in this area, and if you are ready to discuss how Project Discovery can help your business grow – do not hesitate to contact us and schedule a free consultation.