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3 Steps for Discovery

Discovery is the act of uncovering facts. Within the context of developing a product backlog, discovery is identifying true needs, uncovering problems, and discerning requirements through empirical, observational, anecdotal, and intuitive information. The three steps below will help you successfully discover facts and develop a product backlog aligned to your vision. A Note on Needs […]

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July 15, 2016

Discovery is the act of uncovering facts.

Within the context of developing a product backlog, discovery is identifying true needs, uncovering problems, and discerning requirements through empirical, observational, anecdotal, and intuitive information. The three steps below will help you successfully discover facts and develop a product backlog aligned to your vision.

A Note on Needs vs Problems

It is easy to focus on a problem we experience and the desired solution. However, in the discovery process, we want to focus on the actual needs. This allows us to examine the problem from all angles and find the optimal solution.  For example:

Cities in the early 20th century such as Rochester, New York City, and London had a problem of excess manure from horses which led to flies, smells, and diseases. They held conferences focused on the problem looking for manure-removal solutions.[1] [2][3]

In contrast, Henry Ford started by understanding the need. People in urban cities need transportation. His innovation provided an automobile accessible to average citizens.

Ford focused on the need which resulted in an effective solution.

Step 1: Understand the Need

Find out who is the audience, what is the purpose, and what is the future vision. Ask yourself and your stakeholders questions to discover the need.

  1. Audience – Who does this effect? Is it our customers? Is it citizens? Internal staff? Have we identified all the stakeholders? Do we have competitors? Partners?
  2. Purpose – Why do we exist? What gap do we fill? What do we do best? Where are we weak?
  3. Future vision – Where do we see ourselves in 10 years? How do we know we’ve achieved success? Can we measure it? What opportunities do we have? What threats do we have?

Step 2: Examine the Problem

Once you’ve agreed on the need, work with your stakeholders to examine the problem from as many angles as possible.

Many people start with the problem statement. However, the stated problem rarely encompasses the understanding of need. Once you take a step back to understand the need, examining the problem will likely lead you to a different problem statement.

Use techniques such as brainstorming and mind-mapping to uncover all facets of the problem.

Step 3: Uncover Solution Requirements

Once you understand the need and the problem, uncover as many requirements as possible from your stakeholders, customers, and subject matter experts. Probe beyond the obvious answers to find the innovative solution.

Innovation Games can be helpful to uncover solution requirements.

Innovation Solutions

How do you get to those innovative solutions? This discovery process doesn’t happen just once. Apply Lean Discovery  techniques to continually dig deeper into the problem and elicit requirements.

Interested in learning more about Agile Requirements? Join us on September 28 for an Agile Requirements Workshop in Arlington, VA .

[1] https://theblobologist.wordpress.com/category/social-science/

[2] http://www.americanheritage.com/content/urban-pollution-many-long-years-ago

[3] http://bytesdaily.blogspot.com.au/2011/07/great-horse-manure-crisis-of-1894.html

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