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Guaranteeing the success of your next digital project

Written by Jamie Hinton
Published on
How exactly do you guarantee the success of your next digital project? The answer to this question is simpler than you might expect: you start with Discovery.

How exactly do you guarantee the success of your next digital project?

The answer to this question is simpler than you might expect: you start with Discovery.

What is Discovery and why does it matter?

Every new challenge that we undertake starts with a Discovery, and it enables us to build a shared understanding of what we need to achieve. We want to ensure we drive out solutions that, in isolation, would never have been conceived. We do this by bringing our technical experts together with you, and quickly capture, validate and refine ideas, in order to steer us towards the most appropriate solution.

We start by defining an objective, explore, ask questions and probe, before a project has even started. It’s not about jumping straight in, writing some code (although some of that can happen to experiment and provide clarity).

Think of it like this: you wouldn’t start digging holes and laying bricks on a plot of land in a field without preparation or a consultation with an architect. This sounds absurd, but is sometimes what happens with digital projects. In the context of building houses, we would all turn our heads at the mere thought, but in the digital world, we think this is acceptable practice, until it isn’t and something doesn’t work, and then it really isn’t ok at all.

We need to ensure every project is set up for success, and planning is a fundamental step towards this. Andy Grove, one of the smartest business minds and former CEO of Intel, described the term ‘left shift’ in his business classic book, Only the Paranoid Survive, published in 1996. The discovery process is exactly this - moving the risk and exploration to the left side of the wider process, minimising waste and delivering value faster.

This isn’t agile, is it?

To answer this, is first to understand what agile means. If you go by the agile manifesto and holistically apply it to a project, not all principles line up perfectly. It’s important to highlight that the agile manifesto is primarily aimed at development, rather than a wider project or initiative. What the agile manifesto does assume, is that everyone knows what the end goal is - in reality, this is seldom the case. Without a clear shared understanding, speeding through a project just leaves behind a mess. Combine Discovery with agile principles however, and you have the perfect concoction.

Discovery + Agile Delivery = Hyperspeed

Moving fast without direction is, simply put, a waste of time. This is exactly what agile is designed to reduce, and exactly the problem our Discovery solves.

So what makes a business agile? Is it their tech team doing stand-ups and following ‘scrum’ or a ‘scrum master? We don’t believe this. Just because you wear flippers, it doesn’t make you a duck, much like having feathers doesn’t mean you can fly. The entire organisation needs to be agile - it needs to be deep rooted in business culture, and not just a box you can tick. Agile is about working smarter, not working harder - it’s about generating value.

So why can’t we just build an MVP?

According to a study by McKinsey-Oxford on reference-class forecasting for IT Projects, 66% of all projects overrun on costs - the biggest factor for this is missing focus and understanding at the start.

While you can just build an MVP, the problem is understanding what you are building. The entire team needs to have clarity on the final objectives. If it is highly technical and risky, then why focus on what’s easy first? Would you not conduct a full analysis to ‘left shift’ in order to understand and resolve the major challenges first?

Would you jump headfirst into a pool without knowing if it’s deep enough? If you have a room full of designers and developers build an MVP without direction, what will result is the developers moving in one direction, whilst UX moves in the opposite, and what results is the developers try to retrofit the initial designs, bending in the technology that now doesn’t fit. Chaos ensues.

The road to success

Ensuring everyone works together, as a team, moving in the same direction with a common goal in mind, is a sure way to ensure success from the get-go. This is what makes a good company great, and how great companies succeed with a clear vision, strategy and mission, compounded by core values and principles.

It works.

To find out more about digital transformation and how to do it well, download our most recent paper entitled "What every CEO needs to know about digital transformation".