Customer discovery meetings


Now that you've had the chance to schedule direct time with your customer, it's time to determine how you can make the best use of your time and of the customer's time. A bit of preliminary work will be beneficial in this regard. Most customer discovery meetings have many commonalities, which are discussed in this lesson.

Types of discovery meetings

Different types of communication can occur throughout the life of a project. During the discovery process, you need to be able to gather actionable requirements and intangible needs. Often, even after you have met all of the stated requirements, the intangible successes that you have will ensure long-term satisfaction with the presented solutions. While you might be given a well-documented set of requirements, making them actionable will require a bit more work.

Workshops can be a way to present a lot of information in a short period of time. You can hold workshops for targeted groups of stakeholders. Publish an advanced agenda and try to stay on topic. Realize that every attendee and every workshop are different. While some groups are comfortable scribbling wireframes on a whiteboard, others might prefer to write requirements on sticky notes for later prioritization. Make sure that you adapt to the different learning styles and schedule follow-up communication to clarify any topics, as needed.

Surveys with questions that are targeted to specific roles can yield requirements and offer insight into the importance of certain features or for solving specific problems. Surveys also offer the chance to receive anonymous feedback, which could be helpful in gaining insight into the needs that a quiet user base might have.

Job shadowing works well when you're trying to gather more detailed information. While job shadowing, you can follow the daily activities of a user whom you are hoping to help with a solution. Take notes, ask questions, be engaged, learn the pain points, and learn what goes well and what doesn't.

Many industries have their own vocabulary. It can be helpful to keep track of the industry vocabulary and to note any customer-specific terms. Keeping track of your customer's data definitions can also prove helpful as the project progresses.

Fill in the gaps of your pre-discovery

This lesson has discussed ways of getting to know your customer prior to starting a project. After you've learned high-level details about your customer and their business, you need to take further steps that will lead you down the right path of a solution.

These steps include:

  • Evaluating the customer's data architecture
  • Examining the customer's line of business
  • Determining the impact that apps have on a customer's solution
  • Discovering the customer's pain points.

Each task is imperative for a successful solution; the amount of time that you spend on these tasks varies from project to project.

Data is always a concern. While people typically spend a lot of time on data architecture, they don't consider the influencers, such as data location, history, and quality. These influencers should be considered every step of the way in project development.

Ask your customers the following questions to determine how these influencers affect the data architecture:

  • Where does the data reside now?

  • Where should it reside?

  • Do you have integrity concerns?

  • Do you have duplicates or other data quality issues?

  • Are you keeping historical data, and how much?

  • What type of access will users need to historical data?

Few companies have a single line of business. Because your customer likely has multiple lines of business, ask them the following questions to determine how these lines of business and their needs affect the solutions that you are offering and implementing:

  • What overlaps in process between lines of business?

  • What overlaps in data between lines of business?

  • What new lines of business are in the near-term plans?

  • Do other business units use similar Microsoft technologies?

You cannot assume that your solution will live in isolation with no other apps or systems in place. To determine how those other apps might impact your work on the solution, ask your customer the following questions:

  • What apps or systems are you replacing?

  • What apps or systems must you keep?

  • Is a connector or API available?

Define success criteria

Throughout the discovery process, as you learn more about the customer, you will learn about their pain points. Typically, pain points involve customer response time, consistent processes, and data integrity. After you have established the customer’s specific pain points, you can then determine the problems that they need to resolve.

Taking this initiative will allow you to help your customer define their desired results, which in turn helps you focus on the specifics of their solution. Knowing more about your customer’s needs can help you establish a comprehensive outcome, such as expecting that the solution will decrease customer wait times by 18 percent, which translates to your customer saving money over time.

Identifying pain points improves user adoption; however, establishing clearly-defined objectives helps the customers resolve their issues. You will find that some business objectives will likely present themselves during the discovery process, while others will be directly defined by the customer. Regardless, when these objectives are established, you and your customer will be able to move forward with the solution and realize success.

Additional components to success

In addition to defining requirements and goals, other interactions that can help you get a project off to a good start include learning business processes and considering the request for proposal.

Learn business processes

When implementing the new solution, you will add process automation. However, before adding automation, you need to define processes for your customer. Because your customer will likely have processes that are already in place, you will need to extract them and determine how the proposed solutions can streamline these business processes.

You can extract the existing processes by performing any or all of the following tasks:

  • Job shadowing different users/departments

  • Reviewing automation that is already in place

  • Looking for pain points as processes run their course

  • Asking the customer directly about their processes

Connect with all levels of the organization

Every department, and every level within a department, is likely to have slightly different and specific objectives, even if the larger objectives are the same. Connecting with each of these groups immediately in a project will offer a better path to success. Recognizing potential for conflicting needs and offering solutions in advance of an actual conflict can help gain a buy-in from more stakeholders. As an outsider looking in, you should be able to recognize some of these areas of resolution before internal-facing resources would.

RFP considerations

A request for proposal (RFP) can be extremely detailed or incredibly thin. The details could have been written by the business or by IT. You could be replacing, supplementing, or integrating with an existing system. All of these factors influence what we see in an RFP and influence our approach to finding a solution.

Exercise: Draft a project plan summary

You've had your first informal meeting with the customer and have learned the following information from your two-hour conversation with the CIO.

  • Each bank is required to keep copies of important signed documents for seven years.

  • The CEO plays golf with a senior executive from Awesome Computers, a competitor. They also attended university together.

  • Specific single transactions require government notification; corporate deposits over USD 1 million and consumer deposits over USD 50,000.

  • Currently, the system contains a lot of bad data and several duplicates, so the new system needs to resolve that issue and prevent it from happening again.

  • The bank's vice president has seen many impressive marketing campaigns from the pre-sales team and wants to implement a complete, branded, multi-channel marketing solution.

  • The bank has recently hired a new COO, who is rapidly gaining a reputation as an IT aficionado with a particular enjoyment of segmenting and viewing data in Microsoft Excel.

  • Next month, the entire tier 1 and tier 2 management team at the bank are receiving tablet PCs.

  • Recent turmoil in Europe has led to the bank receiving calls from panicked midsize commercial customers that the bank had mistakenly forgotten about.

  • Several of the relationship managers are new hires from Contoso Financial Services, a competing firm who changed their CRM from Microsoft about nine months ago.

  • Several affiliates of Woodgrove Bank have expressed interest in having a new system as well.

Draft a project plan summary where you begin to define some of the following parameters:

  • Problem statement, business objectives, project objectives

  • Scope (what's in scope and what's out of scope)

  • Governance plans

  • Timelines

  • Deliverables

Topics to consider for this exercise:

  • Whether you can begin to define success criteria, and what might prevent you from doing so

  • Who the identified stakeholders are

  • Persons or organizations that you might be missing

  • Risks that you can identify