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Discovery: The Foundation for Project Success

The definition of discovery: an information gathering process that typically happens at the beginning of a project. And while it might seem like the “no-fun” part of a project, or just a series of steps to check off the list before getting to the good stuff, it shouldn’t be seen as a hurdle you have to clear. The more data and information you have at the start of your project, the more likely your goals will be achieved. The discovery process is an investment in project success.

At Firefly, discovery is one of our favorite phases of a project. Discovery sessions are necessary to uncover pain points within your organization that need to be addressed and factored into your strategic planning. Spending time putting the good and bad out on the table also helps ensure the investment you are making to update your website or your fundraising platform is going to yield successful results. It’s also the place where we get to define what project success is. How will you know your project is a success? How will you measure it? What tactics will get us there?

There are several tools you can implement to bring to light the information you will draw on throughout your project. Think of discovery like a blueprint. It will be your “gut check” throughout the project, providing the data needed to answer any “why” question that pops up throughout the project. For example:

Question: Why are we collecting this data in our donation form?
Answer: During discovery it was identified as a required data point for stakeholders and funders.

At its most basic, discovery will provide you the ability to answer why decisions were made at the time they were made.

At Firefly, we use a host of tools and tactics during discovery to define what we’re trying to accomplish. Some you can expect to see during discovery can include:

  1. Stakeholder/Supporter Surveys: If you have a large organization with multiple stakeholders or a diverse supporter base, surveys are a great tool to provide an opportunity for all to be heard.
  2. Industry Benchmark Reports: Reading benchmark studies that are produced and created on an annual basis on giving trends, fundraising tools, etc. are a vital part of discovery and research.
  3. Technical Audit: A thorough review of the digital tools you are currently using—including your Google Analytics data—is a great way to assess what areas are working and what might need improvement.
  4. Content Audit: If you are undergoing a website redesign, this is the optimal time to review and evaluate your existing content. Tools like a ROT analysis can help you identify outdated or irrelevant content, and card sorting exercises can help you create a more intuitive user experience by updating the way you think about organizing content on your site.

Drawing on even a few of these tools during the discovery process will result in a well-documented, data-driven strategic brief or plan. If the discovery session is your blueprint or outline of project success; the strategic plan is your playbook. It is the touchstone for each decision you make within your project – from design to development to production to launch.

Chances are, if you’ve had a project that hasn’t worked out the way you anticipated, you can trace the root cause back to the fact that the requirements and goals of the project weren’t clearly understood, articulated, or documented from the beginning.

A thorough discovery phase can help you avoid these problems by tapping into your already-collected data to set the requirements and goals for any digital project you undertake. It reduces the risk of failure and ensures that when you launch you have maximized the potential of the project.

If you’re ready to embark on your next digital project but can’t quite get your arms around what success should look like or how you’ll get there, let Firefly Partners guide you through a discovery process that will set you on the right path. Get in touch.

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