Sometimes, deciding on an agency partner feels like the hardest part of planning a new website. Or redesigning one. But once you have the right collaborator in place, you can sit back and let the professionals do the rest, right?

Unfortunately, design and development partnerships simply don’t work that way. From the very beginning, collaboration is critical to every project’s success. Before a line of code is written, your agency needs to develop a complete picture of your specific needs. Granted, once you’ve signed a contract, the broad terms of your collaboration have been established. But to ensure your project is on a solid foundation from the beginning, your agency can’t skimp on its Discovery process.

Discovery brings together the team of experts from your agency to collaborate with your stakeholders to understand your business from every angle. From the beginning, it’s critical that your agency evaluates your project’s needs within the context of your organization’s current structure and goals for the future. In some cases, your agency will find a fresh approach to resolve your business need. In others, they’ll find the internal issues that led to your problem.

After an in-depth Discovery process, your agency isn’t just in a better position to succeed with your project. You’ll have an understanding of how to ensure that success is sustainable.

Discovery establishes a path to success for your digital project

At the start of a digital project, both you and your agency know one another from sales meetings. But in a practical sense, you’re still flying blind when it comes to working together. Granted, your needs and expectations are already defined. And the length and cost of the collaboration have been defined. Before work begins, your agency needs to understand the problems your project needs to resolve for your business. No matter how clear communication has been up to now, those issues take time and mutual effort to uncover.

Every agency engagement starts with a kickoff meeting. Structured around a focused discussion of your project’s goals, the kickoff allows both sides to jointly identify the engagement’s goals and division of responsibilities. At the same time, your agency is gathering cues about your organization’s culture and structure. At Four Kitchens, we follow the kickoff with our Discovery workshops, which mark where the collaboration really begins.

Depending on a project’s size and complexity, Discovery workshops can last anywhere from a few hours to two full days. Our process calls upon every stakeholder to attend and discuss the goals for your digital presence and its target audience. In some cases, the workshop could involve just a single project owner. In others, it may include as many as 25 people. The more stakeholders tied to a project, the more your agency must manage the mix of social styles, time, and priorities for an effective session.

Four Kitchens has a deep library of brainstorming exercises to facilitate engagement during the Discovery workshop based on what we’ve learned about your company culture. But the information gathering doesn’t stop there. Along with these sessions, we evaluate your Google Analytics data and any previous user research to illuminate where your business stands and where it needs to go.

In the end, the Discovery process brings to the forefront the perspective of every stakeholder with regard to your project. At times, we uncover structural issues within your workflow that also contributed to your problem.

The results of Discovery: The Needs Assessment document

The Discovery process is designed to build understanding of your business. However, that information shouldn’t only serve your agency in its Design and Build processes. At the end of our client workshops, we leave with mountains of information about your digital goals and how your organization functions. We then assess and synthesize all the data we have gathered into a comprehensive Needs Assessment document.

In some ways, a Needs Assessment resembles a therapy exercise. Your agency compiles everything it observed about your project and organization and reflects those findings back to you. The document is a useful means of outlining any potential changes to your project’s approach as well as any organizational shifts that could further encourage its success.

Changes to internal leadership and unclear content ownership can contribute to an underperforming website, along with communication breakdowns. Through a thorough Discovery process, you’ll better understand any structural impediments to the long-term effectiveness of your project. Once each stakeholder sees the key issues behind your project in black and white, everyone can start moving forward in the same direction.

Depending on the outcome of the Discovery process, the details of your project’s deliverables may also change. It’s a tricky balancing act for your agency to stay within your contract’s boundaries, but sometimes what you think you wanted in a design initiative doesn’t align with your real needs. Every so often, cost estimates shift as out-of-the-box plugins and apps may satisfy what were seen as custom needs. In other instances, deeper platform issues could be revealed and trigger more comprehensive changes. The next steps, however, remain up to you.

Discovery informs both sides of the agency-client relationship

Requiring in-depth research and collaboration, the Discovery stage establishes the foundation of any digital project. And to be most effective, the process must constantly evolve.

As the ongoing pandemic has made remote collaboration essential, we’ve condensed our Discovery workshops to accommodate the challenges of virtual meetings. Some of what our clients would previously cover in a workshop has become at-home questionnaires to streamline the process. Discovery, as always, is a work in progress with the goal of finding the best results for your business.

In our experience, the insights gained from Discovery can be illuminating enough to be a standalone project. Clients sometimes hire Four Kitchens simply for our Discovery methods. After our thorough examination of their goals and workflow, they can better determine what’s standing between their organization and the success of their digital efforts. With our holistic approach to analysis and informed collaboration, we can do the same for you.