Many organizations are so quick to take action to grow their subscription plan (or any plan), they skip the essential steps needed to make that growth successful. Often this is because stakeholders feel they are too busy for adequate upfront planning. But while companies are understandably eager to get their plans moving, skipping the discovery session can be a big mistake. Putting in a little bit of extra time now can save a lot of time, money and headaches later.

We recently discussed discovery sessions, and why they are so important, with Christy Beesley, VP of Merchant Engagement and Solutions, and Nick Streams, VP of Solutions Engineering, both at Rebar Technology. Christy and Nick shared their insights on our Subscriptions: Scaled podcast; listen to the full episode here.

Discovery Sessions, Defined

A discovery session is a collaborative foundational meeting where the team comes together to lay out and agree upon the project’s goals and talk through the problem (or problems) that need solving. You’d be surprised how many different takes people have on the needs, expectations and goals of a given project.

Sometimes, and especially with software development projects, a discovery session might be the only time every stakeholder is together in the same room (or in the same Zoom call). Stakeholders should represent every department in the company that will participate in the plan.

During the discovery session, the participants should discuss the scope of the project, and its goals. Timelines and budgets should be on the table, too. An open flow of ideas is a must; everyone should be encouraged to speak their mind.

In the end, every participant should not only understand what will be done, but what will not be done, and what will be addressed in a future phase. The goal of this collaborative, open discussion is to make sure all the stakeholders, teams and departments agree on the scope of the project, its objectives, and have a clear understanding of what their specific roles are.

Why a Discovery Session is Important

You might be surprised what the discovery session uncovers. In many cases, team members start the meeting certain they know the best solution already, only to end up passionate about an entirely different approach.

Also, we find that when companies skip the discovery phase, they typically end up doing a lot of backtracking to fix the things they missed, or made incorrect assumptions about. That not only wastes time, but valuable human and capital resources. In particular, software projects seem vulnerable to these problems. It’s been our experience that many teams get halfway through a project, only to discover that they’re out of budget or something’s gone frustratingly wrong. These problems can often be traced back to a skipped or underdeveloped discovery session.

Do all Projects Need a Discovery Process?

The simple answer is, yes! All projects, big and small, need discovery—even projects that already have well-documented steps and requirements.When you put all the stakeholders in the same room and encourage conversation, you’ll be surprised what you learn. Often, you’ll discover that an important email was missed, or an item misunderstood. With a flow of communication, you ensure everyone is on the same page.

Time for Discovery

The meeting itself can sometimes be long—even introductions can take a substantial amount of time, depending on the number of meeting participants. Don’t worry about getting into the absolute weeds on every detail, but if you need to, split the meeting up into several meetings. Don’t feel rushed to get everything done at once. Just as importantly, don’t leave interpretation of the discussions undecided. Write down the agreed-upon goals. Sketch a clear path for the team to travel down, with set dates for next steps. Keep track of responsibilities. Make sure you’ve set a clear foundation to move forward.

How Rebar Helps You Prepare for a Discovery Session

At Rebar Technology, we have worked with many clients, helping implement and manage their discovery meetings to ensure successful subscription growth. We understand how to prepare for these meetings, manage them, and ensure they deliver fruitful results.

When we work with clients, we always begin with a pre-evaluation phase, looking at how far along they are with their planning, whether they’ve made a clear assessment of their objectives, and how prepared they are to meet them. We also look at gaps they may not have considered. We identify which stakeholders we need to speak with to best understand the scope of the project, and uncover problems the company is having that should be addressed, or that might sprout up in the future.

This evaluation also gives us an idea of how involved everyone must be in the project. One department of a company may be assigned to do much of the heavy lifting, while others will play smaller, supporting roles. We also look at any assumptions or dependencies, such as potential problems with system integrations.

Only after we have this information do we set up the discovery session.

We also run meetings with experienced, talented moderators—and don’t underestimate the importance of a good moderator. This individual must know how to keep everyone involved, and might try various engagement exercises to ensure it. The best moderators facilitate conversation while ensuring participants don’t talk all at once. Running a discovery meeting truly is an art.

Let us help you with your discovery session. To get started, all you have to do is contact us today.