Time for Discovery to be a First Class Citizen

Dave Goerlich

It’s time to recognize the immense value of the discovery process within the software development workflow, and to make it a first class citizen.


Getting Started on the Wrong Foot

Technology is ubiquitous in today’s world. We all carry pocket computers with thousands of times the processing power of the CRAY-2 supercomputer from 1985. Even the hardware we use to charge our devices includes comparatively amazing processing power - a $40 Anker PowerPort dual port USB-C charger is 563 times faster* than the Apollo 11 system! So it’s no wonder our first thought is to build software to solve a problem, or why we immediately begin to think in terms of features and functionality.

That’s rarely the right first step. It often leads us down the trail of addressing symptoms rather than looking to solve the core problem. As software development professionals, when we allow quality discovery to be skipped, or even worse - made part of the sales process, we do a major disservice to our customers. I’d go as far as to call it malpractice.

Quality Discovery Requires an Unbiased Environment

A quality discovery process must happen in an unbiased space - a space in which “don’t do anything” is a completely valid and acceptable answer to everyone involved. It requires a collaborative mindset in which the only goal is to identify the right problem to solve, and to quantify the value of solving that problem. To identify the real value of a solution to a business, there must be transparent and confidential conversations involving real financials. Understanding the financial impact of a solution to a firm is a critical component to identifying the right solution. It simply wouldn’t make sense to invest $150,000 in automating a process that would save a company $15,000 a year.

It is impossible to create such conditions during a sales process. By its very nature, it cannot be unbiased as the mandatory goal of an eventual sale of an implementation engagement overrides even the best of intentions. Fear is the controlling emotion. For clients, fear that such knowledge will be “used against them” later inhibits the willingness to be open and transparent in regards to financial data. For software consultants, the fear of wasting the invested time if a sale never happens limits the commitment to delivering the highest quality discovery effort. Ultimately, there is little confidence that a sales-process-discovery process will truly uncover the highest value solution for the client.

We Must Do Better

Clients deserve better. Clients deserve our subject matter expertise devoid of the ulterior motivations intrinsic to the sales process.

* In looking up some specific comparisons of how far technology has come in a relatively short time, I came across this really neat article. I’d never even thought about the processing power of USB-C chargers before! https://forrestheller.com/Apollo-11-Computer-vs-USB-C-chargers.html

This post was last updated on: Mar 02, 2023.