Creating a great digital product in today’s world largely depends on product teams mastering two processes: discovery and delivery. But while traditional workflow approaches tell us that delivery should always come after design, new wisdom tells us that this no longer rings true. Instead, the discovery and delivery processes both need to be happening constantly.
Successful musicians have long been aware of this logic. In order to be successful, musicians can’t rely on just writing new music or just touring the world to play concerts. The most accomplished and celebrated musicians are the ones who are constantly doing both. It’s a life of continuous discovery and continuous delivery.
The same goes for product development…
If you want to deliver the best products to your customers, you have to be constantly learning and evolving your thinking about your products and -- even more importantly -- the people who are using them. Rather than end the design process (better yet: the discovery process) or delivery process at any moment, the best approach is to work on both in parallel tracks at all times. Not only is this a natural way to adopt a truly agile mindset, but most importantly it allows you to develop products that are most beneficial and intuitive for the end user.
Why it works
Working on discovery and delivery in parallel tracks helps integrate all perspectives of product development -- the business, the technology perspective, and the user -- and keep each perspective grounded. Better yet, with each iteration in this approach, the process of creating a product gets faster and more efficient, and teams become more effective at responding to change and unexpected challenges at every stage of the process.
Don’t deliver with your designers on the bench
Whether you segment your team to be working on “discovery” and “delivery” separately, or you prefer to organize it so that everyone spends time and energy on both of these processes is entirely up to you. In either case, communication and visibility between these two functions are of the utmost importance — especially if your team is segmented. Every team member should be present and contributing to scrum meetings, and also taking part in development sprints, which generally last for about two weeks.
Experienced designers need to be included in the delivery process in order to support developers to fulfill the vision they have laid out. This might include presiding over design Q&As, performing what is referred to as ‘guerilla testing,’ or making design changes on the go as needed. Further, designers are always preparing for the “next” development sprint at least a week or two in advance.
Dynamic product creation that never stops
In order to be most effective and efficient as well as to constantly anticipate the needs of your users, discovery needs to happen within its own “swim lane,” parallel to that of delivery. This approach gives product teams the best opportunity to tackle technological problems as they emerge throughout the product creation process.
Discovery tasks include such things as intensive research to discover and fully understand what problems exist -- both from a technical standpoint as well as practical ones that users face -- and how to address them. Another task might be something like a “design sprint,” in which solutions to problems are developed, or perhaps new prototypes are created to evaluate new ideas or think about a new software architecture that addresses the need of a rapidly growing product.
By ensuring that discovery tasks like these are continually happening, the delivery segment (whether the same people or not) always has access to new information about the product and the technology, as well as (perhaps most important of all) new insights about the customer.
No other approach will give you a more constant inflow of insights that support ongoing product development and helps implementing a truly agile and empathic mindset. Just like the musician who is constantly creating new material and sharing it with the world, the approach gives product developers something that ultimately benefits the end user most of all: a more flexible product creation process that never stops.