Project discovery begins by reviewing the high-level vision—or what has been defined so far—and filling in the blanks as required. It is important to understand what the vision is for the project and how it is going to be applied across the rest of the project.
During project discovery, you should define the initial stakeholders for the entire project by looking at the current vision and determining who needs to be involved. Stakeholders are the people, teams, departments, or companies that have a vested interest in the project’s success. Some stakeholders may have only limited involvement, such as a legal department that needs to perform a review before the project is launched. Other stakeholders, such as the main client, may be involved with nearly every step of the project.
The following are a few common questions that should be asked to help define stakeholders:
- Who needs to be involved with the project, why and when?
- Who is developing the project?
- Who needs to review the project and why?
- When working with teams, who are the representatives of the teams?
Keep in mind that as projects move forward, the teams can change to involve other people, departments, divisions, or companies. When this kind of change occurs, you need to know who the new stakeholders are and how they are involved with the project.
Defining stakeholders doesn’t have to be a long or formal process. The amount of time and effort spent on this step depends on the size of the project. For a small project, the stakeholders may be blatantly obvious, but as projects grow in scale, so does the number of people involved.
Once the stakeholders are defined for the project, it’s time to bring them together for a kick-off meeting.
Determining team roles in the kick-off meeting
To start engaging stakeholders early in the project, hold a kick-off meeting with all members of the team. The goal of this meeting is to review the project’s vision and determine the roles and responsibilities of each of the stakeholders.
As reviewed in Chapter 3, you can break the roles of a team down into five main categories: Management, Project Management, Designer, Developer, and Quality Assurance. Each category is broken down into detailed roles depending on the project.
Depending on the size of your project, team members might be required to take on multiple roles. For example, if you are working independently on a small portfolio site for a photography client, then chances are you will be responsible for the project management, design (unless your client is handy with Photoshop), and development. In such a scenario, it might not be a bad idea to discuss with your client the possibility of them taking on the role of Quality Assurance. Since they are the expert of the project’s vision, they can fill this role quite well. Without a kick-off meeting, the client would not be aware such a role exists or that it could be filled by him or her.
For larger projects, team members typically have only one or two roles on the project. In the kick-off meeting, as the high-level vision is reviewed, a team member might make suggestions relating to roles and responsibilities. Based on the high-level vision’s defined timeline (see “When should it be solved?“ above), one team member might suggest that another member of the team could take on both the information architecture and user experience roles for the project.
Identifying gaps in roles within your team
One of the most important conclusions that can arise out of the kick-off meeting is that not all roles can be filled by the current set of team members. If this is the case, now is the perfect time to start the search for talent who can fulfill the newly defined roles.
Defining roles throughout the project
It is important to understand that the roles and team members you have identified in the kick-off meeting are not set in stone. As you work through the rest of the planning phase, you will discover additional resources that will need to be added to the team, both internal and external. It is important to involve these new resources as soon as possible and give them the same high-level overview of the project that you gave the initial set of team members during the kick-off meeting.