Being a consultant at Acquia means that I have an exciting and passionate job that I sometimes struggle to describe to my friends. That’s because I can and love being challenged in a variety of different ways to help create compelling and successful Drupal solutions. I guess I could just describe it to them that way, huh? :) Clients call on us to help at all stages of projects' timelines and our role can vary a lot. In this post I want to focus in how we help create the vision for projects and help them start the right way.
Most of our clients are big organizations where a website represents significant business for the stakeholders, developers, system admins, content producers, editors, marketing, etc. On other engagement types, when I go on site to start a project, there’s usually already work done on the project that they really need me to validate, architect, or review. Some departments may already have ideas for the website - there may even be requirements' documents - perhaps the website already has a current version and is being rebuilt. And if I am lucky, some of the team have already some idea about Drupal. In other situations, however, there is not a clear picture at the beginning of the project of what is wanted; what’s possible with Drupal to craft the shape of a project to ensure success. These are some of my favorites.
That's the main reason why we started offering discovery workshops as part of our portfolio: we have been in this situation many times. This puts us in a special position: not only we have the technical expertise to know what is the best path to implement your ideas but also we can help you understand how hard will it be to implement them and therefore drive a clear map of what are your priorities adapted to your budget and timeline. Also, most of the times we have done it before and in big scale: in the biggest drupal websites in world.
The process: Usually over the course of a couple of weeks (depending on the scale, complexity and scope of help needed of course) we visit our Clients and meet stakeholders from all the organizations involved in the project. This requires a reasonable amount of upfront planning, organization and scheduling which our expert PMs handle directly. First we analyze available documentation and extract their ideas around the what and why of what they’re trying to accomplish. This usually requires us helping them create vision, or directing them to think about work in achievable packages. Then we can start drawing a solid vision of what the project will require and identify options, conflicts and paths. At the same time we can provide alternatives that we have implemented before which can help stakeholders decide on the cost/benefit of various directions. When we work through this process the last step is to collate the details in a full specification of requirements, together with a project plan, and our estimation of how much time will be needed to implement the vision.
The benefits: Consider how running a discovery workshop, getting an idea of your requirements and budgets and then starting a project, contrasts with going simply into an RFP process with limited visibility for the developers on what exactly you are trying to achieve. The pain of misinterpretation costs you and the RFP responders a lot of time and ultimately money. From our experience , and from working across many industries, contexts and constraints this is most of the time the key difference between a smooth and successful project. The business benefit of running a Discovery Workshop is clear: significantly reduce the risk of going over budget, development of a solid plan of action, and set up realistic timelines aligned with project goals and objectives.
If you are starting your Drupal project and want to find more on how we can help you from the beginning don't hesitate to give us a shout