Discover what you really, really want

Sally Croft

“Sometimes, when people are thinking about a new product or ways to improve or develop an existing product, their ideas aren’t fully formed,” explains Ashley Rolfmore, one of OCC’s product managers. “Here at OCC, we can help them understand the concrete requirements of what they’re contemplating and ascertain whether they can buy an off-the-peg solution or need to build something new. If the latter, we can impartially validate whether the idea is technically viable and, if they wish, we can also offer the expertise to create the software they need.”

What is Discovery?

For the last few years, OCC has been offering expert guidance via the Discovery process – a tried and trusted framework for identifying the potential users for a new product and investigating in detail exactly what their needs are and how the product can deliver. “Discovery is, in essence, a requirements-gathering exercise,” says Matt Standage, Head of UX Design. “We use it to help people describe what they want as a piece of software development work.”

A flexible process

The first meeting with the client usually establishes the best way to gather information – often an initial workshop designed to elicit requirements in a structured way, plus interviews and research. The OCC team talks extensively to people who work for the company – not just the management team – and also to potential users, building a clear picture of how, for instance, a new app would be of benefit and how the user journey progresses.

“It’s not a fixed process for every customer,” says Matt. “It’s a bespoke process in which we adapt in response to where the customer is in their own thinking. In some cases, like the new WaveGo light-measuring app, the customer has already done a lot of market research and has a clear idea of where they’re headed. If that isn’t the case, OCC can help. Either way, our aim is to help identify gaps in their thinking and present what they want in a way that makes sense for a development team to follow.”

“We also help the customer to understand the relative value of the different features they want,” adds Ashley. “We help them rank and organise what’s important to them – it might, for example, be really important to be able to log in when offline.”

The outcomes

Management of the Discovery process is available as an impartial standalone service from OCC. Cheshire East Council, for instance, which uses OCC’s ContrOCC product as a contract management system for its social care provision, recently wanted to investigate how to manage its contracts on a broader front, including gardening and parks work and transportation needs. After talking to OCC, the Council had a list of requirements that it was able to turn into an invitation to tender for the supply of a bespoke system.

But OCC is able to offer much more besides. “Not only can we provide an accurate specification for any software the customer wants to go on to build, we can help with estimating budgets and timelines and even suggesting funding sources,” says Matt. “We can also offer prototyping, so that a client can see how their idea might work. Our USP is that OCC itself sells products that do well, so our expertise extends across the full range of whatever the customer needs.”