Phase 1 - Discover
The discovery phase enables you to form a team around a clear understanding of a problem. We always start with a discovery exercise, even if a service has already identified a particular software solution. The end of a discovery phase helps us understand whether we can reuse an existing piece of software, buy something or need to build some, or all, of the solution.
This is important because work often starts because someone believes they’ve found a potential solution and just wants it to be implemented. Sometimes that solution turns out to partially solve the problem, particularly when that problem is complex. If the implementation takes time or costs money the work may have made that problem worse.
Team and skillsYou may not be able to assemble a large team at the start of the project. However, you should try to build a core group that can take you through the whole project lifecycle. Even if your team is one or two people, they will need to play the following roles:
GovernanceOur manifesto says it’s better to take small, quick steps than to embark on long journeys. So you can spend up to two weeks working to develop a project without any formal governance, provided this isn’t at the expense of other work. The Relationship Manager will usually take responsibility for setting up a Discovery phase. To formally initiate a project you will need the agreement of the ICT steering group (or equivalent) of the relevant directorate. We use the template provided by the Digital Outcomes framework to explain the vision and intended scope of hte work. This means that if you need to procure an agency to support the project, you don't have to produce multiple documents saying similar things. At the end of the phase, should you wish to continue with the project, you will need to book an assessment of the work against the Local Government Digital Service Standard. You should look to ask two assessors to hear a presentation capturing what you’ve learnt and how you will move to the next stage. These may be colleagues within ICT but should not be associated with the project. For larger projects (eg over £100,000 or affecting more than 5,000 residents) you should seek the input of an external assessor. Contact LocalGovDigital to identify a digital/ICT leader in another local authority that could volunteer their time to conduct the assessment. Assessments are published on our microsite HackIT.org.uk.
ToolsThere are a number of research techniques and workshop-based tools that can help you during Discovery:
A discovery phase will usually last 6-8 weeks. If you're exploring a single service (rather than a whole area) it will be between 15 and 30 days in total.
The things that can take most time to put in place are:
A successful discovery phase will:
End of phase checklistWe have:
Team and skills
End of phase