Project Discovery: The Fastest Way to Understand Your New Project

Project Discovery - The act of gathering key project information so you can gain a high-level understanding of your project quickly.

The moment you've been waiting for has finally arrived. Your manager has selected you to lead a project.

You're excited and nervous at the same time. This is a big step for you. Completing this project successfully will get your career on the fast-track to success.

So you ask yourself, "How can I get my project off to a strong start?"

The answer is with Project Discovery.

What is Project Discovery?

Project DiscoveryUnderstand Your Project

Project Discovery is the act of gathering key project information so you can gain a high-level understanding of your project.

The idea of Project Discovery comes from the legal profession.

During pre-trial procedures, the parties to a lawsuit exchange information with each other about the witnesses and evidence they will present during the trial.

This is done with a well-defined legal process called Discovery. Discovery provides lawyers with a process to learn about the key aspects of their case before the trial starts.

Similarly, Project Discovery provides you with a systematic approach to learn about the key aspects of your project before it starts. In fact, you should start Project Discovery at the same time that your manager assigns the project to you.

Understanding the key aspects of your project as quickly as possible is important for several reasons...

  • First, the sooner you understand your project, the sooner you can start the Project Initiation phase. Time is usually a critical factor for a project, so you don't want to waste any of it.
  • Second, you are showing a sense of urgency by acting quickly. This will help you build momentum for your project and it sets the tone for the way you will manage your project.
  • Third, showing that you are able to quickly understand your project will instill confidence with your management. They will feel they made a good decision in selecting you to lead this project.

The 6 Project Discovery Questions

Project Manager's Resource

Project Management Simplified

There are 6 Project Discovery Questions you need to focus on...

  1. What is the desired outcome of your project?
  2. What timeframe does your project need to be completed in?
  3. What is the budget for your project?
  4. Who is the Project Sponsor?
  5. Who is the Project Customer?
  6. Who are the end-users of your project's outcome?

The Project Discovery Process

There are 2 steps in the Project Discovery process.

Step 1: Discuss these questions with the person assigning you the project, usually your manager.

You should do this at the same time that your manager is assigning you as the Project Manager. Ideally, they can provide you with these answers at the same time that you are receiving your assignment. But don't be surprised if they can't or if their answers are vague, because in many cases your manager may not have a clear picture of the project.

Project ARtifact

Any document related to the project

Examples of key Project Artifacts...

- Business Case

- Contracts

- Statements of Work

- Emails

Step 2: Review the key project artifacts.

You can usually close any gaps in the answers provided by your manager by reviewing the key project artifacts. Ideally, your manager can provide these artifacts to you, but you may have to get them from other people. You will build a good understanding of your project and its context by reviewing these documents thoroughly.

Remember, you aren't looking for final answers. You just need enough information to build a basic understanding of your project and to know who the key players are. You will formally define the project during the Project Initiation phase.

Project Discovery provides you with a systematic approach for getting a high-level understanding of your project. And by completing this quickly, you will show your manager that you are ready to lead your project.

Related Articles About Project Discovery

6 Project Discovery Questions for a Great First Impression

Learn how the 6 Project Discovery Questions will help you make a great first impression from the moment your manager assigns you to lead your project.

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