Your regular reminder of the difference between the discovery and alpha phases of projects.

I know there’s lots of words around this so it’s hard to stay focused, so here’s grabs from the UK gov service manual with some handy pointers. (This stuff doesn’t just happen in gov but the gov manual is a good example.)


A grab from the service manual, showing an opening section from the page on discovery

Alpha A grab from the service manual, showing an opening section from the page on alpha

Not clear?

Discovery: Find if there is a problem for your users.

Alpha: Ah, there is a problem! Start exploring how you’d solve that problem for users, with research driven designing and looking at how tech can help make a solution.

That’s pretty clear. Identify a problem that people have. Then work to solve that problem. One leads to the other. The two shouldn’t be merged.

If you’re designing possible solutions and exploring tech in discovery you’re not doing discovery. You’re in alpha. End of.

If you’re skipping discovery and going to do alpha things just say. Don’t hide behind an excuse like “But we are just getting going, so this is our first phase, so we are in discovery.” You are not. Don’t pussyfoot about. Admit it.

If you are jumping to alpha without understanding the problem you are trying to solve then your team and your users will be worse off. But that is your call. It doesn’t need to be though.

A lack of often time is used an excuse to “skip” discovery. There is no excuse to skip spending some time understanding if there is a problem. Any amount of time can be divided. Any amount of time can be divided into a discovery and an alpha. Teams with any degree of experience when presented with constraints and a little time to think can work out and plan how to go about things. Be up front. Make it clear. Involve people. People like to know and they like to know why. Trust your people. And trust the process.

Finally, no more “We’re in a discovery-alpha”. You are only fooling yourself. There is no such thing. No one can be. No one is. Think again. Take some time out, have a think, and start again.

This post tagged with:
discovery alpha process