One of the secrets to our success is very non-technical in nature: We know how to figure out what you really want, and identify the root issues of the problems you are trying to solve. The secret sauce that enables us to do this is called the Project Definition Workshop (PDW).
PDW’s vary in size and duration, but the more important the project, the more important it is to have a PDW. And the bigger the project, the longer the PDW needs to be–and quite possibly, the more people who should be involved.
The reason is that the PDW gets all the stakeholders in one room and lets them explore both scope, budget, and priorities. All project-related information is transparent and on the table. We then let all concerned fight to the death over features… well, not quite, but through guided questions, sticky note requirements posters, and other tricks of the trade, we can get to a set of requirements and priorities on which all stakeholders can agree.
It is rare than any individual stakeholder gets exactly what they want, but the PDW and the resulting documents provide the first measures of success for any software development project: Did we provide and a reasonable target? Did the software team–whoever it may be–hit the target and deliver what was required?
Even if you have your own in-house software development team, we still recommend that you consider having Digital Provisioners run your PDW and create your project requirements documents. Here’s the unadulterated truth: Outsiders such as us–with no agenda (or fear!)–can often coax more accurate opinions out of stakeholders than can “insiders”. We are therefore able to get through many layers of cruft.
At the end of the day, it is about clearly defining your goals and objectives. There’s no real magic to it. But we do know how to channel and direct the labor that is required.