What’s Brewin’ | E1 | How to Run a Successful Discovery

What’s Brewin’ host, George Shalhoub sits down with Plative Consultant, Elizabeth Bauer to discuss the ins and outs of running a discovery session.


George Shalhoub: Hey everyone. Welcome to What’s Brewin’. This is Plative’s series where we feature our teammates, our partners, our customers, and experts in the industry where we talk about how we brew success together. I’m your host, George Shalhoub. I’m dialed in right now from the west coast and I personally am drinking a pour over from PTs Coffee out in Seattle.

I’m very excited to be joined by our very own Salesforce consultant, Elizabeth Bauer. Elizabeth, I want to pass it over to you to introduce yourself and then maybe fill us in on what type of coffee you’re also drinking.

Elizabeth Bauer: Yeah, so I am on espresso number three this morning. I’m really getting hopped up for Friday morning.

So, I’m also based on the west coast here in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. And as George said, I am a senior Salesforce consultant here at Plative focusing primarily on financial services clients and, manage services as well. My favorite clouds are sales cloud. I love getting knee deep into the sales leads.

And I’ve been in the Salesforce ecosystem for about 12 years now. Different partners, different clients, so kind of have that good 360 view, of how it’s used and how to administer and how to implement.

George Shalhoub: Awesome. Thank you so much. So what we want to do is, is dive right in. First topic is on discoveries and really what goes into that, and it’s important to cover this because we get this question a ton when we’re going through the onboarding process of bringing clients into the Plative portfolio. We go through the extensive fact finding and discovery to put together an S O W but then we kick off, the project itself with more in depth discovery with our technical team. And so we wanted to just cover exactly how that differs from the discovery that we go through during the onboarding process. So with that, let’s just start with the very basics of exactly that question. Elizabeth, what is discovery?

Elizabeth Bauer: Such a good question.

So aside from being one of my favorite parts of the project it is the longer process of uncovering the requirements from a business standpoint that sort of relate back to the line items on the S O W but also to address the certain pain points, the things that keep people up at night from a client perspective.

And to really dive in deep to uncover what it is that we’re going to be delivering within the project and the scope that we have identified through our client partners and our regional vice presidents. So it’s a lengthy process. I’ve had discoveries that have lasted up to, four or five months at times.

Depending on the size of the client, they can be hours long when we’re onsite and other times, they can go on for a week, eight hours a day. But it really creates us as the consultants, as sort of an extension of the business. By the end of discovery, I want to be able to say with confidence that I understand your business.

I want to be able to say that I can read it back to you and really agree with some of the pain points and then essentially the output is to provide solutions. How can we solve these problems? How can we make these enhancements? How can we optimize Salesforce or create a net new instance of Salesforce for your business to thrive off and to support the processes?

George Shalhoub: Yeah, as you said that, I just immediately went to onsite discoveries, in the olden days, of discovery. In the future, hopefully we have onsite discoveries and meetings with our clients too. Great answer. And I think that’s such an important component of this, as we go through discovery, we need to understand everything that the client’s doing, where their pain points are, why they’re even implementing Salesforce, NetSuite, any of the other technologies that we consult on top of.

But then at the end of that, we want Elizabeth and the rest of her team to be able to make recommendations, not actually solve those issues with solutions with technology and a mix of others.

Elizabeth Bauer: Yeah. And something that came to mind as you were talking was something’s not always about problems and pain points, but it’s also about optimization and enhancements.

So it may not be broken, but it may not be working as expected, or it may not be functioning as you’d like, or may not be giving you the insights that you need to really make those actionable decisions. And that’s really what Salesforce is there to do.

George Shalhoub: And then right as you said that I thought of another piece,

Then it’s also future-proofing. Maybe it’s an issue that they have right now, but you say, I know how you guys are servicing your clients. You’re selling this product. Have you thought about the way that you might think about RevRec and rolling renewals and maybe products that are falling off of contracts or so many other things that go along with it and then saying, this is the right way to build it for now. So three years from now when you need to do this, it’s set up that way.

Elizabeth Bauer: Exactly.

George Shalhoub: Okay, so we talked about the discovery and what goes into the whole process. What do you do to prepare for discovery?

Elizabeth Bauer: Oh, so I start off always with the website, with my client’s website. So I wanna know what your offerings are.

I want to know what products you’re selling. I wanna know who your target market is. I want to educate myself just like any, you know, professional would do when they’re almost going in for a job interview. I wanna know exactly what I’m walking into. I want to be looking on LinkedIn and different news sources and understanding what press releases may be coming out if you’re publicly traded company.

And I wanna really be able to relate to you on a why perspective versus a what perspective. So, as an example I don’t wanna be asking is, what is this? I wanna be asking why is this? For so many people in the consulting world, we know that age old adage of why five times.

The real reason is after that fifth, sixth, seventh time of asking why. And the first why is typically, well because. Well, why? So I wanna get away from that “well, because” to really, what’s the why? One of my favorite questions.

George Shalhoub: Your favorite question or word is why? Mine might be yes. And that’s why we have different jobs here.

Okay. Another question that we get all the time when we’re onboarding clients, as I mentioned at the beginning, discovery, the whole process that goes along with it, a ton of times clients, this might be their first time that they’re implementing a large scale enterprise software. And they ask really, what can they do to prepare for technology discovery.

I’ll put that right back on you. What could we do to prepare our clients better? Or what should we be doing to prepare our clients better for discoveries?

Elizabeth Bauer: Yeah. I always say to have a notebook in your day-to-day, start taking down those really high level notes of, ah, this makes me kind of cringe a little bit, that I have to do it this way.

Or this is something that I don’t know how to do, or this is something that I don’t have the information to provide to my senior leadership around something that needs to change or be improved on. Mm-hmm. So it’s a little bit of a therapeutic and self-discovery process as well , get it all out, write it down, bring it to the meetings, bring it to the discovery sessions when that topic is at hand, and tell us what, what keeps you up at night?

Tell us the things that you notice in your day-to-day. Give us kind of concrete examples of, of where this particular aspect comes up. Examples are always, you know, my, a wonderful thing for us to be working through. I can see the who, the what, the where, the why, the how. and then I can start to see where the gaps are within that equation of the who, the what, the why, the how.

So, you know, notebook, I’ve got one right in front of me here with all my chicken scratch on it. And it’s something that as things come up, I just jot ’em down and I always recommend that to my clients as well. And, also to work within different levels within the organization. So much so that the Salesforce implementation can be started from the top down.

I want senior leadership to be able to see this, but what about the people who are on the front lines? What about the people who are actually face-to-face with customers, clients and are also dealing with problems and issues or things that they need to do their job better, more efficiently, more effectively?

So, socialize across the organization. What keeps you up at night? Socialize across the senior leadership team? What keeps you up at night? What information do you not have to do your job? And sometimes it’s a bit of a gap analysis where we actually uncover that during discovery. We didn’t even know we couldn’t do this.

We didn’t even know we didn’t have this. And you always, you know that saying you don’t know what you don’t know. So this is where we come in, unbiased view, asking the questions to really help you to do that self-discovery.

George Shalhoub: Yeah. I was on a call yesterday with a client actually, and he was going through a screen share showing his current system, and when he shared his screen, it was a bunch of Excel files up.

He’s like “oh, sorry, let me minimize all of that.” And I said, ” what are those? What do you do with those?” And he is like, I have to put those together every night, before I leave, takes me about 40 minutes or so. All manual data entry, and we said, you know, you could generate those directly out of Salesforce.

And he said, I didn’t even know that that was possible. This is a way of saying, write down any challenges that you guys are experiencing on the client side. Bring them to Elizabeth and her team, and even myself as we’re going through the onboarding process. It might actually be something that you didn’t even think that Salesforce or something else out there could actually help you guys out with.

Bring your challenges. We’ll figure out a solution, and we’ll make a recommendation on what technology’s the right fit.

Elizabeth Bauer: Exactly.

George Shalhoub: Yep. So, your favorite question, what interests you most about the discovery process? Why is it your favorite or one of your favorite parts of the project?

Elizabeth Bauer: So, you know, going back to, you know, a very far memory in my brain early days, of high school even, I had teachers being like, can you stop asking why?

And I think I was that kid that would be like, mom, why mom? Why mom, why? And you know, so much of it was that I was not willing to take something at face value. And so that question why is really deeply rooted in my kind of human curiosity. Why do these things happen? Why is it done this way?

And you know, why? I could ask it a million times. And so it’s really been the discovery process for me is satisfying that need that I have intrinsically to gain more information, to educate myself and to really ask why to scratch that itch. Cause it’s, it’s the most fascinating thing when you see that client’s light bulb switch and go from, this is just the way we’ve done it to there’s other ways of doing this. And that only comes when you uncover and start peeling back the layers of, you know, of the onion essentially. And being like, well, why? Okay, let’s get one layer deeper and why? Let me keep on going. So it helps me to satisfy this addiction that I have to the question why.

And I love solving problems. One of my very good friends is always like, we have a code word for when I’m supposed to provide a solution to when I’m just supposed to shut up and listen. And so, whether it’s a red conversation or a blue conversation, I can then say, I’m not going to be providing a solution right now.

But considering my role and my every day is to provide solutions, it helps me to really satisfy that need as well. To solve problems, to provide solutions and make recommendations of, there’s another way that this can be done, are you open to that feedback? And so, you know, there’s so many different things that I love about this, but being able to ask and satisfy that need to ask why, and then to solve problems, sign me up.

George Shalhoub: Great answer. It’s funny, teachers told you to stop asking why, and when I was in school, they asked me to stop doing Jim Carey and Chris Farley impersonations. So.

Elizabeth Bauer: Wait. We need to hear that later. You and I will talk later.

George Shalhoub: Just helping the conversation now. So after the discovery itself is actually completed, I should say that the discovery meetings themselves are completed, what does it take to then actually distill all the requirements down from those session? Documentation the client could expect, et cetera.

Elizabeth Bauer: Yeah, lots of time. We use certain tools here to one, visually map out the processes, so lucid charts and process diagrams. We want to make sure that we are depicting the current state accurately and reading it back to you in sort of a summary meeting. This is what we heard, this is where we’ve distilled the requirements. Out of the requirements look like “ability to” statements. So I need the ability to so that X, Y, and Z so that I can satisfy this requirement so that I can report on these numbers, so you have that objective embedded in that sentence already.

And it’s defined by actor as well. So as an account executive, I want to be able to do this, but as a C E O, I need the ability to see X, Y, and Z. So, you know, you’re building out these statements, which then lead to functional requirements, which is really what we are building in Salesforce.

We’re satisfying the business requirement with a functional requirement with build automation, code, whatever needs to go into it, in order to give you that insight, that data that you need. And that’s sort of the output and it takes time and we could be doing this with a couple of clients all at once and really be drinking from the fire hose in a week.

And it’s a fascinating process to feel like you’re an extension of someone’s business. And, be creating those relationships of, confidence and trust as well with our clients too. I trust Elizabeth to be providing me with a sound solution because of the questions that she asked. And, you know, vice versa for the whole team that I work with.

George Shalhoub: Yeah. My favorite, my favorite part of this job is figuring out all the different nuances of how different industries operate. How, where there’s crossover similarities from two that you would think are so separate from each other. But yeah, exactly that.

And I have seen extensive ” ability to” statement sheets from Elizabeth and her team along with process flow diagrams that are sometimes pages and pages long. But as we said, it instills confidence that we know everything about what the business needs, how we can solve, and then of course, set the project up for success.

And with that, we are right on time. We wanted to keep today’s series short and sweet, just like a coffee break itself. And so be sure to follow us along on the rest of the What’s Brewing Session series. It’s going to be listed on Plative Insights. You can check us out on social. Until next time, thanks everybody.

Elizabeth Bauer: Cheers George, thank you.

George Shalhoub: Cheers, Elizabeth.

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