Today, I’ll explain how our eight-week Proof of Technology engagements are structured to support that exploratory process and allow us to consistently provide valuable results.
Week 1: Kickoff & Problem Definition
Each engagement begins with a kickoff meeting where all team members are introduced and lines of communication are established. Since Proof of Technology engagements inevitably involve branching explorations and dead ends, it is especially important that we identify a product owner on the client side who is empowered to quickly make decisions and provide feedback. This meeting should also include domain experts from the client who will have high availability throughout the project. Once the project is kicked off, the client and Detroit Labs teams will go through a multi-day Design Sprint together.
Output: The goal of this exercise is to identify success criteria from a technical standpoint and make sure this technical work aligns with overall business objectives. The sprint allows the team to discuss users and their needs to make sure that success criteria are well-rounded. This exercise is also where we will identify the primary risks and challenges to the project.
Week 2: Discovery
Armed with the knowledge gained during Week 1, the Detroit Labs team will start refining success criteria into SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals, identifying and satisfying any dependencies (for example, choosing and ordering necessary third-party hardware), validating all assumptions, and creating a backlog of tasks to work on. It is highly likely that knowledge gaps will continue to be identified during this week, and the team will frequently reach out to client domain experts to close those gaps.
Output: By the end of this week, the client will know the major themes the Detroit Labs team will be investigating and the order in which they will do so.
Weeks 3 & 4: Research
During this phase, the team will learn as much as possible about existing work on and literature around the concept being tackled. This content will often be at the intersection of the client’s domain and our technical expertise, and research will usually be necessary on both fronts. Detroit Labs will coordinate calls with third-party experts within this intersection (if any exist) to help speed up the learning process. Weekly demos will be largely verbal and focus on what we have learned and any recommended changes in priorities or approaches derived from this new information.
Output: Documentation of the research performed, including newly discovered opportunities or limitations that will inform the rest of the project, and any test projects we build to test specific assumptions.
Weeks 5-7: Building
This phase is all about making something tangible. Exactly what we build depends on your goals for this Proof of Concept, the questions you need to be answered, and the story you wish to tell at the end of it. The Detroit Labs team will build on the knowledge gained from test projects and the research phase, and create a more complete implementation of the solution. Team members will dip back into research mode as necessary as build challenges emerge. Weekly demos will show in-progress versions of this implementation, allowing for further client feedback and changes in response to any late-breaking requirements or constraints.
Output: Completed implementation that demonstrates the viability of the proposed solution within the given constraints.
Week 8: Validation & Handoff
In the final week, the team will focus on documenting and packaging the completed prototype so that the product owner can demonstrate it by themselves within the wider client team. This week can also be used to polish the prototype to make the business value more clear to non-technical folks. The final demo is open to any client team members the product owner wishes to invite. They typically a walk-through of the entire eight-week journey followed by a demonstration of the prototype. The team will provide a neatly packaged set of documentation and software, as well as concrete recommendations and suggested next steps.
Output: At the end of this eight-week Proof of Technology engagement, the hardest technical hurdles will have been overcome. Clients end up with working software that brings their vision to life. They are now able to advocate for the continued development of the solution within their company.