How SUMO Heavy Handles Your Project Discovery

John Suder
Apr 25, 2023

The term 'discovery' is too broad; we make it more specific; we call it a Weigh-In. 

‘Weigh-In’ is a more holistic description of what it is. It's a set of recommendations, documentation, and decision-making that builds out your Roadmap. During the Weigh-In, we build out how exactly we will make all of these moving pieces within the infrastructure of your needs, your RFP, your statement of work, how we will make those work together, and what you can expect at the end. 

When a potential client sends that initial email, we respect and understand that it's their job to get this for as little cost as possible. They are looking at the expense of discovery and the cost of building out the project or feature. It can be intimidating. It's sticker shock. The client wants to understand precisely why we're quoting and what they get for the money. We believe in transparency because we believe in the cost and the dollar sign attached to this process. 

We're Not Your Typical Agency

Many agencies work on handing in an RFP or a statement of work, or at the very least, a high-level list or breakdown of the project they're looking for. Those projects can vary wildly. It might be a specific eCommerce site, a marketplace, a product itself, or an app. Agencies list all these things and make decisions internally based on resources, scope, and difficulty of what the potential client is asking for. They weigh what they have internally— the time, the budget allocated for the project, and the availability of teams, and they arrive at their proposal estimates and numbers. 

Most agencies work with an intricate hourly system, so they have designers, marketing experts, and project and product managers working in a system based on an hourly workweek. Those project bits and pieces equate to a number of hours and effort. They determine how long something will take and the resources they have to fit the work you've asked for. 

At SUMO we've found that that's not conducive to how big of a team we are, how we think of our resources, and how we like to honor the process and product lifecycle. We ditched the concept of hourly rates and hourly work and posed the concept of the discovery 'Weigh-In' because it's an in-depth and intimate look at your team, its process, and its decision-making patterns.

Many agencies look at that RFP and then assign a roadmap and timeline. They're expected to fulfill their obligation to get the product, the project, and the feature out on time and on budget within the resources they anticipated. 

We work a little differently because we will re-scope the project. We will rework a roadmap, work with our commitment, and build a realistic roadmap based on our in-depth look at the technological solutions you're picking. 

In the long term, we aim to stay with you, work with you, and grow with you for as long as possible. Our goal is to implement this for you, measure its growth and success parameters with you, and be a partner as you go through this journey and as you put the site, the product, or the features out and understand their value. 

Many agencies don't have that consulting voice or approach simply because they're not consulting agencies. They have their system. We prefer a more intimate look into what you're building, why you're making it, and how you're building it. The same people overseeing that at SUMO with you will also manage the site's implementation and overall success. We like to stay connected to what our clients want. It sets us apart because, with many other agencies, it's just another project—one of possibly many. When it's done, they'll send a new contract, and you'll either sign it or you won't. 

Generally, an agency might not necessarily find that they will hand off their discovery content to a completely different team. You might have some familiar faces, like account managers because the agency wants to do a good job and make you feel good about your decision to join them. 

At SUMO, we make it a little more intimate. We have a kickoff call, which is an hour-long, initial deep dive, where we understand the tone within your organization, how you're feeling about what you have now, and how you're feeling about what you want to build. It's not just working off this RFP; it's not just working with resources that have an hourly association with them; it understands what you're building.

What does everyone need to get their job done?

If you're handing in an RFP to a marketing agency, they're not naturally concerned with your organizational decision-making because that's different from how they work. That's different from the type of agency they are. We lean into that consulting arm because it's the most sustainable way to build. Through our experience, we have worked on many different types of products within many organizations, so we understand the importance of planning. That planning can be holistic; you don't just have to plan out a product, you don't have to just build user flows. For one specific feature, you can create a user flow and a plan for how your salespeople sell, how your marketing team measures analytics in Google, and what that means for everyone on the team. That's how we look at a Weigh-In and a discovery. Whereas for many agencies, that's not the game they're in.

SUMO Heavy is an eCommerce consulting agency. Most agencies are equipped with divisions and branches; thus, they are an agency of people. We have a development branch, project and product management, and engineering and development management. If you came to SUMO looking for something like a branding experience—a creative and marketing experience—we wouldn't be a good fit for you. Go to a branding agency specializing in your look, feel, and your company's soul and vibe. They won't be the ones with the development arm to implement the technological solutions. That's not to say you can't have all these agencies work together. But you should understand how they will talk to each other and what that means. Do you have a point of contact for facilitating these conversations? Maybe one of your agencies can step in and be that overall project manager for you; research the type of agency they are working with, ask around with some peers in your industry, and see if they can provide references. 

What makes us unique in our approach to discovery, Weigh-In and client work, generally, is that we don't just agree to things. We don't just throw numbers out there based on RFPs. We say true blue to our commitment to this Weigh-In and discovery process; that's how firmly we believe in it. 

Clients sometimes come to us but are interested in something other than the time and money it takes to do a Weigh-In with us. We then know it's not a good fit. We are fully committed to understanding how you work and how it will scale and grow over time. 

Our goal is a long-term relationship and partnership. 

In many agencies, RFPs come and go and have a rich roster of clients. We're careful about the clients we onboard; they have to be a good fit. That's what makes us unique. We won't just promise you something we're not sure we could achieve. We don't over-promise; we stay transparent. We give a lot of our time and have conversations before people technically pay us because we want people to feel good about their money. 

Once the Weigh-In is over, or when you start the Weigh-In, we give you a Weigh-In Roadmap. We give you what to expect as you go forward. Some of our Weigh-Ins last as long as ten weeks. When that process is over, and you have this Roadmap for your product site, the Weigh-In the Discovery process has ended.

Here at SUMO, we present that Roadmap along with our documentation. We record meetings, and many one-off meetings with staff can last an hour. Those looking to fundraise or gain money from what they're building may take those recordings and build their presentations upon those. You get to keep those recordings, the Roadmap, and all the documentation we've prepared. The Roadmap then becomes all of these items we will pick up and build for you. You can also take that and take it with your internal team, build it out yourself if you have another dev shop in mind. Once the Weigh-In and Discovery have ended, you can use that Roadmap perpetually; it's still a valid plan to get you where you need to go.  

From conversations to documentation, user flows, designs, the technical infrastructure, and comparative analysis, all of these things are going to tell us, and tell you and your team very clearly, how difficult the thing you're asking for is going to cost you, and how long it's going to take for us at SUMO. 

Presenting a number before we've even made a discovery is a foolhardy decision, and we try to avoid it. We stress to our prospective clients that they'll get a much more realistic picture as they go through the discovery/Weigh-In with us. 

When the Weigh-In is over, you come to work the next day; you're ready to begin. 

Download our free eBook, The SUMO Heavy Guide to Project Discovery. This eBook breaks down the entire project discovery process - from agency comparisons to the cost question and time commitments. We also detail the SUMO Heavy ‘Weigh-In’, our own discovery methodology.

Photo by Billy Huynh on Unsplash

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