Chapter 2. What Next?

With a basic understanding of the four areas of a project scope (context, needs, vision, and outcome), we turn our attention to filling in the details of the project. By thinking deeply before digging into the data, we maximize our chances of doing something useful as opposed to simply the first things that come to mind.

Working with data is a process that you lose yourself in. There is a natural tension between going into exploration as quickly as possible and spending more time thinking and planning up front. When balanced properly, they are mutually beneficial. However, diving in quickly and getting lost in the data exerts a natural siren song on those of us who work with data professionally. It takes effort and patience to put time into thinking up front, but it is effort that is duly rewarded.

Before we start down rabbit holes that may or may not take us somewhere useful, and after we have a rough project scope, we need to take some more steps to clarify the details of the problem we are working on. That process is the focus of this chapter. This includes important discussions with decision makers and implementers, figuring out how to define key terms, considering what arguments we might make, posing open questions to ourselves, and deciding in what order to pursue different ideas.

There is no particular order to these steps. A project might be so simple that every area is obvious and we don’t need to engage with anybody else or do any more thinking before ...

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