We like to talk to clients early in the planning phase. We help them tease out the goals, stakeholders, audience and other key parameters. With stakeholders in multiple departments of a large organization we may facilitate the discussion through interactive exercises. With a startup we might come to the table with a competitive analysis or a short list of technical approaches for consideration.
We've found that creating mock-ups of web/mobile applications or even a full blown proof of concept leads to insights that are difficult to uncover when a project is described solely in text. Seeing or interacting with something that appears reveals challenges, opportunities and the assumptions inherent in early thinking about a project. Getting that learning up front, can lead to a tremendous savings in both schedule and budget.
The end result has multiple parts: a well defined set of goals; a thoughtful strategy encompassing the key aspects of the situations and the insights of the various stakeholders; and a road map for the execution of the project.