A Discovery Phase: How to Run It Wisely for Your Software Product?

A Discovery Phase in Project Development: Components, Advantages and Tips

9 min read

Every business idea needs a discovery phase. Why? Because underestimation of careful analysis and planning lead to big failures and losses. Let’s have a look at a few blunt facts that prove it. First, statistically, the total cost overrun companies experience is approximately 66b. That’s about 45% of all IT projects. Second is schedule overrun — 7% of startups can’t meet the earlier defined deadlines. This can be avoided if you start the development with the proper discovery phase and project management.

Completing projects and not exceeding time and cost limits is one of the primary goals of all business owners. Thus, you need a team that will take such an approach as seriously and responsibly as you do. DashDevs agrees on the significance of the discovery phase in software development and knows, based on years of experience, that this is a proven way to reach big goals and the best results in business.

Below you’ll find out all about the discovery phase of a software project, what it includes, potential difficulties, guaranteed benefits, and tips on how to make software discovery a perfect start for a product development journey. Don’t miss it!

What Is Discovery Phase?

So, what is discovery (also known as a preparation phase or a scoping phase)? This is what you should start your project with. No matter what you call it, its main purpose is always the same — to gather information about the project. More specifically, project discovery is aimed to:

  • determine precisely a project scope and goals;
  • deal with the uncertainty and ambiguity;
  • help make decisions based on research and analysis of data, not hypotheses;
  • specify the approach to the development process;
  • prevent expensive changes during the following stages of the software development life cycle;
  • assist in building a market-driven product;
  • allow developers to create a great user experience.

How to Understand You Need Discovery: Top Criteria

In general, all projects require it. But if you’re still hesitating, see if your business endeavour falls within the following characteristics:

  • It’s complex. In such a case, you’ll hardly be able to define a scope of work and project requirements. You should have relevant expertise and technical skills to do that.
  • It’s too vital for your business. This isn’t so crucial if you don’t care that much about lost time or resources. But if a lot depends on the success of your new project, you can’t afford a mistake. Therefore, discovery is your backup.
  • You don’t know what to begin with. You have an idea on your mind but it’s vague and not formulated? Then you need brainstorming and assistance from people who can guide you and show you how to turn your vision into a functioning software product.

What Do You Exactly Do in the Discovery Phase of a Project?

Here are the main steps to undertake during the project discovery phase, no matter how big or small your project is:

1. Gathering information. This phase is divided into several sub-steps depending on the type of data you need to collect and process:

a) The end-customer. This is crucial to understand who you create your product for. Who are your customers? How old are they, and where do they come from? What needs do they have, and will you be able to cover them? It’s always helpful to carry out a survey and find out as much as you can about your target audience.

b) Stakeholders. Anyone related to the project, including senior management and investors, should be involved in the discussion so their opinion and experience are also taken into account.

c) Competitors. To stand out from the competitors, you need to know them and to learn from them. It’ll give you a chance to provide services better, come up with innovative ideas never marketed before, and attract more consumers.

2. Business goal identification. After you gather all the required data, you can clearly see the direction to move towards your goal. Formulate it and ensure it’s measurable and achievable.

3. Requirements documentation. The discovery phase of a project can’t be considered successful without a document called Software Requirement Specification (SRS). It consists of all the requirements related to product development. For instance, the desired functionality and design.

4. Time and cost estimation. All the research and analysis you’ve done above helps to finally calculate how much and how long the project will take. Possible cost reductions can be also suggested.

Who Is Involved in the Project Discovery Team?

To make sure the discovery phase of a project is conducted timely and properly, look for specialists with years of experience and profound expertise in software development. For example, DashDevs has done discovery hundreds of times and knows how to deliver great results in tight timeframes. Here are the team members participating in this process:

  • Product Owner. This is usually a project’s key stakeholder who has a vision of what has to be built. PO’s main task is to convey this vision to the team.
  • Project Managers. They’re, in the first place, in charge of flawless communication within the team and the clients. PMs also plan the scope of work, arrange calls, document all that’s discussed during meetings, and track the progress of the discovery phase. In a word, they manage the project.
  • Business Analysts. They make sure the upcoming product fits the demand. To do that, they, together with PMs and PO, have to define the product’s aim, target audience, main features, etc. Then, requirements for the project are prepared.
  • UI/UX Designers. When the requirements are collected, designers create software prototypes in order to bring the product vision to life. Their primary goal is to build intuitive navigation with attractive and user-friendly design to ensure the greatest user experience.
  • Software Developer. Finally, there’s a developer who analyses all the demands and offers potential tools and methods for building the software. They also participate in time and costs estimation.

What Are the Benefits of the Discovery Phase?

It’s highly recommended not to skip the discovery phase because without it risks to fail increase. While the advantages are numerous:

1. You reduce risks

This one is among the top benefits of discovery phase in software projects. Because of diligent analysis and research, you can evaluate the scope of work, see if the purpose is achievable, what sources are required, and make sure you have them. Developing a product without discovery often means pushing your luck.

2. You focus on objectives, not deliverables

Delivering a solution on time and within a budget is, of course, advantageous. However, it can’t guarantee its success. If a product’s fundamental goals and values aren’t clearly communicated and defined, the team might lose focus and start moving in the wrong direction. While discovery ensures everyone has a clear vision as well as knows why and how to get things done.

3. You build trust

More often than not, business owners choose to outsource IT companies to bring their idea to life. This is because in-house teams are much more expensive and longer to hire. However, you first may feel a bit unsure about the specialists you’ve never cooperated with before (no matter how experienced and qualified they are). And as the discovery phase implies lots of in-depth discussions and frequent communication, it helps settle nerves and ensure you’re in the hands of professionals you can trust.

4. You formulate the guidelines and instructions

Similarly, this helps move to your goal smoothly and with no confusion within a team. When everyone sticks to a plan, the work is done faster, more efficiently, with no missed deadlines, and cost overrun. Just imagine what would happen without a clear framework? Probably, the project development would be a real mess and chaos.

5. You gather a team

During the discovery phase, you can evaluate what and how many experts are required for your product development. In case there’s a talent shortage in the team, project management has enough time to look for new specialists with correspondent skills and grades.

Tips on How to Make a Discovery Phase a Perfect Beginning of the Project

The recommendations below will help you build a successful partnership at the very start of the project and ensure you nail the discovery phase.

Don’t try to save on discovery

Many regard the discovery phase as an optional part of the project and tend to skip it. There’s a pretty obvious reason for that — resources saving. Yes, discovery takes money and time (from a few days to a few weeks). So you might surrender to the temptation of stepping up progress and reducing costs. But the thing is, you just risk ending up with the completely opposite — budget overruns and missed deadlines.

Make time for it

You may feel like you’ve discussed and dwelled on your business idea hundreds of times. Why do you need to do it again? Can’t you just quickly outline what you’re expecting to get and that’s it? Well, no. Basically, no one knows your business better than you do. No one can convey your vision better. At the same time, this isn’t enough. A team of experts is still required to evaluate the software you want to launch. For example, did you know that the most common reason businesses fail is that their product just appears to be needless in the market? Business analysts and project managers help to avoid such unpleasantness.

Ask questions

Seriously, this is the best time to ask anything that’s been bothering or confusing you. This is the best time to discuss all your ideas and concerns. Don’t be afraid to call into question anything related to the project development, users' needs, allocation of resources, team members, etc. You’re also advised to challenge assumptions and provoke the team to generate ideas and discuss possible solutions.

Involve more team members

The more key specialists related to the project are engaged into discussions, analysis, and research — the better. First, this allows you to benefit from the expertise and experience of each of them. As they say, ​​truth springs from argument. Second, when all the team members are familiar with the project’s background and know its essence, you’ll achieve much better results in a shorter timeline.

Key Deliverables of the Project Discovery Phase

The deliverables may vary depending on the size and complexity of your project. But, anyway, all outputs are essential, given the resources you’ve involved in the discovery phase.

System requirements specification (SRS). Or, as mentioned earlier, it may be called Software Requirement Specification. This is a document that contains a full description of the project, recommended tech stack, set of features to be developed, and architecture outline. It’s crucial that you review it attentively, suggest any modifications in case they’re required, discuss them with the team, and approve the final version of SRS. It’ll be used as a basis throughout the whole development process.

Design wireframes. At the end of discovery, you also receive a preliminary UX prototype. It demonstrates how the future interface will look like, what the navigation will be, and how the core features will function. Similarly, you need to study it carefully to eliminate all rough edges timely. This will help avoid lots of potential issues, requirements changes, and unplanned expenses on re-engineering.

Development roadmap. This document includes the calculations of product development timing and cost. Besides, you get information on the team composition. Unless there are significant changes in project requirements, price and deadlines don’t change.

How Do I Start a Product Discovery?

So, you have a project you want to launch and require specialists to conduct the discovery phase for you? Do you need someone to evaluate your idea and estimate the resources required for its realisation? DashDevs is here to help with that all! The company has delivered hundreds of products and know how to make the discovery phase fast, yet efficient and productive. Contact us to get guidance or assistance with any of your requests!

Share article

Table of contents