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A Discovery Phase: How To Run It Wisely For Your Software Product?


11 min read

Project discovery is crucial in software development since it can help companies prevent losses. According to McKinsey, approximately 45% of all IT projects experience scope creep, leading to scope overrun, and 7% of startups can’t meet defined deadlines. And this most definitely can be avoided with the proper discovery phase during the first stages of development.

One of the most important components of staying within time and cost limits is having the right technology partner or software vendor. But apart from that, you need to understand the specifics and do all from your end to make the project discovery phase as efficient as possible.

DashDevs has built a unique approach to a software development process, combining the best skills of our specialists and maximizing our capabilities with each stage. Check out what we can do here!

So, in this article you’ll learn more about the discovery phases, the process, and its benefits. Ready? Let’s get started!

What Is the Discovery Phase?

Project discovery is a phase, also known as a preparation or scoping phase, and is the first and foremost step you should take in the project development process. The main purpose of this phase is to gather as much information about the project as possible before development.

If you ignore the discovery, you might face something like this. Your final product might be viable after the development, but will it be useful to your customers?

More precisely, the discovery phase of a project is also aimed at:

  • determination of project scope and goals;
  • finding the ways to mitigate the risks and reduce ambiguity;
  • helping in decision-making based on research and analysis of data;
  • specification of the approach to the development process;
  • prevention of the expensive changes during the following stages of the software development life cycle;
  • assisting in building a market-driven product;
  • allowing developers to create a great user experience.

How to Understand You Need Discovery: Top Criteria

The discovery stage is important for any software product development since it makes the development process much more efficient. However, it takes time, and you might need more time to spend the most valuable resource on it. So, to cast away your doubts, let’s figure out how crucial the discovery phase will be for your business.

  • Your project is complex. If this is the case, it’ll be complicated to define a scope of work and project requirements by yourself. Relevant experience and expertise from project managers and development specialists will be able to help you do this more effectively.
  • You can’t afford to make a mistake. A lot depends on your business, or maybe you operate within a tight budget. Sometimes it might seem like the discovery process is a waste of time and resources, when in reality, it’s a backup plan that saves you from overdoing the same step all over again.
  • You are in the initial stage of the idea development process. You only have a thought and an image of how the end product needs to look, but there needs to be a clear plan or strategy. If this is your case, then the Agile discovery process will help you unwrap step by step how you can achieve your business goals.

What Happens During the Discovery Phase?

The IT discovery process is always the same, no matter the size or complexity of your project. It might vary and depend on your business domain or specification. However, you will undergo the same steps.

So, let’s get to know the steps in the discovery process better. These are the main of them:

  1. Gathering information. This is the first step of the Agile discovery phase. It’s clear what it stands for, and its main objective is to help your development team understand your business better. Several sub-steps depend on the type of data you need to collect and process:
    The end-customer. This is crucial to relate to your clientele and build a better user experience. Who is your target audience? How old are they, and where do they come from? What needs and pain points do they have, and how can your business cover them? User research can drastically change your perspective and help you grow a loyal customer base. Try to start with surveys and interviews for this sub-step. After you have a more precise idea of how your software will function, create a customer journey map to relate to the experience users get from your software.
    Stakeholders. Attract people related to the project, including senior management and investors, to the discussion, so their opinion and experience are also considered. You should grow from the experience of others, and the discovery stage can help you in this.
    Competitors. Competitors analysis can help your business change accordingly to the market demand. You can see why people love what your competitors do and do it better to build a competitive edge.
  2. Business goal identification. Define the objective of your project and ensure they’re measurable and achievable. The discovery phase in the software web development process can also help you turn the technology into an advantage. Studies show that approximately 50% of software projects fail to help businesses due to poor identification and compliance with their needs. But, after you gather all the required data during the Agile discovery phase, you can see the direction to move toward your goal.
  3. Requirements documentation. The most important document you’ll compose with your discovery team is Software Requirements Specification (SRS). It consists of all the requirements related to product development. The document helps you all be on the same page about the system’s design, desired functionality, and other crucial requirements. The document is adjustable, but you should add as many details as possible when you first compose it with your team members.
  4. Time and cost estimation. All the research and analysis you’ve done above helps to finally calculate the cost of the discovery phase and estimate the project timeline. Possible budget-friendly decisions can also be suggested.

There is a project discovery phase template that the DashDevs team created using the expertise of our software engineers and project managers. Use it as a draft to develop your expectations from this stage.

You can use this template by DashDevs to simplify the discovery phase

So, with the project discovery template, you now have a better understanding of this stage of the project. Let’s proceed further to the project discovery team composition.

Who Is Involved in the Project Discovery Team?

One of the most important components of high-quality Agile discovery is a team. You need dedicated people with profound expertise involved in the discovery phase. Here, at DashDevs, we have been growing our experience for over 12 years, and by this time, we have gone through the process discovery steps hundreds of times.

So, we know how to compose a team to achieve better results.

  • Product Owner. This is usually a project’s key stakeholder who has a vision of a product backlog. PO’s main task is to convey this vision to the team.
  • Project Managers. They build flawless communication between the team and the clients. PMs also plan the scope of work, arrange calls, document all discussed during meetings, and track the progress. PMs might have their project management discovery phase template to better keep track of the process. Their position title speaks for itself; they manage the project.
  • Business Analysts. They make sure that the product fits the market demand. To do that, they define the product’s aim, target audience, main features, etc. Then, with PO and PM, they prepare the requirements for project development.
  • UI/UX Designers. Designers create software prototypes when the requirements are collected to bring the product vision to life. At this step, they aim to build intuitive navigation with attractive and user-friendly design and demonstrate the product’s future design.
  • Software Developer. Finally, a developer analyzes 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?

The discovery phase mitigates the risks of failure, overrun, and delayed delivery. So, you shouldn’t disregard it. But, if you still think you can save up your resources by stepping over the initial discovery, here are some statements that might change your mind.

  1. You reduce risks. You evaluate the scope of work, see if your goals are achievable, and what resources are required. This allows you to be prepared for numerous situations and market reactions to your product. You know what the users want because before taking hold of development, you’ve analyzed their needs. With a discovery phase, you are making a calculated step, investing in your future; without it – software development looks more like a leap of faith.
  2. You focus on clear objectives. You can deliver software on time and make it within your budget, but if a product’s fundamental goals and values aren’t clearly communicated, there is no guarantee you will deliver what you’ve planned. Proper communication and goal setting is necessary for a team to stay focused and work towards the best output. One of the benefits of discovery is that it ensures everyone has a clear vision of what the team is doing.
  3. You build trust. One of the most popular ways to implement your idea into a tech solution is to hire an outsource software vendor provider. It’s less expensive and time-consuming than individually hiring each member for an in-house team. However, you need to be on the same page to cooperate with these new specialists you’ve never cooperated with before. And as the discovery phase implies lots of in-depth discussions and frequent communication, it helps settle nerves and ensure you know the people you will be working with.
  4. You formulate the guidelines and instructions. Discovery helps you move to your goal smoothly, setting deadlines, estimates, and requirements. When everyone sticks to a plan, the work is done faster and more efficiently, and with a clear framework, the workflow is smooth. The discovery phase in software development creates a transparent work environment where everyone understands their area of expertise, knows what to deliver and when.
  5. You gather a team. During the discovery phase, you can evaluate your needs regarding team composition. It is your choice, and you can decide on who you need on board. And, if there’s a talent shortage in the team, with the discovery phase, project management has enough time to hire other specialists.

How to Make a Discovery Phase a Perfect Beginning Of the Project?

Our team has excessive experience with the application and website discovery process; we’ve seen it all. And after all this time, DashDevs has built a unique vision of problem-solving during the discovery phase. We’re sharing these tips with you in hopes that they will be useful and will help you turn a discovery phase into a roaring success.

Don’t try to save on discovery

The discovery phase isn’t an optional part of the project, and there is no way you can simply skip it. It might look like you’re saving resources if you’re starting straight from development, but you’re wasting more than you gain. You just risk ending up with budget overruns and missed deadlines.

Remember that the discovery phase is mandatory, and in some companies, it is even offered as a separate service when you create SRS and then proceed to another vendor.

Don’t be scared to spend more time on it

You may feel like you’ve discussed and dwelled on your business idea hundreds of times. Well, no. What’s the point of doing this again? Can’t you just quickly outline what you’re expecting to get, and that’s it?

No one knows your business better than you do. No one can convey your vision better. And a team of experts can help you evaluate the software you want to launch. 78% of businesses can survive their first year, and the rest will fail. And the majority of those fail due to no market need. Discovery can help you be one of those who stay up on the market and enjoy profitable sales.

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 and set the goal of the discovery phase. Don’t be afraid to 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 in 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 an 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 Discovery Phase Deliverables

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

  • System Requirements Specification (SRS). This document contains a full description of the project, recommended tech stack, set of features to be developed, and architecture outline. It’s crucial that you closely and thoroughly review it, suggest any modifications in case they’re required, discuss them with the team, and approve the final version. This document is the base, the foundation of the future 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 work. Similarly, you need to study it carefully to eliminate all rough edges timely and ensure that the team understands your aims. This will help avoid lots of communication breaches, requirements changes, and unplanned expenses on re-engineering.
  • Development roadmap. This document includes the estimates of product development timing and cost. You will get information on the team composition. Unless there are significant changes in project requirements, the price and deadlines you set in this document won’t change.

How Do I Start a Project Discovery?

Do you have a project you want to launch and require specialists to conduct the discovery phase? Do you need someone to evaluate your idea and estimate the resources required for its realization? DashDevs is here to help with that all! The company has delivered hundreds of products and knows how to make the discovery phase fast, efficient, and productive.

Contact us to get guidance or assistance with any of your requests!


Should I get ready before the discovery phase?

A: There is a high possibility that the software development vendor you chose will be asking you some questions. Usually, discovery questions for project management are aimed at their understanding of your product. So, if you know well what type of software you need and what features your project needs to have, you’re good. If not, it is also okay since the team is here to help you figure out what will work best for your idea.

What is the difference between the discovery phase vs. the stage?

A: A discovery phase is a whole process. It’s somewhat large and has different stages in it. The stages we’ve discussed above. They are the smaller processes that help you achieve better results from the overall discovery.

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