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Project Discovery – What Is It? Why Do You Need It?

Imagine this, you’re starting a new software development project, perhaps you’re responsible for the delivery of the product or perhaps you want the product to be delivered to you by someone else. Regardless of the situation, you want the project to succeed and the product to fulfill its purpose.

How can you ensure this result?

The answer is: project discovery.

Project discovery – what is it?

Project discovery is a process of gathering information about a project to help people involved understand its vision, goals, and scope.

It helps to identify the needs of the client, users, and stakeholders, as well as define the strong and weak points of the system or app. The more information you gather the better.

The knowledge gained during such research enables participants to create a tailored action plan to deliver the highest business value and achieve the key objectives of the project.

Project discovery is a process of gathering information about a project.Image source

Usually, the process involves a number of experts including developers, business analysts, UX/UI designers. However in the perfect scenario, the whole team is involved from the start. This ensures better performance, elevates understanding of the scope, and fosters stronger individual commitment.

Project discovery – 5 steps

An example project discovery may be divided into 5 steps:

  1. Defining business goals
  2. Identifying how to measure the success
  3. Conducting user research
  4. Identifying customer journey
  5. Investigating the competition

As software development is a complex and very project specific process, similarly, every project discovery must be treated individually.

There are many tools and solutions that could be used during each of the steps of project discovery – these include workshops, questionnaires, surveys, interviews, etc.

We’ll talk more about them in the next article in the series, discussing how we conduct project discovery at Brainhub.

Project discovery – why is it often neglected?

There are many reasons that companies give when refusing project discovery. Sometimes it’s a matter of a tight deadline, sometimes there’s a small budget, and some people think that project discovery is a luxury service and that it isn’t necessary to conduct it in every single project. In some cases, companies are sure they know enough and that it’s a waste of resources.

Do these objections have a good basis? Let’s take a closer look at that.

Project discovery – why do you need it?

For a moment we’ll go back to the situation from the introduction. Once again, imagine that you’re a stakeholder looking for someone to build an app for you. You have a good idea of what your app should look like and what it should do.

The deadline is tight and it seems you can’t afford a project discovery, so you hand a specification over to the software house and set the deadline and budget. Your contractor accepts the terms without additional questions and you’re going to receive your finished product in the next few months.

Gaining knowledge and understanding are the goals of project discovery.Image source

Those few months pass quickly and your app is finally done. All features are in place and working. The quality is great. It’s time to launch your project and wait for the first visitors.

After another couple of months go by, you look at the statistics and analytics and it seems that your visitors aren’t enjoying your perfectly crafted app as much as you expected. The conversion of your service is far from desirable. You spent your whole budget on an app that doesn’t return the investment and you have no money to develop it further as it doesn’t lead to many sales.

Something went wrong.

The key to success is understanding

Just because the project is built on time and within the budget does not mean it will succeed. There are many other factors involved. Even the highest quality app made perfectly according to the specification won’t guarantee success when it’s not backed by proper knowledge and understanding.

There are many decisions that need to be made during software development, starting with the design of the user interface components and ending with the backend structure. A team of experienced digital product development specialists could serve you with loads of advice and suggestions for solutions you could never think of that could help build an app that is more user-friendly, faster and cheaper.

That isn’t possible if the team doesn’t understand the business vision of a project as well as its users.

See how to align IT projects with a business strategy here.

Will skipping project discovery save you time and money?

Project discovery is a great chance for the development team not only to understand what should be delivered but also why it should be delivered. This one process helps to merge clients goals and business plan with users needs and wants with the know-how of a software development team.

Even though some may think they do not have time, budget or need for a project discovery, the example described earlier shows how much a project has to lose when overlooking this step. You may think you save money by jumping right into development but without proper knowledge and when basing decisions on the assumptions many choices may turn out to be costly failures that need to be corrected anyway.

The same happens when the discovery phase is neglected to save time. There will be many decisions that need to be made that have a huge impact on the project. When made quickly without preparation, they may become the project’s future “to be or not to be”.


Although at first project discovery may seem a needless luxury, we’ve seen today that it’s actual essential to any project. This valuable process helps to:

  • make accurate decisions based on evidence rather than assumptions,
  • better define the scope and goals of the project and thus get a more precise estimate,
  • ensure a high return on investment in the development,
  • create a user-centered experience (read more about why your team should be customer obsessed here),
  • eliminate the need of making costly changes on advanced development stages,
  • gain better development insight thanks to consultation with specialists.

These and many other benefits make project discovery a great investment, that every project should take advantage of.