A QUICK SUMMARY – FOR THE BUSY ONES
A discovery phase is a planning stage during project initiation, when team members gather information about the project, set up budget and form precise project boundaries. The goal of a discovery phase is to be able to make data-driven decisions and reduce all risks connected to product development.
A well-executed discovery phase leads to building a product that fulfils its purpose successfully. It allows for a development process to become aligned with business strategy and prevent pitfalls like budget overruns, missed deadlines, compromised quality, or scope creep.
Project discovery stage can be divided into 5 steps:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Let’s start with a few facts.
According to the MicKinsey research conducted in collaboration with the Oxford Industry:
on average, large IT projects run 45% over budget and 7% over time while delivering 56% less value than predicted.
How to prevent that?
The answer is: by focusing on the project discovery phase during the initial stage of product development.
Project discovery is a process of gathering information about a project to help people involved understand its vision, goals, and scope.
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 stage is a groundwork for a data-driven approach during planning and executing software development.
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.
The main goal is to dispel any doubts and prove assumptions about a product.
Project discovery allows the team 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 are gathered during the discovery phase – the better.
<span class="colorbox1" fs-test-element="box1"><p>Discovery phase is also aimed to help eliminate uncertainties and reduce the overall risk of the project. </p></span>
Discovery stage helps to prepare a reliable scope for the project, set business and technical requirements, prepare project timeline and its documentation (software requirements specification), which then serve as guidance for software development team.
Since project discovery is the initial phase of product development, it allows gathering the information necessary for a project’s success before the process of software development project starts. This phase of a project allows for a wise management of development budget, time, energy, and talent. After discovery, the design and development process kicks off.
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 product 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.
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.
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.
To make an efficient decision regarding technology, you need to understand business context well. IT and business matters shouldn’t go separately. To build a successful product, you need to break the boundaries between those both worlds.
Product discovery phase is a first step to build full understanding of business context and shared know-how between business, technology, and operations.
There are several benefits of the discovery phase. It allows you and the whole team to:
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.
Neglecting the discovery phase can result in:
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 discovery process, 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”.
Project discovery phase starts with securing a budget for the process. Then it’s time to identify stakeholders and a person responsible for organizing and leading workshops.
The discovery team should include various roles with diverse specialties and ranges of interest.
An example project discovery may be divided into 5 steps:
As software development is a complex and very project specific process, similarly, every project discovery must be treated individually.
Discovery phase activities are aimed to gather necessary data about the project and its background. The activities include:
Discovery phase usually ends up with the following outputs:
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.
There are also a few specific tools that can be used during discovery workshops:
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:
These and many other benefits make project discovery a great investment, that every project should take advantage of.
Every year, Brainhub helps 750,000+ founders, leaders and software engineers make smart tech decisions. We earn that trust by openly sharing our insights based on practical software engineering experience.
UX/UI designer with 11 years of professional experience. Loves holistic design, interested in UX strategy and Lean UX.
Software development enthusiast with 8 years of professional experience in this industry.
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