You have an idea for a software project that will have a big impact on your business. Before jumping into the design and development it is crucial to understand exactly what problems it addresses, who the target audience is, if the solution will genuinely add value and a number of other key factors. This is why a Discovery Phase is an integral part of the project lifecycle. It bridges the gap between a concept and its realisation and defines success.

What is Discovery and why does it matter?  

Project discovery is the initial step of project development. It’s aimed at collecting information about the project to identify its Vision, Goals, and Scope. Let’s take a look at why this phase really matters for project success.

According to Mckinsey research on implementing software projects, an average large IT project overruns its budget by 45% while benefits shortfall is 56% less than expected.

The Discovery phase is helpful to:

  • Better identify project scope and goals resulting in a more accurate estimate
  • Make design decisions based on data, not assumptions
  • Help ensure a higher return on investment
  • Create a user-oriented experience
  • Avoid the need for making costly changes during advanced stages of the development process
  • Involve in-house specialists at an early stage to maximise the impact of their familiarity with the problem to be solved

Skipping discovery can result in the following:

  • Never-ending scope creep. A lack of measurable expected results can cause constant extensions to project duration which delay release.
  • Climbing costs. Blurred goals and requirements generate changes in direction with further associated cost increases.
  • Missed deadlines. Without precise project boundaries, the development timeline can easily stretch out, postponing launch.
  • Project doesn’t meet your expectations. A misunderstanding at the initial stage of cooperation can lead to more confusion further down the line, wasting both time and money.

Discovery Preparation

Before the discovery phase begins, there are a few things that need to be in place, a short “pre-discovery phase” if you will. Here’s what it includes (and what it doesn’t):

  • Identify your business goal.
  • Provide your project manager with any existing information or documentation about the project.
  • Receive a ballpark quote for the project. The main quote for the project will be estimated as part of the discovery phase. This rough figure can be used to help with the next point:
  • Secure a budget for the discovery phase. While pre-discovery is essentially free, the discovery phase includes the fulltime work of specialists and you should expect to be billed for it.

Discovery Team

After the pre-discovery is done and the budget is determined we might start.

The Business Analyst  – responsible for the competitor analysis and project requirements research.

The Developer – during the discovery phase will find the best 3rd parties services, libraries, and pick up the Tech Stack.

The UX designer – will prepare the user flow and screens prototype.He will research the best UX solutions in your project domain.

Discovery Steps

The project discovery phase includes the following steps:

  1. Identifying the stakeholders.
  2. Identifying business goals.
  3. Checking existing research and documentation. I
  4. Building a user journey and identifying the target audience.
  5. Researching competitors.
  6. Reviewing the data prepared so far and making a Software requirements specification.
  7. Estimating the timeline and budget. The ultimate goal of the preparation is to reach the stage where the team can give an accurate estimate of the time and costs they need to create an MVP or full-scale product.
  8. Creating Roadmap. The other essential document the discovery phase leads to is this full project timeline with specified milestones, deliverables and deadlines.

Some steps might be reordered or omitted if necessary. As a result, the duration and cost of the Discovery Phase will change.

Discovery phase sessions

Discovery sessions are the meetings between our team and yours when we:

  • examine the domain area
  • explore your business processes
  • learn about your expectations from the product
  • identify bottlenecks
  • define high-level solutions to meet the challenges and bottlenecks identified
  • specifying priorities and list a backlog
  • generate project roadmap

Duration and price

For a small project — 1-3 days.

For a medium project — 1-2 weeks.

For a large project — at least 3-4 weeks or more.

The billing is carried out according to a fixed price or on a time & material model based on hourly rates and the working time of all members of the discovery team involved in the process.

Discovery phase deliverables

  • Software requirements specification (SRS). This is a document fully describing the project, feature set, recommended tech stack and architecture outline. Review it and suggest changes before approving it.
  • User Flow and Preliminary UX prototype.
  • Development roadmap and estimates.
  • Discovery phase proposal.