A good start is often believed to be half of the success in any undertaking, followed by proper planning & project management. Besides, within the realm of software development, the significance of a discovery phase surpasses that of a strong beginning, as it lays a robust foundation. This phase serves the crucial purpose of validating the project’s feasibility, ensuring competitiveness in the market, devising effective marketing strategies, and crafting a compelling vision for ultimate success.
According to research conducted by McKinsey, 17% of IT projects fail due to company collapse, while approximately 45% surpass their budgetary allocations. Furthermore, 56% of these projects yield fewer benefits than originally anticipated, and roughly 7% experience delays in their scheduled delivery. The causes behind this can be diverse, encompassing factors such as resource scarcity, intense competition, inexperienced software developers, insufficient data and analysis, and more.
A thorough and thoughtful discovery phase within a project offers business owners a valuable opportunity to be among the 10% of projects that achieve success.
This is why in today’s landscape, embarking on a software development project without an extensive preliminary analysis is not advisable. The discovery phase should, in fact, be the foundational step for any project you undertake.
Let’s look at the process of the discovery phase of the IT project & its deliverables in more detail.
What does a Discovery Phase or Scoping Phase mean?
So, what exactly does a discovery phase entail within a project?
It is a process of gathering information that provides you with a profound understanding of the industry, the client’s business, and the target audience. It is vital to achieving a profound understanding of the stakeholders’ anticipations of the product & the end-users expectations of it. The primary purpose of the preliminary analysis is to ensure a quotation to the client. To achieve this, your objective is to collect the utmost information regarding the client’s requirements and compile it into a dedicated document.
It’s important to differentiate the scoping phase from the planning phase, which appears afterward. The scope definition phase establishes the project’s foundation and sets the stage for the detailed planning phase. After completing the scoping phase, the project manager can move forward into the planning phase, concentrating on crafting a comprehensive project plan.
The information unearthed during the discovery process assists you in defining the scope and planning of your project, ultimately contributing to the delivery of a cutting-edge custom software product to your client. To achieve the creation of truly innovative products, never underestimate the significance of the discovery phase!
What do we need the analysis for?
- To find new ideas for product development and new insights.
- To find out the motives, the aims, and the problems of the users.
- To comprehend the context of product usage.
- To understand what are the users’ expectations and attitudes to the product.
What is the recommended duration for the discovery phase?
- For mid-sized projects — 1–2 weeks.
- For large projects — 3–4 weeks.
When Do You Need a Discovery Phase?
The initial conversation with a client can often provide the discovery team with an indication of whether the idea warrants a formal discovery process.
Without a shadow of a doubt, startups should consider the project discovery phase as an essential prerequisite.
Innovative projects characterized by rapidly evolving requirements or those influenced by the latest trends are strongly advised to incorporate a discovery phase into their software development process.
The other project types that should not neglect this initial stage are:
- The ones with vague non-functional requirements.
- The projects with unclear functional requirements.
- Those projects, require POC (a Proof of Concept).
If the vision of your argument is unclear, it isn’t impossible to get evidence of your concept's feasibility & commercial viability through prototyping.
At times, when a business analyst or software development expert offers guidance on which tools to use and how best to analyze your customers, you might contemplate bypassing this stage. Nevertheless, if you choose to omit the discovery phase, you should be prepared to confront potentially significant and far-reaching adverse consequences.
The question of what is discovery phase in projects is now more or less clear, let’s now study the procedures required & the deliverables.
Why Is It Necessary to Have Business Analysis in the Initiation Stage?
You might be curious about the role of business analysis in project management. Business analysis plays a central role in project execution, spanning across the development and testing phases. The development phase entails modeling internal business processes and data flow, identifying crucial system performance elements, and formulating comprehensive test plans.
When is the ideal time to conduct business analysis within a project? Business analysis should take place during the Project Initiation stage, where the Project Manager collaborates with the Business Analyst to initiate discussions and establish a shared understanding of the project’s scope and business requirements. This stage also involves identifying and reaching a consensus on expected project outcomes, benefits, and project acceptance criteria.
The discovery phase plays a pivotal role in project management and occurs within the initiation stage. In this phase, the project team gathers vital project information, establishes the budget, and defines clear project boundaries. The primary goal of the scoping phase is to make informed decisions grounded in data and insights, ultimately mitigating all risks associated with product development.
What Do We Do During the Discovery Phase?
In the Discovery phase, we generate a set of documents and schematics to facilitate future efficient project work.
To begin with, we formulate a conceptual representation of the MVP’s business model by crafting a diagram that delineates all the product-related business processes. This diagram covers aspects such as proposals, infrastructure, consumers, and financial considerations.
2. Client Journey Map (CJM)
Furthermore, we develop a “customer interaction map” that visually outlines how users engage with the product. This map encompasses all envisaged interaction points and communication channels, while also considering the client’s experiential journey, including their thoughts, emotions, goals, motivations, and concerns on the path to achieving the desired outcome.
3. Consumer Flow
To define how the consumer will interact with the interface of the new product, User Flow is made in the form of schematic screens of the software solution & transitions between them. Thus, the consumer behavior scenarios are projected through the visual interface prototypes.
4. Consumer Stories
A brief description of how the system will be utilized describes the functional requirements for the system & its acceptance criteria. Consumer Stories permit the client to effectively prioritize the implementation of product functionality.
5. Product Vision
This document, which outlines the project’s overarching goals and the proposed solution, enhances comprehension of the product’s objectives, potential, and future prospects. The Product Vision proves beneficial to all stakeholders engaged in the development process, including developers, staff members, and the marketing department.
6. Non-functional requirements
Our team also provides guidance on system attributes and constraints unrelated to its behavior, such as the optimal technology stack, infrastructure architecture, and anticipated workload.
What are the Primary Advantages of a Discovery Phase?
The advantages of the preliminary analysis and research are in fact multiple.
Frequently, we encounter startups with innovative ideas but lacking a profound understanding of their project’s essential components and structure. It’s not uncommon for these clients to struggle with grasping the needs of their prospective users. Additionally, due to a limited technical background, clients often find it challenging to compile a comprehensive list of necessary software elements.
We always suggest a discovery phase to our customers. The research is conducted by our business analyst, designer, & CTO. They communicate to the client, find out the requirements & examine the market. Later on, they proceeded to create the project description.
This approach minimizes the need for frequent alterations during the development process since it defines the project’s scope, along with other critical factors like the desired solutions, features, functionalities, preferred platforms, project timelines, and budgetary considerations.
By identifying all the details in advance, the client gains a number of benefits. The main of them are:
- Refining the concept and the core of the project through rigorous real analysis.
- Discovering project facets that were initially overlooked.
- Creating a clear list of consumer stories for the project.
- Preventing the necessity for expensive alterations during the development phase.
- Clients’ expectations & issues comprehension, founded on the competitors’ product research.
- The chance to receive an expert assessment of the project, and its potential realization methods, and gain additional insights into alternative solutions and technologies provided by the contractor.
- Reaching the balance between the business purposes of a customer & the needs & desires of the consumers.
- Gaining the opportunity to assess whether the contractor aligns with the client’s expectations, evaluating the comfort of their interaction, and having the final say regarding future collaboration.
We always execute an expert evaluation of how the project fits into the customer’s present infrastructure & operational processes & recommend changes, improvements, or updates if they’re necessary.
Once we grasp the project’s context, we actively seek and propose alternative solutions to our clients, some of which they may not have considered due to their non-digital expertise. We frequently discover more effective or cost-efficient options than those originally envisioned by the client.
An added benefit that our clients can expect from the discovery phase is a well-defined project quotation, detailing the necessary scope of work and providing an accurate cost estimate. Armed with this document, they can approach potential investors with confidence, making it easier to secure funding.
Among the noteworthy projects is a Discovery Phase conducted for a Real Estate Company.
The client approached us with the concept of developing an accessible management solution tailored to small property owners and real estate agents. This solution would also offer tenants the capability to easily order and pay for services, enhancing overall convenience.
Read the full case study
Stfalcon team had to work with 3 primary roles: a property owner or agent, an existing customer (tenant), & a potential customer (a new visitor).
Our real estate software development team worked out all the product features, as a result, the customer got a complex decision for both the MVP & the 2 release versions of the future product, including web & mobile applications. We made detailed prototypes, customer stories, product vision, & a budget plan.
Another instance involved a Discovery Phase for a logistics company. Two enthusiastic brothers, avid travelers, approached Stfalcon with a partially formed idea: they wanted to create a platform that would enable individuals to transport anything with just a few straightforward clicks. Read the full case study
A Discovery Phase was essential for gathering and scrutinizing all project particulars, including the potential market and customer insights. Stfalcon achieved a comprehensive and thorough comprehension of the project’s objectives, scope, and constraints. We leveraged the online visual collaboration platform, Miro, to maintain communication with our client throughout all phases.
Stfalcon gathered and meticulously analyzed extensive project data, delivering to the client a comprehensive product vision document, user stories categorized into MVP and Release 2, as well as estimated budgets and timelines for both MVP and Release 2.
I believe we’ve offered a comprehensive response to the question, “What is a discovery phase?” It’s evident that through discovery, we establish the foundation for an exceptional project experience and deliver valuable software solutions tailored to our client’s requirements.
Nevertheless, the genuine significance and value of the discovery phase extend beyond technical specifications, as it furnishes the context for commencing a project from scratch, uncovers potential challenges and bottlenecks, and fosters creativity for both project managers and the development team.
If you’re ready to create a project or scale your business, contact us to discuss it. We can also discuss the questions that you might still have, just reach out.