The hardest part of what we do is working out exactly what needs doing. Any software development project should start with a discovery phase. This is the only way to succeed.
Software projects run the highest risk of cost and schedule overruns. According to McKinsey, on average, IT projects run 45% beyond the estimated budget, 7 %of the projects are delivered late, while delivering 56% less value than predicted. Also, 17% of IT projects turn out so bad that they cause the collapse of the company.
Why? Because now and then very optimistic entrepreneurs and their development teams need a dose of reality. If you believe that strict development timelines and breakthrough ideas are all that is necessary to make a tech project successful, you are mistaken.
The discovery and design phase is a complex service tailored to bridge the gap between a business idea and a targeted IT solution. Careful analysis and planning during the software design and discovery stage (or predevelopment) could prevent many failures. It is an umbrella that integrates software company expertise and services in business analysis, architecture, technology, design, and agile process establishment.
Discovery is vital for business owners who wish to complete their tech projects on time and budget.
What Are the Stages of Software Development Process?
Traditionally, software development teams put a lot of emphasis on five short pre-defined critical phases of the development lifecycle, with each cycle resulting in the delivery of potentially shippable functionality.
1. Discovery & Design
The discovery and design phase is an intensive session where the product owner works with the development team to set product goals, prioritize product features, produce wireframes and mockups, and create an interactive prototype. The main goal of the discovery phase is to define an optimal system with its architecture and user experience design, which will satisfy stakeholders’ requirements and estimate the costs for project development and timeline.
To prevent project failure, the discovery stage should come hand in hand with project initiation and transition into project implementation.
2. Development & Implementation
In this phase, the requirements gathered during the discovery & design phase are used as an input, and software architecture used for implementing system development is derived. The development team delivers value continuously and presents working demos in sprints, where user stories are in place. The team rallies around the sprint goals to deliver them on time and within budget. Each sprint results in delivering a tested and usable piece of software.
3. Deployment & Testing
Deployment stage requires DevOps best practices – the creation of development, testing, staging, and deployment to AWS or Azure. The next objective is to clear out all remaining bugs and ensure that the product works properly on all the right devices.
4. Project Delivery
The development team uses a checklist that they’ve created specifically for a seamless and transparent software delivery process. It ticks all the boxes to make sure everything required for the project release is done.
5. Support & Maintenance
The development team keeps the project up to date for years to come, makes the business stay competitive, and helps to keep up with the fast-changing business landscape.
What Is a Discovery Phase in Software Development?
The discovery phase is the first stage of software development lifecycle. It involves the senior development team, business analyst, project architect, and project manager working together to set product goals. They collect and produce essential data to elicit product architecture, prioritize product features, the functional and non-functional requirements, choose a technology stack, produce wireframes and mockups, create an interactive prototype, estimate costs, and plan project development stages.
Many entrepreneurs bypass the discovery phase, but in doing so, they self-sabotage themselves. They assume that the project discovery phase is a total waste of money and time. This couldn’t be further from the truth – the discovery phase helps to understand the problems that need to be solved before you commit to starting with the development stage. That means learning about your users and their demands, issues you may face after the project goes life (security, compliance, data privacy, legislation, etc.), and so on.
The discovery phase should help you work out whether you want to move forward and invest in the development one. It often happens that at this stage, many startups/ enterprises stop their work on the project. That’s why the benefits of looking further into the problem outweigh the cost.
Why Do You Need a Project Discovery Phase?
Firstly, a project discovery phase is intended to predict risks and eliminate them. Such risks may come in the form of unexpected costs, insufficient market demand, or an inability to cover expenses.
Mistakes that are made during a planning phase can prove costly to rectify in the future. As such, the main goals of the project discovery phase will be to evaluate ideas and the strategies to implement them. In doing so, development costs will be optimized and a product can be launched a lot quicker.
The discovery phase can be applied to all types of software projects in various industries, no matter how complex and big they are. It is comprised of conceptualization, product requirement establishment, and business goal determination. It is imperative to work with these goals in mind from start to finish of the developmental process. Also, you must be mindful of them when any changes are made to the product.
Let’s sum up and list the main benefits of the discovery process:
- ⇒ Reduced risks. A clear understanding of the product’s scope and objectives helps to avoid numerous business risks at the start. The risk of missed deadlines is reduced by 75%. The overall cost savings can exceed 50%.
- ⇒ Fewer expenses. Wise planning based on real facts of expert research helps to create accurate estimates of time and budget.
- ⇒ Established roadmap. You get a full timeline of the project with interim goals, deliverables, and deadlines.
- ⇒ Build trust. Regular communication with the IT vendor will establish two-way trust. Alternatively, you may realize you’ve picked the wrong company and make a switch.
What Is the Discovery Phase in Agile Project?
A discovery phase can be easily integrated into industry-standard Agile and Waterfall methodologies.
In Waterfall projects, the discovery is the first stage of the development. The duration depends on the size of the project and the areas which need to be explored.
In an Agile projects, discovery should remain continuous through each sprint, allowing to take in new requirements effectively. You may start a discovery upfront to outline the project’s purpose and connect systems along with each sprint.
Additional Reading: Agile Advantages for Software Development and Your Business
What Is the Discovery Stage Process?
A project discovery phase can be described as the journey from a theoretical idea to a factual realization. This stage begins with an understanding, gathering, and systemization of a client’s requirements. It then moves onto researching the needs of a target audience before analyzing the benefits of a product for a potential user.
No matter how complex a project is or what its requirements are, the discovery phase in software development will include a complex source data analysis. It’s useful to start by setting a clear goal for your discovery. This will help to scope the discovery appropriately and work out when it’s finished.
What Are the Responsibilities and Roles of a Discovery Team?
One aspect that influences the success of a product is the discovery stage team. The team should have an experience that is relevant to a product’s development, depending on what is being worked on.
They should also be knowledgeable about the industry and its market trends as well as be familiar with regulations, user preferences, and the ins-and-outs of working alongside a third-party vendor. Such individuals will be able to evaluate an item from differing perspectives before a team is hired.
The senior architect, project manager, and business analyst take the lead during the discovery stage. Sometimes tech lead, account manager, developers, UX designers can join the efforts. The number of experts in this team is contingent on how complex the project is, as well as what your goals are.
⇒ The project manager has the responsibility of organizing and planning meetings with clients, taking meticulous notes at meetings, and ensuring cooperation between both the development team and product discovery team. Project managers are also responsible for preparing essential discovery stage documentation.
⇒ The business analyst (BA) has the responsibility of conducting market research before evaluating the findings. The BA can determine if a product will be profitable and must also define and track data metric quality. Further, they must define project requirements that are both non-functional and functional before having them aligned with the business goals.
⇒ The tech lead engages directly with the product owner, defines the technical requirements of a product, puts together development sequences, and provides timeline estimates.
⇒ The intuitive navigation and usability of a product is the responsibility of a UX designer. As per product and user research results, a UX designer produces site maps, storyboards, interface elements, and process flow. A UI designer concentrates on the layout and look of a product, as well as its elements, to make sure that a product is simple to use and visually attractive.
⇒ The solution architect has the responsibility of evaluating not just technology environments, but also the scalability, maintainability, and performance of a product. An architect investigates third-party platforms and frameworks, as well as their benefits and risks.
In theory, one individual from a client’s side (at least) should be engaged actively in the discovery phase. That is because this individual will have comprehensive knowledge about a product’s requirements and objectives, and as such, will be able to optimize the efficiency of the discovery phase.
How Long Should the Discovery Stage Take?
There’s no set time period for the discovery stage. Depending on the project’s size and scope, it can last from one week to two months. Let the purpose of your discovery dictate how long you spent on it. If you’re working on a project idea that no one’s researched before, you might need a bit longer. One sprint (2 weeks) is a typical timeframe.
What Is the Cost for the Discovery Stage?
The cost may be fixed or calculated based on the hourly rates and the time spent. If you would like to get an estimate for your project’s discovery stage, contact DevCom senior management team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Can You Get After the Discovery Stage?
Here is a standard list of what you can get after the discovery stage (when effective). This can be changed depending on the existence or absence of technical expertise on the client’s side, the project size, type, etc.
- Solution overview – this fully describes the project, its goals, features.
- Industry analysis, that will take into account features of the industry where it will be applied.
- Competition analysis to identify valuable points that can be improved and implemented in product development.
- General development specification. It fully describes the suggested technology stack, frameworks, and software components to use.
- Architecture – a schematic, high-level outline of the dependencies between the main parts of the system infrastructure; the environment and physical layer that a new web application will run in and a list of the cloud provider technologies to be used.
- UX concept of the future application. It provides a clear understanding of how the project will work and feel once it is finished.
- Project members involved.
- MVP milestones. You will get a suggested phase of development – both a production schedule and a timeline for product development.
- A budget and engagement model.
- Recommendations for task execution sequences, risks, and dependencies.
The documents that you receive will be individually defined based on a project and its needs. Be mindful of the accuracy and structure of documentation – this will be a reliable indicator of the quality of service.
What Are the Next Steps After Discovery?
During the discovery, you build a foundation for your future business or solution success. The discovery phase helps to define the market demand, study the needs of the target audience, analyze competitors, evaluate strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT analysis), plan the budget, define the roles of your software development team, and come up with a well-planned software development timeline.
This way, you can move into design and development much more efficiently because of the clear requirements. This means easier backlog grooming for tasks during development and fewer instances where you have to request that the team make a change partway through development.
At DevCom, we devote much attention to the discovery stage. We ask questions that allow our project team to explore the subject area, its bottlenecks, offer high-level solutions, and build a project’s roadmap. Finally, we provide a client with an application wireframe, prototype, and design.
If you are ready to implement your ideas or scale your business, reach out to our business analysts for a free consultation.
Written by: Halyna Vilchynska, Head of Marketing at DevCom.