Discovery Phase: The Path to IT Project Success 

15. May 2024

By: Mária Vasiľová

Reading time: 3:46 min

SK

You have a great idea and a vision of what your application should look like and how it could function. You are at a critical juncture – finding a technology partner who can bring your idea to life. Time is of the essence. You can’t afford to “waste” it on discussions and analyses. You decide to entrust your requirements, along with the deadline and budget, to a company that accepts them without unnecessary questions. If you’re lucky, you get the result within the stipulated time and with a slight budget overrun.

It seems everything is working and there’s nothing stopping the launch. You pour money into the campaign… But the product doesn’t sell, and even the few customers you have don’t use your perfect application as expected.

Something went wrong.

What Could Have Been Done Differently

Delivering the solution on time and within budget doesn’t necessarily mean it will be successful. During software development, many decisions need to be made, from designing user interface components to structuring the backend. Every decision regarding technology selection must consider the business context. This applies to both the project owner and its executor – in our case, the software house. To build a successful product, you need to bridge the gap between these two worlds.

The initial “discovery” phase of the product, also known as the Discovery Phase, is the first step towards fully understanding the business vision and an opportunity to share know-how between the client and the technology firm. The goal is to find the safest and most effective path to successfully completing the project.

The Discovery Phase in an IT project is the bridge that connects the business idea with its technical implementation.

Why the Discovery Phase?

Every IT project begins with gathering various types of information to define its scope or verify its feasibility. In practice, however, we often encounter companies that skip the Discovery Phase. Often, it’s a matter of tight deadlines or limited budgets. In some cases, the client is confident they fully understand the project and consider it simply an unnecessary luxury. However, if you want to make data-driven decisions and reduce all risks associated with product development, the Discovery Phase will undoubtedly lead you to it.


What are the other benefits?

Reducing Application Development Costs

An improperly planned budget and unclear requirements can result in changes that may cost more than the entire Discovery Phase. On the other hand, thoroughly prepared documentation, which includes a risk analysis, improves coordination of activities and keeps costs at a pre-agreed level.

Idea Validation

No matter what idea you have, the Discovery Phase helps verify its feasibility. There are many factors that can slow down or completely halt development – for example, the unavailability of an API, various legislative barriers, or changes in technologies that you cannot control.

Setting Business Goals

A significant benefit of the Discovery Phase is a clear vision of the final product. This includes not only the technical solution, functionalities, and design but also the expected value the product should bring to its users. Part of the discovery process involves analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of competing products and identifying unmet user needs. This information allows us to shape the so-called Unique Value Proposition – a competitive advantage that will underpin the future product and marketing strategy.

The Discovery Phase Process

The Discovery Phase is carried out by a team of people with various specializations, each with clearly defined tasks and responsibilities (see image). The client comes into direct contact with the project manager and business analyst. In both cases, it is crucial to ensure smooth communication and make sure everyone is on the same page regarding the business vision of the project.

Business
Analyst

Gathers and defines business requirements, conducts in-depth interviews with the client.

UX/UI
Designer

Identifies user needs and creates solution prototypes based on these insights.

Developer

Proposes the technological solution and is responsible for choosing the optimal stack.

Project
Manager

Leads workshops and facilitates communication between the project team and the client.

Depending on the project, the Discovery Phase can last from two to eight weeks. In most cases, the discovery process in software development can be divided into four simple steps:

  1. We begin with a series of interviews with the client, during which we ask about competitors, the audience, existing infrastructure, gather project requirements, and any other information that can help us understand the stakeholders’ expectations and goals.

  2. As soon as we have the necessary information, we organize a workshop with key stakeholders and the analytical team. On the client’s side, it is important for individuals who can provide essential information, formulate expectations, and share necessary industry insights to attend the meetings. We approve the project scope, go through the details, and ensure all participants are on the same page.

  3. In the next step, our business and technology specialists get to work. They study the target audience, market, competition, trends, and industry standards, as well as existing infrastructure and technologies relevant to the project

  4. We prepare project documentation, a preliminary prototype, and other outputs. We usually organize another workshop with the client, where we present the project estimate, explain the proposed solution, go through the demo, and present the roadmap.

What Will I Gain and How Much Will It Cost?

The outputs of the Discovery Phase are essential for communication with potential investors or preparing the development stage of the project. Among other things, the client will find answers to the question of whether their project plan is realistic and feasible within the given time and budget.

Most Common Outputs of the Discovery Phase

The cost of the Discovery Phase increases with the complexity of the project and the required outputs. For projects with a higher degree of uncertainty, the scope of work is larger. In such cases, it is appropriate to choose the Time & Material cooperation model – the client pays for the work done.

Yes, the Discovery Phase requires an initial investment, but its cost is negligible compared to the price you will pay for a poorly planned or unsuccessful project. The cost of the Discovery Phase usually represents less than 10% of the total development costs, yet it brings enormous benefits and minimizes the risks associated with higher expenses in later stages of the project.

At Cassovia Code, we do not dive into projects blindly. We offer potential clients a free initial workshop, which allows us to determine whether and to what extent the Discovery Phase is necessary.

Curious or have queries?

Why not join us for an informal workshop where we aim to address your concerns!

Pavol Pavuk

The author of the article is a project manager passionate about agile methodologies. Pali oversees projects and pre-sales activities mainly in e-commerce and CX, ensuring two-way communication, mutual satisfaction, and the quality of deliverables.

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