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Project Discovery Phase: Key Basis and Steps to Know

7 Mins read

The discovery phase of a software project is a complicated process that includes market research, systematization of a customer’s requirements, analysis of the product’s relevance and viability, estimation of the development costs, and often, creation of the MVP and visual demos.

This article is aiming to examine what is the discovery phase of a project and its relevance using the following structure:

1. Why Discovery Phase Matters?

2. What could a skipping of the Software Development Discovery Phase Lead to?

3. What are the Discovery Phase Benefits?

4. Who Must be Involved in the Discovery Phase of a Software Project?

5. Pitfalls of the Project Discovery Phase Process

6. Conclusion

7. FAQ

Our experience with various projects demonstrates that the discovery phase of a project in the software development is not just a pleasant bonus but a powerful tool that grants a lot of advantages.

Why Discovery Phase Matters

So what is the discovery phase? The discovery phase is a term that speaks for itself: to discover, to make the unknown – known and the invisible – visible.

The very first goal of the discovery stage is to determine the optimal architecture and functionality of a future system, defining what is redundant and what is essential to a project in a way that will satisfy stakeholders’ vision. This is where experience and knowledge make a big difference. 

Even if the idea of the project comes in a shiny package with a lot of details to it, it does not mean that a creator has considered all the possible nuances. There is always something a project owner was not able to notice due to the lack of knowledge or experience. A person could not be a professional in every field regarding developing a successful product.

Furthermore, nobody likes to pay more than is required. On the contrary, paying less may sound like an attractive proposition, but in reality, it may result in an insufficient quality of the product. Nobody wants their projects to be incompatible with the high standards of the modern market.

The discovery Phase is the first step of the project development cycle, it comes before the first line of code is written. It helps you to find the most efficient and cost-effective solution to your business needs and to come up with the full system design architecture, interfaces, and data to meet specific requirements.

If you’re wondering if you should consider the discovery phase for your project, try to find yourself in the list below:

  • Those who look to form and validate product vision.
  • Those pursuing guidance on creating a seamless user experience.
  • Those who need to elaborate on NFR in detail.
  • Those needing advice on selecting third-party partners for their fintech product.
  • Those wanting to set up a project plan with clear requirements and development tasks.
  • Those looking to reduce financial loss by covering the current user flows.

At Kindgeek, the product discovery phase is divided into two stages.

In the problem analysis stage, we focus on understanding your business pains, stakeholder and user needs, and product expectations to elicitate requirements. In the problem-solving stage, we delve into architecture design, and create user flows and UI/UX designs that align with your goals. We utilize high-fidelity prototypes to provide a realistic solution representation, allowing for valuable feedback and validation.

We also follow a three steps approach: discover, define and design.

During the first stage we are able to reveal real user pains, needs and gains and create hypotheses for the further product concepts. Define concept allows us to work on prototyping and testing in order to validate and define product scope. During the last stage, we design the defined product scope in the best possible way to make people love it from the first iteration.

What could a skipping of the Software Development Discovery Phase Lead to?

Uncertainty

Discovery phase of a project can provide you with measured human, time, and financial resources that your project requires. Without such analysis, the risk of unexpected expenses increases.

Misunderstanding 

Regular communication and engaging in in-depth discussions from the beginning of the development life cycle ensures a full understanding of the goals, expectations, and resources of the project. Skipping this first crucial discovery phase can lead to missed deadlines and extensions of product delivery.

Market fit fail  

During the discovery stage of the project, you are able to identify opportunities for differentiation, understand market trends, refine your product strategy, and perform end-user needs assessment. By skipping this step, you are increasing the risk to create a product that will not fit into the market.

What are the Discovery Phase benefits?

Reduce uncertainty

Analyze your ideas and vision beforehand and get confident regarding scope, timelines, team composition, and functionality to a level enough to begin implementation.

Optimise development timeline

Start seamlessly, move confidently, and optimize the implementation scope and roadmap matched to the budget.

Do competitors benchmarking

Identify opportunities for differentiation, understand market trends, refine your product strategy, and perform end-user needs assessment.

Select tools & technologies

Ensure to launch with the right technology and tools, and maximize the potential of getting off to a flying start.

Accomplish gap analysis

Identify and assess gaps between the current state of a product or project and its target state.

Optimise development budget

It’s an upfront investment that will lead to significant savings by mitigating scope creep risks in the early stages of development.

Who Must be Involved in the Discovery Phase of a Software Project 

During the project discovery stage, team composition is crucial for project success. The team collaborates closely with the Product Owner or visioner, ensuring alignment with the overall product vision and goals. A “discovery team” should consist of business analysts of the highest caliber and technological professionals/savvies. Only their coordinated teamwork can provide the best results.

Depending on the specific requirements of the project, the discovery phase team can be extended to include additional experts such as DevOps specialists, Mobile leads, or other domain-specific professionals. During the discovery stage, the business analyst takes the lead, supported by team leads, software developers, and the tiger team, who assist with the clearly prioritized scope on the level of detailing enough to provide an estimate and implementation roadmap. 

It is difficult to find a company that can conduct a professional and scrupulous project planning discovery phase considering the slightest nuances of a software solution that should be developed. On the other hand, a great business consulting company without technical expertise cannot do so either.  Only a company where technical expertise and business expertise coexist in harmony can provide you with the most competent discovery phase. Let’s discover why: 

  • A company that conducts the discovery phase as well as develops a product knows its team well and how much time it will take the team to develop a reliable and efficient solution. In this case, the estimation of the costs will be as accurate as possible. 
  • A company that develops your product/conducts the discovery phase should be as interested in the success of a project as you are. Otherwise, it would not be able to provide a viable result. In this case, when you are outsourcing your solution, you are paying not only for the process of development but for the business expertise of people who want to make your idea a reality.
  • Software development is a complex process that involves a lot of different tools and technologies and employees who mastered them to get the work done properly. Therefore, estimating costs is a task that cannot be performed “by eye.” It does not mean that otherwise, the estimation of costs would be done wrong. It simply means that if a single company does everything from scratch by itself, the results will be more accurate. 

Pitfalls of the Project Discovery Phase Process 

So, the goals of the discovery phase in thr project management are clear, but imagine all the skills and abilities that are required to achieve them. People dedicate significant chunks of their professional lives to mastering this process and avoiding possible pitfalls during different steps that the project discovery phase includes:

Problem identification

Defining the core problem or opportunity the product aims to address and clarify the objectives and goals. At this stage, you can easily focus on the goals of the product and forget about your main target customers. That’s why the next step is very important.

End-user needs assessment

It’s important to orient not only on the potential end user but involve real customers in the process by conducting interviews, observations, and surveys to understand user behaviors, needs, and pain points.

Market analysis

Collecting and analyzing information about the project, its intended market, and its audience to identify USPs and differentiators for the product. And don’t neglect your competitor’s research. Otherwise, you may miss some interesting trends and opportunities.

Ideation and concept generation

Brainstorming and exploring various ideas and potential solutions to find the most efficient and cost-effective solution. The most effective way to avoid pitfalls at this stage is to stay open-minded and innovative to find your place in the market.

Feasibility assessment

Evaluating the technical, financial, and operational feasibility of different concepts and narrowing the options. Here is where the importance of the right team that we outlined earlier will be especially noticeable. Proper team composition will allow you to efficiently define and outline each of the aspects. 

Prototyping

Creating basic prototypes or mockups to visualize and test the proposed solutions with users. Here it is important not to get too attached to prototypes and stay open to the new ideas and changes that may appear during discussion or user testing.

Validation

Testing and validating the proposed concepts through user feedback and iterative refinement cycles. Though it is important to have this stage at the end of your discovery phase, it doesn’t mean that there is no need for feedback earlier in the process. It is important at each step of the way to make proper and relevant improvements. 

Conclusion

A discovery phase in a software development is a great tool for ensuring that the future software product is relevant to the market, devoid of redundant functionality, and that its idea is polished. In addition, the discovery phase of a software product helps to determine the costs of the development and provides the basis upon which the rest of the software can be built.

We are a full-cycle fintech software development company with extensive business expertise, and we are well-versed in conducting effective discovery phases. If you think we can help you in making your vision a digital reality, contact us

What methodologies, techniques, and tools are used during the project discovery phase?

At Kindgeek, we leverage the combined power of Customer-centric design and the Lean Startup methodology throughout the product discovery phase by employing the following techniques:

  • Competitive benchmarking
  • Process and root cause analysis
  • Mind mapping
  • Sequence diagrams
  • Functional decomposition
  • NFR analysis
  • User story workshops
  • Prototyping
  • Backlog management

Is it necessary to involve stakeholders and end-users during the discovery stage of a project?

At Kindgeek, we actively involve stakeholders and, if needed, end-users during this phase. We conduct workshops, interviews, and requirements elicitation sessions to gather feedback and insights. We also employ various end-user research methods to gain insights into their preferences, pain points, and behaviors. 

What deliverables can be expected at the end of the software development discovery phase?

These deliverables will vary based on the project scope and requirements but typically include the following:

  • Click-through UI prototype
  • Mockups and UI kit
  • Architecture vision
  • Technology, frameworks  & tools
  • 3-party solution assessment
  • Infrastructure vision 
  • Implementation efforts estimate
  • Development team composition
  • Implementation budget
  • Implementation roadmap

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