According to statistics of 2021, around 42% of small businesses have closed “because there was no market need for their products or services”. Around 19% of businesses closed “because their competition out-performs them”. Why does this happen? There are a lot of startups that have failed because of poor planning and research during the discovery phase or its absence. Trying to save time and money, many startups lose their clients, quality of product, and skilled workers.
The project discovery phase is what helps avoid or minimize most issues and saves you from failure. Investing in research, you are getting the opportunities to find out all the important information about the market, your competitors, test your ideas, set the budget, and find answers to the most crucial questions.
This article focuses on the role of the discovery phase of a software development process. You will learn about its importance and find out how it impacts the outcome. So don’t delay reading the next paragraphs.
What is a Project Discovery Phase?
The discovery phase is the preparatory stage of the project development process. It’s a process of going into detail about your future product. This implies the analysis of the market, target audience, and its needs/requirements, and finding the best practices and technologies for your project. At this stage, you have to find out about the weaknesses of your competitors. This information will help you outperform them. After the agile discovery phase, you will know exactly what to do (or at least have an understanding of that) and what resources you are going to need. To put it simply, it helps avoid disappointment (both to your expectations and the end-users (i.e. your customers)) by eliminating the risks.
Why Do You Need a Discovery Phase?
Of course, when you have been hatching an idea for many years and you are one hundred percent sure what to do, the discovery phase may not be vital for your project. Nonetheless, you have to know that in 2021, almost 90% of all startups fail (claimed by Embroker). Still, many founders are neglecting the discovery phase since it isn’t a part of the development process. However, for a startup, it’s crucial in most cases. Here are those cases:
- Your idea is raw
When your idea is uncertain and blurred, you can’t start the development process right away. In such a situation, you won’t be able to do anything without investing in the development phase.
- There are misunderstandings within the team
If you are not the only person working on the idea, it’s almost impossible to avoid contradictions. In this case, the discovery phase is a must. It will help turn conflict into the discussion, give life to new ideas, and maintain a friendly atmosphere in the team. All these aspects are crucially important at the start.
- Your project is difficult-to-implement
The greater the project the costlier the mistakes. The difficult project requires more attention to the analysis of the market, target audience and competitors, and makes the implementation of changes a hard task. In addition, such projects require more time than the others, and this may lead to the loss of goals and data. After the discovery phase, you will have all the documentation at hand, as well as a clear plan and certain deadlines. To maintain the complex project at a decent level, you need the discovery phase.
- When there is no room for mistake
Sometimes, one single mistake can put an end to your startup without any chance for recovery. In this case, you have to do everything possible to eliminate any possible mistakes by beginning your project from a discovery phase.
What’s Gonna Happen If You Skip The Project Discovery Phase?
The discovery phase helps you set realistic expectations in accordance with your budget and terms. However, many founders tend to skip it because they are trying to make the process of development less time-consuming but, in most cases, they only waste more time. Here is why skipping the discovery phase is bad idea:
- The lack of initial research frequently leads to the need to completely change the way of development on a half-road of the process.
- It may be the reason for uncertainty within the team which leads to wasted resources and money.
- The final product doesn’t meet the expectations of stakeholders and clients.
If you skipped the development phase at the beginning, you can take it in the middle of the process. It will allow you to fix the mistakes you may have made in the initial steps.
Benefits of The Discovery Phase
The discovery phase gives such privileges as:
Reduction of risks. If the discovery phase was performed by skilled specialists, it will help save your project from mistakes that may lead to:
- overdue deadlines;
- the lack of market for the product;
- wrong choice of technologies and methodologies for achieving the goals;
- overpriced maintenance of the ready product;
- issues with communication within the team and coordination.
The attraction of investors and potential clients. As the discovery phase is finished, you have a prototype that helps gain the trust of investors. You also have knowledge about the audience that expects to get your product.
Exact estimation of the required resources. If you won’t have all the necessary resources or will have the wrong ones, your project may fail in the first stages. The discovery phase helps find out how much time and money you will need for each stage of the development process, specialists you are going to need for the project implementation, and other resources you may require.
Clever prioritization is one of the most important parts of a successful product. This allows you to optimize the development process in a way to makes sure that all required functions fall within the scope. During the discovery phase, you will get all the necessary information to assign the priorities in the right way to develop the strategy.
Specialists Involved in the Discovery Phase
The Discovery phase requires collective work, so each member of the software development team is involved.
Product Owner (PO)
The product owner is the main decision-maker, the one who is responsible for the idea to create a certain product. This person is clearly aware of who is going to use the product. As a product owner, during the discovery phase, you need to take part in all meetings and answer questions of the team members; you can also take part in the planning and product analysis.
Stakeholders may play a key role in the discovery phase. They can share valuable information about the target audience and industry insights. Stakeholders also define requirements and information about their expectations, helping make the project better.
Project Manager (PM)
A project manager is a person who organizes communication between the team members.
During the discovery phase, the project manager is responsible for ensuring that it goes successfully.
Business Analyst (BA)
As a business analyst, you have to find the best solutions for product development after studying the goals of the project. The BA does everything for the product to meet all the demands of the target audience.
A UI/UX designer creates the end design of the software that needs to be as convenient and attractive as possible. Also, this expert is responsible for the design being unique by carefully studying the competitors during the discovery phase.
A solution architect analyzes the product performance and offers technologies that can help make it better. This person builds your product’s architecture and is also responsible for its scalability and maintainability.
During the discovery phase, the software tester’s main responsibility is the development of a plan for proper MVP testing.
What Does a Discovery Phase Consists Of?
Discovery Phase Step-by-Step
The discovery phase can last from two weeks to two months. During this period, you have to do the next:
- Collect information about the target audience. You have to know who will use the product and what problems your product can solve. The detailed answers to these questions will help you understand how your software should look like and what functions it should perform.
- Analyze the market. By analyzing the market, you will gather the necessary information to develop a plan for your future work.
- Communicate with stakeholders and top management. At this stage, you should set goals and elaborate a plan.
- Study your competitors. By doing this, you will find out how competitive the market is and determine your main competitors, as well as their weak and strong sides, and make use of the obtained information.
- Create the Product Requirement Document (PRD). The PRD is, in fact, the feature list of the future product. It includes all the technical requirements. It should give a clear understanding of what the product should do. It should serve as a guide for the development team.
- Develop the prototype. A prototype allows testing a concept and making sure that the idea is workable. In addition, it lets you see where the problems may occur.
- Test the feedback. This stage helps you refine the prototype. Gather and process the feedback from the first users, correct the mistakes, and implement the necessary changes so that your product met the needs of the users in full.
- Determine the resources and methods of work. At this stage, you have to set the deadlines, find out which specialists you are going to need, etc. For this, you will have to have clearly set goals and requirements for the project.
- Prepare for the development process. When you finish with the product architecture, documentation, and code audit, you can start the development process.
- Develop the roadmap. The roadmap will help the team and the management clearly sees how the development process goes. Also, it will make following the established plan easier. In fact, it’s a description of all the actions that will be taken to achieve the goals and satisfy the requirements. It should include timing, stages, and possible problems that may influence budget and timing.
After the discovery phase of the project has finished, the client should receive:
- Estimation of costs
- Product architecture
- Plan and roadmap
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