What Is The Discovery Phase & Why It Matters

March 19, 2022

what is the discovery phase

If you believe that a ground-breaking concept, tight development deadlines, and a marketing plan are required to succeed in making your software development project hit the market, think more about it. In addition to significant rivalry and demanding clients, nine out of ten startup companies fail because their software solution lacks market fit.

What’s the key secret to that 10% that survive in the market? The key is the “discovery phase.” The discovery phase is an essential component of successful project management, and it has a vital role in the success of your digital agency.

development process

Many digital agency owners make the mistake of jumping into a project without a project roadmap, determining the needs and critical outcomes, and establishing appropriate milestones. This is what the blog post will discuss in detail.

The discovery phase is an essential component of successful project management, and it has a key role in the success of your digital agency.

The software development discovery phase is not a silver bullet, but it is essential for business owners to finish their software projects on time and within budget. However, you’ll discover more about the discovery phase, its procedures, and how it may help your product be more competitive and client-focused.

What is the Discovery Phase?

The discovery phase (sometimes known as scoping phase) is when you assess the target market, determine if the project software-market fit (the need for a product on the market) exists, and gather all of the software requirements specifications and objectives.

Many people skip the discovery phase process, believing it to be a waste of time, money, and other resources. However, this phase allows firms to understand their customers better and develop software solutions that aid them in genuinely addressing their issues.

Thus, the discovery stage aids in the coordination of development by connecting clients’ business goals with their users’ requirements.

business owner

In other words, the discovery stage is the procedure in which data regarding the software project is collected and evaluated, such as information, the target audience, and the market. This makes it easier to understand the project’s objectives, restrictions, and overall scope.

According to McKinsey, 17% of all projects are so terrible that they eventually spell the demise of their firms. According to the same report, almost 45 per cent of projects reach or surpass their projected expenditures. This can be catastrophic for digital agency owners. That is why the initial stage is crucial when you look for what could be wrong.

The first step in preventing this issue is to go through a project discovery phase. The discovery stage lets the agency figure out the project’s aim, goals, and scope. The five stages of project management are initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and control, and closing. However, by preceding this stage with a project discovery period, an organization can make things easier.

Discovery Phase Team: Its Roles and Responsibilities

The team that participates in the product discovery stage greatly influences your product’s success. However, a team should be created for each client based on two criteria:

  • The client’s documentation, as well as its accuracy
  • The client’s team and its experience

The following are the individuals you’ll want on a typical discovery-phase team:

1. Project Manager

The project manager is in charge of arranging meetings with the client, taking notes of all the essential project details discussed during those meetings, and organizing productive collaboration between the product discovery and development teams. They are also in charge of creating all the necessary records for the discovery stage.

2. Business Analyst

The business analyst is in charge of market analysis and study and product-market fit and profitability. The business analyst ensures that the data metrics and reporting are acceptable.

discovery phase leads

Business analysts also define functional and non-functional project requirements linked to company goals. There are various reasons why you’ll need a business analyst to get the product off the ground.

3. Tech Lead

The product management technical lead works extensively with the client, defining technological specs, establishing a development method and sequence, and providing time estimates.

4. UX/UI Designer

The UX designer manages the product’s ease of use and intuitive navigation. The UX designer creates storyboards, sitemaps, and process flows based on user and product research findings. The UI designer is concerned with the product’s appearance and structure and its components to ensure that it is visually appealing and user-friendly.

5. Solution Architect

The solution architect is in charge of assessing the technological environment and the product’s performance, scalability, and maintainability. In addition, to evaluate the architecture and technical components, architects evaluate third-party frameworks and platforms and their risks and benefits.

discovery phase in software

It’s a great concept to enlist the help of individuals with varied backgrounds throughout the discovery process. They’ll bring a wealth of expertise and ideas to the table since they will look at your product from several perspectives.

When you’re looking for a discovery stage team to assist with your research, make sure all the project team members have the appropriate experience to contribute meaningfully during the discovery process.

The Essential Elements of the Discovery Phase

If you can complete the project discovery phase, subsequent project management stages will be easier to execute. You must concentrate on specific components that you should pay attention to, starting with a cross-functional team.

The project manager is typically well aware of the client’s needs before the discovery phase has begun. They must ensure that all critical deliverables are assigned to the proper personnel. The following are the five most important components of a successful discovery phase:

1. Creating a Discovery Team

The project manager must assemble a team of diverse experts with distinct talents. People with various interests and expertise should be part of the discovery team. The project and their expertise will determine the inclusion of these individuals in the team. The team should include the following:

  • A project manager
  • Business analyst
  • A UX/UI designer
  • A technical expert/developer
  • Project analyst
phase in software development

The first stage is to conduct stakeholder interviews. The manager is in charge of discussing the technical specifics of the project with the client and sitting down with the discovery team to ensure that all of their questions are addressed.

Make sure that everyone understands the plan and that responsibilities are accurately assigned. This establishes the project’s tone and ensures everyone understands their roles from the project’s discovery phase.

2. Research

The research stage is a critical aspect of the project discovery process. It’s also a good tool for product managers and employees to overview the work of the different project components. The three main categories of research are as follows:

i. Client Interviews

For correspondence and reporting, many agencies employ a variety of management solutions. Hold extensive interviews with the client ahead of time to figure out how the project will move forward.

This is where inquiries and misconceptions are addressed. Customer interviews are critical since they establish expectations for the project and guarantee that the firm does not have to worry about scope creep later.

ii. Market Research

What is the status of similar projects in the industry? This is where you establish project goals and standards and create benchmarks after doing market research and examining comparable projects in the market.

software requirements specification

An agency may better define the project’s objectives by conducting industry research. This also aids project managers in determining where the agency can provide more value to the project.

iii. Competitor Research

Competitor research, on the other hand, is more focused on different digital firms that are in a similar sector. During this part of the discovery stage, you are responsible for determining the standard of excellence that your competitors follow and the sort of items they create.

During the discovery phase of project management, you’ll better understand pricing variations, allowing you to charge clients a competitive price.

3. Presenting the Solutions

After completing your research during the project discovery stage and discovering solutions, you must communicate your findings to the client. Create a thorough presentation that includes an overview of the dashboards tracked throughout the project (if any custom ones are developed).

discovery phase deliverables

During the project discovery phase, the project manager will present the solution and value offered by the firm. Project managers employ a range of visual aids to express their concepts, such as wireframes.

4. Establishing the Timeline and Development Budget

Creating milestones and well-detailed project budget estimates is one of the essential phases in the discovery stage. During this phase, look for any bottlenecks that might slow down or cause issues in the project and a complete timeline for each project stage.

business and technical requirements

In addition, the agency is in charge of producing a thorough budget that itemizes all anticipated costs throughout the project’s duration. If a precise budget cannot be established, use an estimate instead.

It’s critical for the project manager to show the timetable and budget to the clients and get their approval. It will assist the firm with client administration and deploy resources as needed. Furthermore, once you’ve reached a preliminary agreement in place, you can be rest confident that the client won’t back out.

5. Identify and Decide on the Next Actions

After you’ve finalized the project development details in the project discovery phase, you may discuss them with the client and begin negotiations about starting the project. In most situations, this is a formality, but you never know when a client may offer one of their suggestions or request that you modify something.

Work closely with clients and let them know where things stand in the project and how you’ll go forward. If they have an idea, you may implement it to save time and money in the future.

The Benefits of a Discovery Phase

1. Reduce Risks

Thorough knowledge of your objectives and requirements enables the development team to provide accurate time and budget estimations. The probability of missing deadlines is reduced by 75 per cent. The overall cost savings may be as much as 50%. Finally, the distinction between success and failure is often determined during the discovery stage.

2. Establish a Roadmap

When the team has a clear set of needs, they may produce a step-by-step strategy and stick to it. You’ll receive a comprehensive project timeline and interim objectives, deliverables, and deadlines.

customer journey map

That will get the product from concept to launch without rescheduling or changes. The findings generated during the discovery phase may improve the startup’s viability with investors and attract more investment.

3. It Builds Trust

You can’t be entirely sure that you’ve made the best selection of an IT vendor even after a convincing sales pitch. You may also discover you’ve made the wrong selection and decide to change firm before it is too late when your funds are gone. Regular contact and in-depth discussions of your project with the team, on the other hand, will reassure you and enhance two-way trust.

Why Does The Discovery Phase Matter?

If you’re working with a client who doesn’t understand the significance of a discovery phase, here are eight reasons why you should emphasize them.

1. Enhance Solutions

Understanding your client’s objectives, vision, and priorities may assist you in determining what they want to achieve as a company. You can provide improved solutions based on your prior experience or fresh discoveries from your study once you’ve established your aim.

2. Maximize existing resources

When you’re researching, you may discover resources to improve your process by looking into your client’s past projects and efforts. This may help cut down on duplicate effort, lowering costs and time for everyone concerned.

3. Align expectations

Doing research will provide you and your clients with a more accurate picture of the situation. This establishes common ground on what the project is and isn’t capable of achieving, allowing for reasonable and fair expectations before work begins.

4. Anticipate issues

During the discovery phase, you may benefit from subject-matter experts and relevant personnel who can provide more insight on the issues. It also allows you and your team to anticipate possible bottlenecks before they occur, ensuring that your project goals are feasible.

5. Improve Efficiency and Execution of Your Operations

A good understanding of your client’s sector, the core drivers of your project, and constraints will help you identify possibilities and prepare for difficulties.

technology stack

When developing your process, keep an eye out for your findings and consider them. This may assist you in ensuring that everything goes as planned.

6. Estimate Accurately

Looking into the prerequisites necessary to deploy your project deliverables and satisfy project demands will help you incorporate them into your quotations.

Your perspective on possible stumbling blocks and bottlenecks will help you build adequate padding and contingencies so that your team can overcome them without delay.

7. Reduce Cost

It might appear to be another expense to add a discovery phase. However, you and your client may have a better chance of avoiding far more significant changes with proper study and agreement throughout the production process.

Overhauls are more expensive as the project goes on; therefore, it’s critical to address them as soon as possible. It’s also feasible to avoid them in a discovery phase.

8. Increase Confidence for all Parties

Without a doubt, some ambiguity is an inevitable component of every project. Taking actions to reduce it is still an excellent approach to boost team and stakeholder confidence.

development process aligned

Securing enough information will allow your team to judge based on facts rather than guesswork. Project risks will be more controlled, allowing everyone to feel more at ease as things proceed.

How to Nail the Discovery Phase

Creating a comprehensive project map is one of the most effective methods to succeed in the discovery phase. This map will highlight the project’s various stages and critical outcomes. You may, however, build a comprehensive dashboard that allows all project participants to check it at any time.

Creating a comprehensive project map is one of the most effective methods to succeed in the discovery phase.

development company

After you’ve done a lot of studies, present it with the clients and get their thoughts. Collaborate closely with your clients to nail the discovery stage. Make changes based on their ideas and ensure that both parties proceed in the right direction.

This time might be the ideal moment to plan and create a contract with an agency. Ask the client to sign off on it as well. You can get everything in place before the project formally begins if you do so. Finally, you’ll know that the client agrees with the road map you’ve drawn up.

Conclusion: How Project Discovery Phase Improves Your Business

Project discovery is a crucial component of any well-executed project planning process. It makes things easier for your agency, but it also favorably impacts your clients’ opinions of you. Clients prefer working with well-structured agencies, and this is an excellent method for you to ensure that everything runs smoothly and on schedule.

business objectives

The actual value of a discovery phase extends beyond the bounds of a functional specification. It allows teams to be more creative in their quest to satisfy business and user demands by giving them context.

It allows you to explore and learn and aids in establishing your product’s objectives, evaluating the needs of your target audience, analyzing the competition, budget planning, and creating a well-thought-out strategy.

About the author: Joe Silk -

Joseph is a freelance writer who focuses on sharing our Startup Oasis team's abundant knowledge with the rest of the world. Our team has no secret for anything to do with Startups, SaaS software firms, technology, Web and mobile apps, IoT, UI/UX Design. View on Linkedin