Building your own unique solution is a serious decision and if you made it, you’d better do everything properly. After all, you have some expectations put on your future project and you do not want it to fail or make a wrong turn.
Everything starts with an idea but if you do not know how to shape that idea, where it can be applied, and what audience can make a good use of your solution, then you will not uncover the full potential of your future project. So what can you do to avoid this and create a solution that your potential audience needs? The answer is – pay special attention to the discovery phase before you initiate the software development.
Based on our experience we can say that whatever you represent (a startup or a successful company that needs digitalization), you need to dive into the discovery phase even if you think that you know everything about your business, future app, and potential users. On top of that, holistic research and gathering of information can help you to identify and eliminate all possible risks.
The Discovery phase is a crucial pre-development stage and it better be delegated to the team of professionals who have experience in researching the market for years. Yes, this service will cost you some money, but investing in such research you are investing in your project’s demand, competitiveness, and overall success on the market. This is not a way for a development company to make more money on your project, this is simply the way to help you build a truly relevant and versatile solution that will serve your business for years to come.
What is included in the discovery phase?
To begin with, let’s clear up what we mean under the discovery phase. Actually this is the first stage of the software development during which the team members and head managers (Business Analysts, Marketing Managers, Designers and other specialists depending on your particular project needs) are both collecting the information regarding your project.
According to the latest research, almost 50% of projects related to software development end up exceeding the initial costs the clients wanted to spend on them. Why exactly does that happen? Mostly because the projects lack holistic overall research able to mitigate all risks and set more or less exact timeline. The purpose of the discovery stage is to make sure that we, as tech takes, totally understand your business needs and requirements and to make your project cost and time effective.
Thanks to the discovery phase and fruitful cooperation with a client, the software development company like ours can do the following for your project:
- formulate high-level description of your project;
- create Project Vision Document;
- prepare functional requirements (read more here);
- select necessary technology stack;
- perform estimations (of your costs and overall development time);
- plan the development process itself and write specifications;
- create wireframes, mockups and architecture design (more about it).
Every project is unique and it requires attention from various specialists. For example, for some solutions, the consultation of Business Analysts, Developers, Scrum Masters, and Designers will be enough, but for other projects, we may need to include people with more specific expertise like Blockchain Techleads or Techleads from any other necessary sphere. And this is what makes the discovery stage so great – it is initiated to shape your specific project taking into account your particular needs.
Apart from well-defined project architecture and functionality, the discovery phase allows us to perform detailed estimations for your project. The development itself is a complex process and sometimes it is hard to evaluate precisely how much time and money it will take. However, if you have a clear concept, understanding of the current business situation, well-defined requirements, and objectives, and know all technical details related to your solution, then it becomes easier to set your development budget. That is why the discovery phase is a must. It helps to gather all those details and based on them perform all crucial calculations and provide you with the real numbers.
The Discovery phase can help you with the selection of the suitable development team because it demonstrates if the team has the necessary hard and soft skills, what it values if it gets what your business needs are. And what’s more important you can understand whether it is comfortable for you to work and communicate with that team, because communication means a lot in software development. It is not the best idea to jump into development without getting to know your team. After all, you would not want to spend your money on hiring a team that is not suitable and then looking for the perfect fit. It is always hard to restart the software development with another team taking into consideration how much work should be shifted and explained anew.
So, taking into account all of the above, let’s highlight the main advantages of the discovery phase:
- Optimized or reduced development costs. Due to precise project specifications, agreed architecture, and technology stack the development company can thoughtfully schedule the development stages, prioritize the tasks, and work more efficiently. This all leads to faster progress and as a result lower cost.
- Better project flexibility. The project’s scope can be altered or even changed only if you have a whole big picture of your project. This is a crucial benefit if you are developing an MVP to test your idea and need to be able to implement or remove some features.
- Risks mitigation. Let’s take deadlines as an example – if you have a clear understanding of your project and the team provided you with the estimations, chances are that the deadlines will be preserved and the risks of missing them are reduced by more than 80%.
- Predicted outcome. The Discovery phase allows us to divide your whole big project into small parts called user stories and use cases to describe and confirm how this or that feature is supposed to work. Which, in turn, leads to successful results.
- Helpful deliverables. The documentation you receive after the discovery phase can be used by you if you consider improving your project in the future, alter it, or somehow changing the concept but sticking with your initial business needs.
When do you need to perform a discovery stage?
For many years in the software development business we have been cooperating with numerous clients, and, based on our experience, we can say that there are situations when you especially need a discovery phase. Here are some of them we would like to point out:
- You do not have an idea of how your solution should come out. Of course, when you initiate software development you have certain expectations. However, sometimes they are far from reality and you need to evaluate the true situation to understand where to start and how to turn your concept into a successful solution.
- Your project is too complicated and requires long-term development. Without detailed specifications and set requirements for the final solution you may end up overpaying for your project and getting not exactly what you wanted. If you do not pay special attention to the discovery phase, market, and competitors’ research, and if you do not develop the necessary approach and strategy, you will lose a lot of time afterward and the development may take longer than you’ve expected.
- You have many people responsible for your project. Several stakeholders can cause a lot of contradictions and make requirements confusing. And this can influence your project development. However, if you have a Business Analyst you can be sure that the priorities will be set correctly and you will be explained what’s necessary for effective project development.
What exactly is being prepared during the inception stage?
The Discovery phase includes numerous stages and implies the preparation of many different documents. Here are some main ones you should be aware of:
#1 Analysis of your idea and business. We may need to discover what your business is about and how exactly you would like to improve it thanks to software development. It is also important to discuss your general app idea and vision to understand for what purpose you need a solution, what audience you are targeted at, what hopes and expectations you put on it. Personal interviews via phone or any convenient messenger are also a great practice because it allows talking to all interested or important parties (your CTO, senior managers, etc.). This is being done to establish a good level of communication between your team and ours in case we need to work on your project together.
#2 Marketing research. At this stage, our marketing specialists start exploring the market, your competitors, and the latest trends. They do this to help you find the best possible feature set for your solution, make it stand out from the competition, compare the strategies your competitors use (approach, monetization, target audience, their preferences and needs, the ways they engage with the solutions, etc.). Marketing research helps to shape your app, make it a unique and perfect fit for your users/customers.
#3 Technical documentation. At this stage, our team starts writing technical documents listing the requirements for your project. The technical documentation includes use cases, user stories, selection of technology stack, a listing of third-party services, or integrations that should be included. But before writing all those requirements we have a consistent dialogue with you, our client, and identify the purpose of your solution and your target users.
We may also suggest a way this new software can be incorporated into your current business model and environment. This is especially useful if you already have some digital solutions at your disposal but need some new ones to optimize processes or boost your business in a certain way.
We also create a Project Vision document that addresses the most crucial questions regarding your business, customers, productivity issues, performance issues, and desired business goals. For more information regarding Project Vision, read our article.
#4 Prototyping. This is when our designers start working upon your idea to provide you with the best suitable wireframes, logo mockups, and designs. They offer you several options for layouts, color schemes, and design concepts and consult with you to understand your vision. It is a crucial stage of the discovery phase as it defines how your solution will look like. Brand awareness and recognition are important, that is why we pay special attention to prototyping.
To wrap it up
Every project should benefit from the discovery stage because this is the only way that will allow you as a client to stick with your set budget, use time and human resources wisely and efficiently, avoid numerous business risks, and launch your project exactly when you need and want it.
By learning some important details regarding your business we as software developers can ensure that the project will be adapted to your budget, that it will include a necessary set of features meeting your business needs, and that it will let you stand out from your competitors. After all, our main task is to turn your idea into a real project that will satisfy you and make your business better and more profitable.