Crucial guidelines on software product discovery

Oct 06, 2022

In our conversation we have raised some crucial issues about the discovery phase. What is the discovery phase and what is it for? What values does it bring, what types of discovery exist, does every project need discovery?What concerns people may have regarding the discovery phase? Our guest, Chief Officer of Business Analysis Department at Linkup, Ira Skorokhoda, will help us to figure out all the tiny details of the discovery phase. She has more than 10 years of experience in business analysis and auditing of software projects.

If you have ever dealt with software development companies, you came across such a concept as the discovery phase. It is the first development phase in the development process of digital products. The main aim of this phase is to translate the project vision and concept into its technical realization. The team collects information, analyzes, and explores the market, competitors, and target audience. And then, based on these outcomes, design the solution and build a detailed implementation plan.

The discovery phase really helps to articulate and validate the business needs and the goals that we need to achieve for the client.

The purpose of the discovery phase is to help to reduce cost, save money and make a better solution for the client.

If you want to build something good, reliable and something that will bring income, you should not sacrifice the scoping and planning phase, otherwise all this fuss at the beginning will result in painful and costly changes at the end.

Would you start building a house without plan, without sketches and understanding what infrastructure and communication your house needs?

Do existing projects need a discovery phase?

Discovery is crucial. Can we continue using the same technology and improve the product? Or is it reasonable to start rebuilding the product from scratch? Developing something from scratch is often easier than modifying something which already exists, because you have a lot of limitations of existing platform.

Mostly, discovery is required prior to development. Whatever needs you have, you must conduct a discovery phase.

There is no one classic standard discovery approach that would apply to all cases. Sometimes we can't predict what will be the most useful for this exact project. That is why we always leave space for adjustments.

For example, just two weeks ago, we finished the discovery phase for one cryptocurrency project, and our discovery team was able to save 42% of the initial budget, which we allocate for the discovery, and it's actually crazy saving.

Discovery team is formed based on the project specifics, and it consists of dedicated specialists with diverse experience to cover all the areas that might be needed during the discovery phase. Most commonly, it consists of business analysts, UI/UX designer and the tech architect.

What deliverables can we expect after the discovery phase?

The output is the development plan with the detailed time and cost estimates, the milestone releases and so on. It will also include the technology, team composition, also some kind of risk and limitation that we should be aware of during development.

Is this estimation really 100% accurate or is there still some percent of uncertainty and risk in it?

It’s impossible to predict all the changes that might occur or the situation that we need to adapt to. So this is where the risk comes in. However, they are way more realistic than the one we have at the beginning.

Can we change the product development implementation plan during the development?

In this digital fast changing environment product must be tuned with the latest market trends, tech achievements and must continuously meet the challenge and user needs. World practice shows that agile and flexible approaches work better for the innovative digital product.

Let's assume the situation that you're in development and have identified such a cool idea then can make the product better. So, why not apply it, just because you have some brilliant plan that just doesn't work now?

What role does communication play in the discovery?

Your communication helps to coordinate the process and do the right steps, limited communication may cause misunderstanding, and reworks as a result, really take the project vision and development in the wrong direction.

How to estimate the discovery for the new project?

It depends on the project scope, its complexity, specific deadlines we need to meet. It helps to build the plan, prioritize the scope and define the right steps for what to do. Even having a cool team of 10 developers and skipping the discovery phase, as a result, you will be out of schedule and out of budget.

Can we offer some things that can reduce the timeline in the event of critical deadlines?

It's still better to invest in the discovery in post quantum scope than cut the deadlines and try to make something in the rush.

Discovery can be run as a standalone service for specific reasons. And the most common one is the proof of concept or feasibility check.

Is the discovery worth the cost and time spent on it?

It definitely does. It delivers the plan with the steps on what and how to do that serves as the foundation for development. So without a plan, without requirements, tech direction, the designs, it would be just some chaotic ideas that might not work together. It helps to achieve the business needs and the result the client is seeking to have at the end.

The conclusion is:

Every company conducts discovery based on their inner process and adjusts it up to their needs. And the result of the discovery in one company may drastically diverse from the result of the discovery in another one. So, if you plan to work with some development or design agency on the discovery phase, be very clear about what they include in their discovery, what process they propose, what the deliverables you will receive at the end. And the most important, why this is important for your project, why they propose exactly these deliverables for your project, make sure that what they propose is really useful.

If you want to hear our full story, our guidelines on the discovery process, why you definitely need it, listen to our new podcast.


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