Once you decide to start a small business, it is a great temptation to jump straight into the coding stage. Nevertheless, if your goal to build a scalable, reliable and high-quality digital product you should choose another approach.

It is crucial to have some level of understanding of whether your product will be able to justify resources (time and money) dedicated to its implementation. Therefore, if you have only a general idea of a product or you’ve already drafted a business plan with detailed specifications, still you have to evaluate your project concept. In such a case, before the team of experts starts the development process the project discovery phase needs to be undertaken.

At 2muchcoffee, we follow a precise procedure of how to implement a discovery phase. We will share our personal approach in this article as well as shed the light on what is the discovery phase and what benefits it has for your new product development.

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What is Discovery Phase?

The discovery phase is a comprehensive research practice to collect as much as possible information in order to scope and plan your entire digital project. It has to be the first step in the process of product development since the discovery phase aims to gain a detailed understanding of the market niche and the end-user demands.

For a product owner, it is crucial to understand that a discovery phase of the project is about learning what you have, what you want and what you need. Moreover, it’s a great chance, for both a client as well as devs and managers - to “discover” the purpose of the development project, and ensure that a client gets the product that will correspond to his needs.

Despite the fact, it may sound simple and easy, it is a complex process of research that involves the whole team. In particular, the discovery phase involves activities such as:

  • Framing and establishing business goals;

  • Conducting market and user research;

  • Evaluating the main competitors in the market;

  • Mapping the customer journey.

The discovery phase is meant to define all of the technical requirements of your website, and ensure that they can be implemented within your timeframe and your budget. In fact, the discovery process is the most essential stage of the software development life cycle.

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Why Do You Need Discovery Phase? The Benefits for Your Project

Despite the fact, the discovery process helps to manage time, energy and budget while creating a top-notch product, it has a few more benefits.

Focus on the Right Solution

A discovery phase helps the team to understand the concept of the project better. So, the team can underline and evaluate the main drivers of the project rather than just followed by the proposed solution of the client. Once the expert team understands the project background they can suggest alternative solutions. Somewhat than a client (who doesn’t have a required background) might not even think is possible to implement. Such solutions are often either better, or cheaper than those proposed by the client.

Focus on Goals

Success is not only a product delivering on time and on budget following the precise specifications. It is much more than that. Success defines by the more broad notion such as improving conversions, increasing organic traffic and a growing number of leads. Sometimes the mentioned objectives might be unintentionally neglected. In that case, a well run discovery phase should fix this issue. While the discovery process frames the clear vision of direction during the development process.

Focus on User Needs

Quite often the projects are defined without a clear understanding of what the end-user demands. In that case, there high chances to create a product that nobody needs which eventually would an enormous waste of time and money. But even if the team will have done some user research, it is vital that the digital team will have an opportunity to spend some time with users. In that case, a project discovery can shed light on the customer’s needs.

Focus on the Context

Finally, a discovery phase provides a context for the many decisions that happen on a daily basis during the project. It will reduce costly mistakes, misunderstandings, and unnecessary functionality. The better informed the digital team are, the faster good decisions can be made and the better the final solution.

The major benefit from the discovery phase is that the project requirements and specifications can be validated based on evidence, not an assumption. Consequently, a balance between the business goals, the needs, and wishes of the users is achieved.

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How We Undertake the Discovery Phase

For brand new startups to navigate the business labyrinth might be quite overwhelming. That is why we provide the option of undertaking a discovery phase. Our clients may rely on the level of our expertise. Our mission is to help you to fulfill the potential of your new business idea. The purpose of the dev team and managers is to assist a client with building a high-quality product by means of framing the best solutions.

Throughout the discovery phase, we are trying to understand from the client:

  • What do you have at the moment in terms of idea, specifications, plan, systems, tools, processes?

  • What is the desired state of the product in the future?

  • What we (as a team) need to know to achieve the desired results?

First of all, we start our discovery phase with the discussion with the client. Our aim is to collect as much information as possible about the product vision and suggestion, what was the motivation to come up with such an idea and the client’s expectations about the development prospects of the new product. Framing the client’s point of view is crucial at this stage since our team needs to find the right solutions based on the client's wishes.

The discovery phase is a collective work with a focus on the common goal - produce a high-quality product. In our practice, the team of specialists gathered together while discussing the project. The major participants are a business analyst, UI-UX designer, back end developer, front end developer, quality assurance (QA) specialist, project coordinator.

Business analysts are responsible for analyzing the product idea and conducting market research. Moreover, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors are essential for your own product success. Therefore, we put under scrutiny a client’s main competitors on the market niche. We focus on their social media presence, web/mobile statistics, provided services, and killer features, types of monetization, referral systems as well as overall brand positioning. The mentioned categories are helpful to frame competitive advantages and the right business strategies in the future. In fact, business analysis is a foundation for the detailed business model for the client’s project. Additionally, on this basis, the exact specifications for the development team are framed.

The process of UI-UX design includes user research and developing wireframes, user flows, intuitive user interface layouts and product prototypes. In this case, a designer’s role is to make sure that the digital product provides a user-friendly experience to the targeted customers and users.

The role of devs provides tech suggestions regarding the project. In general, back-end dev implements web/mobile application logic with the help of a scripting language, while front-end dev is in charge of implementing visual elements of the app that users interact with through their web or mobile devices. Since the tech stack is the foundation of the whole product that will build on top, the input of developers is significant at the stage of discovery. Based on the client’s visionary idea devs suggest the suitable tech stack so the product will be scalable, with a clear code base and the right architectural decisions.

A QA specialist is responsible for ensuring the correct and flawless operation of a software product, while the project coordinator manages the schedule and budget of the project and reports issues like possible risks in the process of development.

In fact, the discovery phase is a transformative key between the initial state of the project and the desired product. Due to the outcomes of the project discovery phase, a team will be able to come up with the perfect solution precisely for each client’s case.

As the team of experts moves through the discovery phase, we produce certain documentation to capture all findings along with any follow-up actions that need to be further explored or answered. These documents are typically stored within a central location (such as shared Drive) and made available to all members of the project team. The documentation provides answers to the following questions:

  • Who are the current project team and what are their responsibilities?

  • What is the project vision/goals and objectives?

  • What are the potential risks identified and what are their impacts?

  • What is the result and analysis of the research?

  • What user stories/requirements are we looking to deliver against?

We don’t simply build what the client asks us to build. Instead of it, we consider how the project fits into the current infrastructure and provide recommendations on how to build the best product it could be.

Conclusion

The discovery phase is a period when everyone who involve in the project, from developers to managers and more, can get on the same page by means of researching and collecting valuable data about the product. The discovery phase at the stage of project management helps to provide answers to the following questions: What are the business goals that need to be achieved? What are the main target audience? How is success defined in this particular case and how to achieve it?

The discovery phase should not be considered as a luxury, but rather as a crucial element in the process of new product development. It will reduce the risk of misunderstandings and costly mistakes, and allow both you as a client and your team of devs and managers to make better decisions regarding your product.

We hope that the article will be helpful to you. In case you still have any questions or suggestions feel free to contact us and we gladly assist you in any inquiries.