So much of the ultimate success of a start-up hinges on the discovery phase.
Less than 5% of all startups are successful. While that statement might sound dire, there’s hope. You can take certain steps to ensure you find yourself on the right side of those statistics.
Before you make another move in your business plan, you’ll want to understand what goes into the product discovery phase and how this simple yet effective step can make sure your product or services are unique, competitive, and customer-focused.
Here at Diffco, we understand the importance of the discovery phase in the success of any new venture. Today, we’re here to help break down the discovery phase for you, step by step.
What is the Discovery Phase?
The discovery phase is the initial phase of any successful new venture, from software projects to start-ups.
During the discovery phase, you and your team work together to think through high-level project-related matters to ensure that everyone is catching the same big-picture vision and is working on the same page.
During the discovery phase, you (or the team you’re working with) will engage in the following steps:
- Analyze the project
- Gather essential functionality requirements
- Define a market-fit
- Analyze every technical approach to find the one that will work specifically for the product
Many entrepreneurs skip the discovery stage in order to save time and money and head straight for the development part, which causes a mess. You wouldn’t try to build a house without a blueprint, right?
Therefore, the project discovery phase is essential. It helps startups and developers understand their products, plan out the work, and ensure that no surprises will pop up along the way. As a result, a solid discovery stage can lay a foundation for the overall product development process, helping to produce the desired MVP of any product much more quickly without hassles.
Think of the Discovery phase as a map in a dark forest. You’ll need it to choose the right trail.
Benefits of the Discovery Phase
Mainly, the discovery phase in software development is meant to anticipate and eliminate risks, such as lack of project understanding, the inability to fulfil all technical requirements, budget overspend and poor task prioritization.
In fact, you may enter the discovery phase thinking you’ve thought everything through, when, in reality, a deeper dive can reveal possible unexpected expenses connected to integrations, or it might be possible that your product might turn out to be completely different. You might need to build another application.
These surprises, when known beforehand, won’t cost you months of development. They basically won’t cost you anything because you are just in the planning stage, a sandbox, where you get to imagine how your final solution will operate to see if it ticks every box.
That’s why the main goals of the discovery stage are to test your ideas and implementation strategies, and optimize development costs and the speed of the product launch.
How the Discovery Phase Is Helpful
The discovery phase is not only essential for saving time and money in the long run, but it also carries some additional helpful benefits. If you’re still hesitant as to whether or not to proceed with the discovery stage, here’s a brief summary of the ideal outcome:
- A better understanding of the scope and goals of your product
- Market fit and defined market positioning
- Technical requirement and solution analysis
- Various approaches of the best technical solutions to meet your business goals in a more efficient way, taking budget, time, and quality into consideration
- Potentially fewer expenses and a properly planned budget.
If you ignore the discovery phase and start development right away, you risk a lot.
What Happens When You Skip the Discovery Phase
Skipping the discovery phase may feel good initially. You’ll initially feel very productive, and you may suspect you’re getting the jump on your competitors.
But over time, you’ll spy the cracks in your project’s foundations.
- Scope creep. To arrive at a specific destination, you have to know exactly where you want to end up. That’s why when you use a GPS system, you always enter a specific address. Without a clearly defined vision or end goal that everyone collectively agreed upon, it’s easy for your software development project to fall victim to scope creep with added tasks and work.
- Unrealistic deadlines. Because the discovery phase walks through a project step by step, it allows you to create practical and realistic deadlines that account for potential slow-downs and challenges. Without this, you’re likely to be facing fanciful and unrealistic deadlines that derail your project and make your launch date impossible to meet.
- Cost increases. Anticipating problems before you face them allows you to account for them in your budget. Without the wisdom that the discovery phase brings, you’ll likely face cost increases throughout your entire project.
Results don’t meet expectations. If you don’t know what you’re aiming for, you definitely won’t hit the mark. As we’ve previously noted, the discovery phase unifies the entire team within a shared vision. Without this, the final product won’t meet expectations.
Discovery Stage Team: Roles and Responsibilities
One of the main factors that influences your product’s success is the team that participates in the discovery phase.
Based on our experience, a team should be built individually for each product based on these factors:
- The complexity of the project and the documentation provided; mainly its accuracy and fullness
- If a project has a team with expertise.
Below are the people you’ll need on a typical discovery-phase team:
The Project Manager is responsible for planning and organizing project documentation, requirements and project ideas into a solid document with technical specifications. Also, this role is important for communication with the client and organizing the discovery process within the development team. Project Manager could also play a role of product owner or you can have another person for it.
The Business Analyst is in charge of the following:
- Tracking market research and analysis
- Defining the user pain points and needs
- Narrowing scenarios of the product usage
- Defining and monitoring the quality of data metrics and reporting
- Defining functional and nonfunctional project requirements and aligning them with business objectives
In these ways, the Business Analyst ensures the product’s market potential and profitability.
The UX Designer is responsible for product usability and intuitive navigation. Based on the results of user and product research, the UX designer creates storyboards, sitemaps and process flows, and interface elements. The UI designer focuses on the look and layout of the product and its elements, which work together to ensure that the product is both visually attractive and easy to use.
The Solution Architect is responsible for analyzing the technology environment and the performance, scalability, and sustainability of the product. Solution architects also investigate frameworks for development and platforms, along with their risks and benefits.
Also, it’s a good practice to involve people with different types of expertise in the discovery process. Their experience and ideas will bring maximum value to your product, because they will analyze it from different perspectives. Before hiring a team, ensure each member has the relevant experience to participate meaningfully in the discovery phase.
The Steps of the Discovery Phase
Practically speaking, the discovery phase will look something like this.
- Assemble a team. Based on the roles outlined above, build your team. Be sure to clearly define their roles and responsibilities so that everyone knows exactly what aspects of the project fall under their purview.
- Conduct interviews with your client or customer. Depending on the scope of your project, who you need to interview will change. Either way, this step allows you to gather all the information you need to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.
- Analyze research. Remember the importance of data-driven decision making? Market research and a working understanding of your competitors will help guide your next steps.
- Present solutions. The discovery phase always uncovers potential challenges. Once you discover what they are, you and your team can present solutions.
- Create a timeline and budget. Now that you have the big picture, you’re ready to lay out a timeline and budget based on well-informed opinions.
The Discovery Phase Deliverables
Ideally, as a result of the discovery stage, you will end up with the following deliverables:
- A complete PRD (Product Requirements Document) that includes a detailed description of the product with the technical requirements as well as the plan of the next development stages
- UI wireframes, UI prototype and user flow
- Market and competitors’ overview
- Solution analysis and technical specifications
- Integration plan and development plan
- Initial security overview (if required)
- A project timeline and budget estimate for the next development stages
The bottom line: the results of the discovery stage allow for the most efficient planning of the next development stages, product documentation, and overall product support. Discovery helps you define the goals of your product, study the needs of your target audience, analyze the competitors, plan the budget, and come up with a well-planned strategy.
Depending on the product goals and the team’s expertise, the discovery stage can take just two or three weeks. Given all you have to gain, why ignore such a crucial step?
To hear more about Diffco’s development services and how we can help you put your best entrepreneurial foot forward, please feel free to contact us at any time.