The discovery phase in software development is the initial analytical stage that defines the product’s main objectives, tasks, and requirements. At this stage, the parties involved collect data, figure out key risks, and set issues to be solved in the development process.

Having completed the Discovery Phase, customers decide what they want to do with the project afterward, either to start preparing everything for the development or abandon the idea altogether. Sometimes, it is necessary to go back to the Discovery if the obtained results are insufficient to make a decision and additional data is required.

This article will detail what the Discovery Phase in software development looks like in practice, why it is necessary to perform such work during software development, and what benefits customers receive from it.

32% of IT projects face challenges due to unclear objectives and outcomes. 20% of projects are delivered late. Poor requirements are the leading cause of project failure at 39.03%.


How to Conduct Project Discovery: Workflow Overview

The phase takes a relatively short time (usually one week to a month, depending on project complexity). However, it significantly shortens the product development period, reduces costs, and mitigates risks.

The Discovery is a step-by-step process. Therefore, it is necessary to start with global business objectives and go down to specific actions done by users when they interact with the system.

There are five main steps of Discovery phase for software project:

  • Step 1. Stakeholder Identification & Communication
  • Step 2. Documentation & Market Research
  • Step 3. Gather System Requirements
  • Step 4. Defining Project Architecture & Tech Stack
  • Step 5. Development Time & Budget Estimation
Discovery stage main steps
The project discovery phase includes these steps

The non-obvious positive effect of the Discovery is that customers and development service providers come to a common understanding of the system to be developed and establish contact that is so important at the next development stage.

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The 7 Main Benefits of Product Discovery

As you have already understood, even though product discovery is not directly related to software development, it is crucial for almost any such project. Therefore, let us look at the main advantages the Discovery Phase may yield.

Clear understanding of needs

Research is important in product development to establish customer needs and problems that need solving. This understanding is critical for producing a product that truly solves real-life problems.

Customer needs in software development
What the customer really needed, cartoon

Resource/cost optimization

When risks are identified at an early stage of development, it is easier to find strategies to handle them before they get worse. This helps the team come up with contingency plans which will ensure smooth execution of projects, avoiding surprises that may cause costly overruns or delays.

The discovery phase saves unnecessary costs by identifying the most feasible and cost effective solutions early in the project.

Inadequate resources can pose significant challenges and have far-reaching consequences, impacting project scope, productivity and overall project success.

Improved stakeholder alignment

Regular interaction and communication with stakeholders during the discovery phase help in aligning their vision with the project goals. This alignment is crucial for maintaining a shared understanding of the project’s direction and priorities, thus avoiding future conflicts or misunderstandings that could derail the project.

Risk mitigation

Identifying risks in the earliest stages of development helps formulate strategies to address them before they become major issues. By anticipating potential obstacles, the team can develop contingency plans, ensuring smoother project execution and reducing the likelihood of costly overruns or delays.

Common riscks in software product development

Better scope/budget definition

Well-executed discovery phase helps define project scope effectively thus avoiding scope creep. With a definite scope, the project remains focused on its original goals hence not containing features which are not necessary or changes which can result in increasing costs and delays.

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Better decision-making

The data and insights gathered during product discovery form the basis for informed decision-making throughout the project. It is more likely to lead to successful outcomes than those based on assumptions or incomplete information.

Faster time to market

The discovery phase provides clear direction from its inception through requirements to follow through within areas of development. Such clarity, coupled with focus, can speed up software development stages and shorten time-to-market as it is often essential in competitive environments.

Why time-to-market is matter for startups
When products are launched six months late, companies lose an average of 33% of their revenue. Source: McKinsey & Company

The points listed above are essential for every project. Consequently, it makes sense to skip this phase only if we talk about small projects or those with a set of clearly defined requirements and other available data necessary for the development process.

Summing Up

The project life cycle begins with the Discovery Phase and then moves into the Delivery Phase. It is inadvisable to skip the Discovery, as you may eventually face significant issues and risks. At the same time, when you implement it, customers receive several significant advantages that can positively affect the entire product development process.

Use SmartTeks’s discovery phase services to compose optimal paths and minimize risks of irrelevant planning. We are ready to be your trusted technology partner with proven technology expertise. Contact us and let’s discuss the details!

Andriy Nayda
Andriy Nayda Head of Web & Mobile Department at SmartTek Solutions