- What is the discovery phase?
- How the discovery phase sets the course for project development
- Is the idea good at all?
- The target audience and the issues to solve
- A clear path ahead
- A vision grounded in thorough research
- Tech stack, feature list and limitations
- The focus on UX and business goals
- Defining conditions for success and KPIs
- Scoping, timeframe and cost estimates
- Project roadmap
- Prototyping (optional)
Developing and eventually releasing a new product is always an important milestone for any business. When exploring new markets or attempting to introduce a brand-new product, it is particularly important to carefully plan the entire process from start to finish. In this context, we highlight the importance of a well-executed discovery phase and the impact it has on the entire project.
What is the discovery phase?
Brainstorming, scoping and planning are at the core of every good discovery phase. It is usually the first stage in project work, and it results in an outline of the entire initiative. However, a discovery phase is more than just a conceptualization and planning stage. One of its key roles is to determine whether the idea should be pursued at all – whether the product or service that is to be created is viable. This is one of the reasons why a business analyst should be involved at this stage. To briefly sum up, the key features of a discovery phase include brainstorming, scoping, market analysis, establishing milestones and end goals, cost and time estimates, and prototyping. All of these with a focus on achieving a great user experience while aligning user needs with business goals. Several key figures are present during discovery workshops – the meetings usually involve critical members of the development team, stakeholders, a business analyst, a project manager and a UI/UX designer. Their combined input serves as the foundation for developing a successful solution, one that satisfies the needs of every party and is within the limits of the available financial resources as well as the timeframe.
How the discovery phase sets the course for project development
Now that we know the general purpose of a discovery phase, let’s take a deeper dive into the benefits it brings to project development.
Is the idea good at all?
With several key figures present at discovery meetings, and with everyone having a different perspective, it is easier to observe the potential gains and/or shortcomings of the early concept. Sometimes the idea might look promising but can be technologically too difficult to develop with the available staff, funding and/or within the expected timeframe. The discovery phase serves as an opportunity to alter the initial idea or to change it completely. It’s better to can the project at the beginning if it’s not viable or the risk is too great than to face potentially business crippling consequences at later development stages.
The target audience and the issues to solve
It is important to determine who the solution is for and how it is supposed to help. Who is the main customer we want to attract? Why would the person want to use our solution instead of other similar products (assuming there are any)? What issue(s) will the solution solve?
A clear path ahead
For any endeavor to succeed, everyone involved needs to be on the same page. The people present at discovery meetings can pass on the results of the workshops to their respective teams. There are known cases in the industry in which key developers didn’t really know the shape or end goal of the product they were supposed to develop. One of the more resounding examples from a few years ago was the video game Anthem. In the late 90s and early 2000s, Bioware (the developer) used to be one of the most valued companies in the industry, but now it has been struggling with product development for more than a decade. After Anthem was released, some developers confessed that they hadn’t known what the product was supposed to look like… until the marketing team released a gameplay trailer. This resulted in a very tumultuous development process, and the final product was far from meeting both player and stakeholder expectations.
A vision grounded in thorough research
Even the best concepts will fail if they are not based on research. During the discovery phase, a careful analysis is conducted of the market, the business environment and the competition.
Tech stack, feature list and limitations
The problems the future solution is to solve will determine the type of functionalities it should have – the discovery phase is the right time to prepare the feature list, bearing in mind the available resources (time, money, staff) to maintain a realistic scope of the work. Once the list is there, thanks to the knowledge of key developers who are present at the discovery meeting, the list of technologies necessary to complete the solution can be prepared.
The focus on UX and business goals
One of the goals of the discovery phase is to ensure the solution provides the best possible user experience while staying aligned with the company’s business goals. UX is key to achieving client satisfaction and increasing reach. For more information about this user-first approach along with the benefits it brings, check out one of our previous articles here.
Defining conditions for success and KPIs
Knowing the conditions for success helps in planning and setting up milestones. It gives the team a sense of accomplishment and tangible proof that progress is being gradually achieved. Establishing KPIs will help monitor effectiveness and alter course depending on changing circumstances.
Scoping, timeframe and cost estimates
During the discovery phase, the scope of the work should be outlined alongside an estimated timeframe and costs. This will help avoid deviating from the established path, overextending with additional functionalities and feature creep. It will generally encourage the team to stay on course within the established limits.
When all is established – clear goals, a feature list, costs, timeframe, limitations, etc. – it is easier to set up a roadmap. It will serve as the main reference point throughout project work. Every successful business endeavor starts with a good plan.
This may be a time-consuming process, but the payoff is worth it. The presentation of a “mock” solution gives a clear picture of what the end result will look like. It offers the final opportunity to make any bigger changes in the project without risking unexpected costs or delays. It’s better to change course at this early stage than after project development begins.
The new product development process greatly benefits from a well-executed discovery phase. This early stage results in a clear plan established within the boundaries of the available financial resources, time and manpower. All of this while aligning business goals with the best possible user experience to create a solution that benefits all parties.
Here at createIT, we have some of the best staff to help you with product development – a team of very experienced developers, business analysts, PMs and marketing specialists are at your disposal. Do not hesitate to contact us.