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When is a Project Discovery Phase Needed?

Most software projects begin with high expectations, but to succeed, you have to maximize the chances your project will deliver value on time and budget. McKinsey’s report states that 45% of software projects face cost overrun, and 7% run over time. Not to mention that 17% of IT projects turn out so bad that they can cause the collapse of the company.

Running a discovery phase before launching the project enables business owners to reduce the risk of schedule overrun by 75% and avoid blowing a budget. Read on to learn when the discovery phase is a must and how your business can benefit from it.

When Should you Start the Project with the Discovery Phase?

Everyone who wants their software project to come under budget, delivered on time, and succeed after the release, shall start with the discovery phase. Below we provide the main points when the discovery stage is of crucial importance for the project’s success.

New-market Opportunities

If you’re exploring the market looking for a niche to expand your business, the discovery phase will come in handy. It’ll help to decide whether you should seize the opportunity and enter the market. At this point, the phase might include researching a new audience and competitive analysis.

Lack of Clarity

When there is no complete idea of the final product, no deep understanding of end-users needs, and business objectives are elusive, skipping the discovery phase leads to failure.

Regulated Environment or New Regulations

If you’re going to launch a software project in a strictly regulated environment, the discovery phase is a must as it helps to predict and manage risks.

New Company’s Strategy

In case of a pivot, the discovery phase would help to explore overall needs and processes across the company, highlight areas for optimization and improvement, and come up with the perfect software solution plan that would serve the company’s new purposes.

Acquisitions or Mergers

When it comes to systems and tools consolidation, the discovery phase facilitates identifying common needs across multiple products. It helps to find a common solution and consolidate products in the best way.

Unknown Unknowns

These are risks that come from unexpected situations which are too improbable to be considered, but ignoring these risks can be a costly failure. When there are many unknown unknowns, the discovery phase minimizes their negative impact on the future product and allows to either avoid or eliminate numerous business risks.

Common Activities for Discovery Phase

The project discovery phase includes the following activities.

Consultation

At this step, the project coordinator clarifies the client’s vision of the future product, its mission, and target audience.

Exploratory Research

This phase implies focusing on the problem space the project is supposed to resolve and helps to generate ideas.

Stakeholders Interviews

Interviewing stakeholders provides a new level of understanding of the project’s mission and key business objectives and allows the development team to make data-based decisions.

Workshops

Workshops are conducted to transform business objectives into a clear project plan, define and document software requirements, prioritize feature set, and develop a release plan.

Risk Mitigation Plan

This step helps to identify existing and possible bottlenecks, forecast risks, and get ready to deal with them ahead.

UI/UX Design and Prototyping

At this step, the client gets wireframes and a design concept which can be realized as a simple mood board, a set of main screens, or a clickable prototype. Wireframes roughly visualize the product and give a good overview of the future product infrastructure. And a clickable prototype displays all the necessary interactions between users and the product and provides insights into the experience it will deliver to users.

Architecture Design

Designing the solution architecture implies deciding on the tech stack and defining the structural elements of the solution and the way they would interact.

Defining Priorities and Estimating the Project Scope

Features prioritization is crucially important when time and money are limited as it helps to identify and implement the core features firstly. And an accurate estimation of the project scope ensures that you have the right materials and expertise for on-time and on-budget project delivery.

Project Roadmap Design

A comprehensive roadmap provides a clear understanding of the project implementation steps. It helps to define the project’s goals at each milestone and to efficiently manage time, budgets, and human resources.

Discovery Phase Deliverables

Discovery phase deliverables may vary depending on the complexity and urgency of the project. Based on the needs and objectives of the project, you will get some or all of the following documents.

Vision and Scope documents

Describe the vision of the future product and define the work scope, methods, and activities needed to reach that vision.

Software Requirements Specification document (SRS)

Describes the project, feature set, and tech stack.

Software Architecture Document (SAD)

Provides a clear vision of the software structure.

UX/UI design and a clickable prototype of your future product

Provide insights into how the future solution will function and look.

Detailed Work Breakdown Structure, Workload and Cost Estimate, and a Project Plan

Help to plan and manage time, costs, and human resources.

Risk Assessment and Mitigation Plan

Identifies potential risks, evaluates their impact on the project, and eliminates or minimizes the negative impact.

Discovery Phase Benefits

These are the most essential benefits of the project discovery phase:

  • Provides a detailed overview of the future product.
  • Ensures a clear understanding of the client’s needs and requirements and provides the development team with all the necessary information to start the project.
  • Provides a comprehensive project roadmap with time bounds included.
  • Enables to plan and manage the time, budget, and human resources.
  • Provides deliverables that allow to change the vendor and start the development with another team right away.
  • Explores, considers, and mitigates risks.
  • Enables to start raising funds with such deliverables as a prototype, software architecture document, etc.
  • Helps to avoid constraints and rework as the development team has a clear plan of the project implementation and all risks and potential challenges are considered.

Next Steps

After the discovery phase, you can proceed to the development phase. For this, you have to choose a software vendor first. Here is a checklist to decide on the vendor for your project:

  • The vendor has deep expertise in engineering solutions in the required industry and a proven track record.
  • The strategy, business outlook, and organizational structure of the company are compliant with your requirement and imply a long-term reliable partnership.
  • There are positive customer reviews and testimonials.
  • The vendor provides high-quality customer service.
  • There are professional in-house employees in the company.

Itexus follows all the items from this checklist and meets the needs of the most demanding clients so feel free to drop us a line if you need a reliable software engineering partner.

Summary

Running the discovery phase is a must if you want your project to succeed as it helps to validate your idea, get prepared for the development phase properly, anticipate and mitigate risks, boost development efficiency, and deliver the product under time and budget. Want to ensure the success of your IT product? We know how to give a good start to software products so let’s discuss your idea.

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