What “Discovery Phase” Actually Means for Your Project

Having a brilliant business idea is great but, implementing that idea without going through the discovery phase is a mistake you should avoid. If you ponder about why skipping the discovery phase may be a mistake, you are not alone. In this article, you will learn what the discovery phase means and why it is essential to any startup. 

What is the Project Discovery Phase?

The project discovery phase, also known as the scoping phase, is the process where a team obtains and analyzes information before the actual development of a project. Such information includes identifying the vision and idea behind the project, setting up the business goals, conducting market analysis, identifying the target audience, setting a realistic budget, and assessing the risks involved with the project. 

This process helps to clarify the overall goals, scope, and limitations surrounding the project. Reports from McKinsey revealed that 17% of all projects turned out to be failures and eventually led to the end of the company. 

The same reports show that 45% of projects exceed the original budget. This is why the project discovery phase is important, most especially for a startup. After all, the main goal is to disprove doubts about a project and utilize the collected data to create a product that meets the needs of users. In other words, a project discovery phase is a data-driven approach to the planning and execution of software development, Agilie explained in a blog post.

Why Is the Project Discovery Phase Important?

The project discovery phase is important for the following reasons:

  • Conduct research to create actionable plans that deliver high business value to clients
  • Make better decisions based on collected information rather than following assumptions
  • Help the stakeholders involved to achieve the objectives of the project
  • Increase the return on investment (ROI)
  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses of the project and how it meets the client’s needs and expectations.
  • Identify and avoid expensive problems that could arise as the project advances.
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The 5 Essential Elements of the Discovery Phase

If your organization can successfully carry out the project discovery phase, then you can actualize the rest of the project with ease. For you to do this, you will need to focus on some essential elements. These elements or stages include:

1. Creating the Discovery Team

The discovery team must involve experts that have a diverse range of interests. Here, it is essential for the project manager to create a team of professionals that possess unique skills. What determines their inclusion is the type of project you want to work on and the expertise they offer. 

Usually, the team members must include project managers, a software developer, a project analyst, and a UI/UX designer. To carry out this process, it is essential to conduct stakeholder interviews. Sit with the discovery team and ensure that all questions are answered. Ensure that their roles are thoroughly defined and everyone is on the same page. This paves a way for an easy actualization of the discovery process. 

2. Research

Research is a crucial stage in the discovery process. It helps the project discovery team to have an understanding of the work that needs to be done. This stage is further divided into three categories:

Client/Customer Interview

Many companies use a variety of management tools to assess the work done. But before this takes place, it is essential to have a detailed interview with the customer. Ask questions and get answers to remove all doubt. Besides, holding an interview will enable you to understand how the work ought to progress and avoid issues that may later arise.

Industry/Market Research

Running industry research or reviewing similar projects within the industry helps you to create benchmarks and set project expectations. Here, project managers can understand where they need to add value to the project, establish goals, and deliver results.

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Competitor Research

Although market research helps you to focus on the industry, competitor research deals with analyzing your competitors (other digital agencies) operating in similar niches. This product discovery stage enables you to discover the type of products your competitors make and their standard of quality. Besides, you will have better insights into the variation of pricing and the competitive fee you should charge your clients. 

3. Presenting the Solutions

In this stage, you have to present your findings to your customer. Present a comprehensive report alongside an overview of a dashboard that monitors the entirety of the project. Here, you can use a web design tool to create outlines and wireframes and communicate them to your clients.

4. Establishing the Timeline and Budget

The product discovery phase involves the creation of detailed budget estimations and establishing milestones. In this stage, you have to identify bottlenecks that can cause problems and create a comprehensive timeline for the project. Also, you have to create a detailed budget that showcases the costs you will incur during the process. If you can’t create an accurate budget, you can get an estimation. Going through this phase helps you to allocate resources accurately and also improve client management.

5. Identify and Agree on Next Steps

Once you have finalized all the details, then you can share them with your clients and start discussions. Although this isn’t essential, you can never tell if your clients have recommendations or business ideas that can result in a change during the process. Collaborate with your clients and let them know the progress of the clients. If they have suggestions, you can incorporate them into your plan to save time and money.

How to Nail the Discovery Phase

A great way to nail the discovery phase is by creating a project roadmap. It creates key deliverables and highlights the progress of the project. Here, you can share the roadmap with your client, deliberate on issues, incorporate suggestions, and obtain their feedback. This enables both parties to be on the same page. Also, if you haven’t signed an agency contract, this will be a good time. Onboarding your clients on the journey map gives you the assurance that you are on the right track.

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The Project Discovery Checklist

The following checklists will enable you to identify whether you have completed the essential elements in the discovery phase.

  • Have all relevant requirements been actualized?
  • Did you allocate the resources accurately?
  • Have you calculated the resources and the cost of the project?
  • Have you created and verified the budget estimations?
  • Have you carried out a thorough competitor and market research?
  • Have you incorporated your client’s suggestions?
  • Have you signed all the relevant contracts?

The Bottom Line

Getting through the project discovery phase isn’t only an advantage to your team, but to your agency as well. When you get it done right, you will be in your client’s good books, which can end up bringing more deals for you.