Why Won’t Your Startup Make It Without the Discovery Phase?

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Less than 5% of all startups are successful. That is a tough number, but let’s focus on what actually helps their dreams become a reality. The answer is the discovery phase. 

In this blog post we are going to talk about everything involved in the discovery phase, what it includes, and how this simple yet effective step can make your product unique, competitive and customer-focused.

What is the Discovery Phase?

The discovery phase, or stage, is the part of your project development flow when you, or the team you’re working with, analyzes the project, gathers essential functionality requirements, defines a market-fit and analyzes every technical approach to find the one that will work specifically for your 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?

Yet, this stage is essential because it helps startups and developers understand their product, plan out the work, and ensure that no surprises will pop up along the way. As a result, the discovery stage can lay a foundation for the overall 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.

What is the Purpose 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.

Reasons for the Discovery Stage and the 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 creating a product without a market demand and with poor technical execution, which increases the chances of a product pivot.

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. The number of specialists in the team depends on the solution’s complexity and overall goals. Based on our expecince, a team should be looked at 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:

Project Manager

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. 

Business Analyst

The Business Analyst is in charge of market research and analysis, defining the user pain points, needs and scenarios of the product usage to ensure the product’s market potential and profitability. The Business Analyst also defines and monitors the quality of data metrics and reporting. 

Also, business analysts define functional and non-functional project requirements and align them with business objectives.

UX/UI designer

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.

Solution Architect

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 Discovery Stage Deliverables

As a result of the discovery stage, here’s the list of items you can end up with:

  • PRD (Product requirements document) – a technical document that will include 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 timeline and budget estimate for the next development stages.

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.

Finally, depending on the product goals and the team’s expertise, the discovery stage can take just two or three weeks, which can define the future of your product. So don’t ignore this step.

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