The idea is brilliant, the team is set, the customers are longing for the product. You rush into the production, seeing no obstacles in your way, as what could possibly go wrong, right? You’ve checked all the boxes on the customers’ wishlist, at least you think so. Well, there’s always that fly in the ointment, ain’t it? If we’re talking about the IT projects, that fly is the companies’ and start-ups’ negligent attitude toward the discovery phase, and to tell the truth, they often put it there themselves. Somehow, entrepreneurs tend to think that they know everything about their product. Unfortunately, it all turns out to be vice versa, when the project hits the deployment stage.
Those are more than words. In their latest report McKinsey claim that 17% of IT projects fail dragging the company down with them. Well, there is a silver lining here, as per the same report only 7% of IT projects are delivered late. Meanwhile, let’s not forget that 45% of them exceed the estimated budget, if there actually was one. The most vivid allusion to draw here is a person hoping to drive a car without actually getting driving lessons (we’re not talking about the driving license). You just hope for the better and then you end up at the bottom of the ladder, sobbing and wondering why their car is wrecked, lying lonely in the ditch.
So, maybe before you take the wheel and hit the road, you should at least get some riding practice, build a clear roadmap to follow, and know where to push the throttle and where to hit the brake. Yes, you’re not a fortune-teller and you cannot predict what’s going to happen in the future, but you can bend, gauge, and adjust it, and the discovery phase of your project is the tool and the basis for knowing it all. Today, we’re going to prove to you why you cannot omit the discovery stage, as it is a crucial stage of digital product development. Everything else they say is a hoax.
What Is the Discovery Phase?
To begin with, it may come as a surprise to you, but not everyone in the software development business understands what the discovery phase actually is. Neither the old-good song that goes “… let’s do it like they do it on the Discovery channel” nor the Discovery Channel itself has nothing to do with it. The discovery phase in terms of software development is a span of time that intervenes right at the beginning of every project where you and your team, or the outsourced software vendor, work to define the direction and the destination of your project. What is more, you will define the viable methods of reaching the promised land of success.
Speaking bluntly, the discovery phase in a software development project is the first stage of development, as it involves the entire team, including the managers, collecting, synthesizing, and analyzing data, thus deciding on:
- Software architecture;
- The technology stack to be applied;
- Functional and non-functional requirements;
- The project cost estimate;
- The project roadmap;
The discovery phase is the chronological platform for everyone involved in the digital product development to get on the same page, thus ensuring skyrocketing efficiency and a complete lack of bumps and barriers on the way. Basically, you can think of the discovery phase as of your insurance for experiencing failure in business.
No, you won’t get any reimbursement, but you’ll quite not likely fail as you’ll know how to make the right moves only. Now that we’re done talking about the essence of the discovery phase, let’s cut to the chase, shall we? There are several reasons why digital product development should start, namely with a discovery stage.
The Reasons to Start
What is the first thing you want to know, to be assured of when you commence a new project? That’s right! Regardless of how immature and even romantic, it might sound but you want to be sure that you won’t hit the bottom right from the very start. The five reasons to embark upon the discovery phase will justify why it will help you get that type of insurance.
- Getting the Market Right
All the top healthcare development companies, as well as the fintech development companies, and all the other business entities develop products to sell them. If you ever hear about the lofty visions and missions, remember, those are all lies. Products and apps are developed to sell them. Embarking upon the discovery stage will help you understand how the product must look in order to be commercially successful. It brings clarity to the final product and simplifies the idea in order to render it comprehensible to the customers.
- Attaining the Documents
Software development requires a lot of records. No, you don’t have to drop a hit to top the Billboard for months, you have to put down the specifications of the product you want to get in the future. Then, you’ll have to revise one hundred times to get the workable project documentation, which can be dubbed as Software Requirements Specification (SRS), which we’ll talk about later. Having the specifications ready in advance saves you time and, what is more, money, as it sets the path to follow at every further stage of digital product development.
While we all know that software development is an exceptional industry. Nonetheless, just like any other domain of human activities, it leaves us at the mercy of prototyping that soothes our expectation pains by letting us deal with the issues and bugs in advance. A prototype will help you test your idea to actually know whether it can and should be built at all. Get it? It’s like wearing a seatbelt in a sports car. Even if you get into an accident, you’ll survive, and who knows, you might even end up unharmed.
- Call the Vendor’s Bluff
The thing that makes SPsoft stand out of the crowd of the software vendors is that we make no hefty promises if we know that we cannot back them up with corresponding actions. When we embark upon analyzing the market for our customers within the framework of the discovery phase, we make sure we understand that situation to the bits, and we see that we have something to offer to improve the situation we will talk about. If we see that the project won’t work, we won’t opt for developing an MVP to earn money, we’ll be honest with our client, as we do not want you to cry over spilled milk.
So you do know the reasons why you might want and should embark upon the discovery stage, we can now discuss the tangible deliverables one gets from accomplishing it. What is more, we’ll dwell more on why those deliverables matter that much to your business.
Embrace the Role
Now, get this, answering the question of what the discovery phase is differs from defining the role it plays for your digital product development. As a matter of fact, not everyone tends to agree on the very term discovery phase, as some folks like to call it the preparation phase, as Paul Boag does, as he’s right to some extent. Yet, Mr. Boag himself agrees to claim that: “Whatever you call it, a discovery phase is about researching and defining the scope of the project.” Thus, in accordance with Paul Boag, the discovery or the preparation phase (call it whatever you like) performs four pivotal roles when it comes to software development.
- User Research. In order to create a successful platform, you have to know what your customers like.
- Establishing a Success Index. Measuring a business’s success is impossible without defining what can be dubbed as success.
- Value Proposition Creation. Creating a project is only half the battle. You’ll have to advertise your product to your customers and you’ll need your value proposition up and running by that time. The discovery stage will help you get it identified.
- Setting the Broader Context. You’ll need to identify the place your product can get within the framework of the general market.
What is more, one cannot claim that any of the aforementioned roles are somehow more important than the role next to it. Basically, they all get their fair share of 25% importance to the overall role of the discovery phase – saving you from failures and showing you the way to success.
When it comes to talking about the tangible results of the discovery phase, we’re talking specified information about the project, the market it is going to enter, and the audience it is going to serve. All in all, the discovery phase, besides the reasons to embark on it, provides three major deliverables.
- SRS. The system requirements specification is nothing else but a set of documents that specifies the project in its entirety. The goals, features, stack, architecture, and vision. The SRS document package delivers you a unique opportunity to introduce the corrections before your launch the project.
- UX Prototype. Getting a chance to see your product’s prototype before you even start developing an MVP priceless. Sometimes, you need to get a bit of visual input to understand whether your project requires some further input or whether it is ready to transcend right into the MVP development.
- MVP Development Agenda. When you know what and how to do, you can plan the development of your product’s MVP, including the team required, deadline, and budget to request. If you deal with the discovery phase in a due manner, you will see that the deadline, budget, and team estimates won’t change.
Quite often software developers would claim that the deliverables of a discovery phase would also include a solution vision document, architecture design, risk mitigation plan, etc. Nonetheless, let’s face the truth, shall we? Naming more points on the list just to drag the prospective client’s attention in your favor is not that professional, right? The solution vision document is a part of SRS, while the architecture design is nothing but the foundation for the UX prototype and further MVP development. Meanwhile, risk mitigation is the ultimate goal of the discovery phase.
How to Make the Discovery Stage Work?
Whenever it comes to conducting the discovery phase, people tend to think this is a chaotic process that intervenes with no proper orderliness. However, at SPsoft, we follow a rigid path that crowns any product discovery with success, which is nothing else but truthful information about the product and the prospects looming on its commercial horizon. Basically, there are ten stages that we go through, and we won’t tell you that summoning the team is the first one; we are ready when you are.
- Stakeholders. Whenever developing a product, the first thing to do is to identify everyone involved in its production and usage. Thus, we’ll know the value it must deliver to the end-users, which is the ultimate factor to define during the discovery stage.
- Conversation. Talking to everyone involved is crucial, as it adds immensely to your vision of the product. The whole point of this stage boils down to understanding the needs and requirements of everyone who is going to use the product one way or another.
- Research. Once the stakeholders’ analysis and interviews are done, we embark upon external research, involving business analysts, who scrutinize the product’s business environments to the bits with the help of market surveys, client interviews, etc.
- Documents. At this stage, we will have all the requirements, needs, and specifications formed, which means that we can proceed with forming the internal documentation, which will set the basis for our further steps.
- User Avatar. Having a bunch of user interviews on our hands, we can create the ultimate user avatar or image, which consolidates everything the product must be from the user-friendliness perspective.
- User Story. Before developing your product, you have to know every single path your client might want to take within its boundaries. This is the stage where we make sure those paths are trodden a hundred times before actual customers set their “feet” on it. Having the user stories written, we start developing the app’s feature set and the SRS.
- Competitors. Within the framework of the overall market research, we pay specific attention to the competitors offering akin solutions to the clients. This way, we make sure that we can identify the niche that is up for grabs for your product.
- SRS. Having formed the basis for compiling with the SRS, we now proceed with all the information that we’ve managed to aggregate by transforming it into a workable agenda of implementing specific business and technical requirements.
- Estimates. Now, we have everything we need and we can proceed with the team, budget, and the timeline estimates. At this stage, we make sure that you experience no unexpected expenses or delays.
- MVP. Given all the puzzles put together into one single picture, we build the roadmap for the development of your MVP and its further unfolding into a full-scale product.
The Toolkit Is Ready. The Master Awaits
As you can see, it takes us no more than one month to research and discover your idea to the full extent. Nonetheless, there is a set of tools that we harness to accelerate the process and make its efficiency skyrocket. This is a basic list of methods and tricks we apply to make the most of the four weeks we have to supply you with a comprehensive study of your idea. Whenever we start the actual research, the list of tools is way more extensive.
- User Stories. They are crucial in terms of creating a product that would be exceptionally user-friendly, thus providing a cutting-edge advantage over your competitors (if there are any).
- Mind Map. This is nothing else, but an interaction diagram that visualizes the project’s modules, integrations, and needs, as well as defining the roles played by the team members. It ensures the smoothness of processes.
- Request-Response Model. In today’s business world, your product cannot be a standalone pillar, it has to have some strong foundations set by the third-party integrations. This model provides us with the document specifying the integrations we would have to provide to make your product complete.
- BPMN Chart. When it comes to knowing all the details, including the data sources, interaction scenarios, user goal achievement algorithms, etc., the Business Process Modeling Notation chart comes into action, letting us visualize every single process that is meant to intervene within your product.
- Non-Functional Requirements Diagram. Developing products does not boil down to the tech aspect solely. It also requires an in-depth understanding of the business-critical requirements.
- SWOT Analysis. An integral part of any strategic business session, the SWOT analysis provides us with knowledge on the core strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that your product is most likely to face in the market.
So Why Folks Omit the Discovery Stage?
To be honest, we find this question hard to answer, as it is beyond our minds how a start-up or even an experienced top healthcare software development company can omit the discovery stage when launching a new product. Yet, we’ve managed to come up with a few viable reasons, which we feel might shed the light of truth on why companies abhor the very thought of getting thoroughly prepared for their project.
- Pressure. The problem is that many companies do not include the preparation stage in the project’s estimated timeline. Thus, the delivery deadline comes faster and they feel like discovering the right way for developing the product would be nothing else but a waste of time.
- Cost. Regardless of how insufficient the money spent on the discovery stage could seem compared to the loss of capital in the event of the project’s failure, companies and start-ups still think that allocating costs to the discovery stage is “too expensive”.
- Arrogance. One of the major reasons businesses fail is arrogance. When speaking of arrogance and its impact on business, Ken Richardson from the 422 Business Advisor Portal mentions Hans Christian Anderson’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, where a monarch blinded by his sense of self-splendor and importance made a fool of himself in front of his people. Thinking that you know everything, even about the concept that you’ve invented is the first step into the abyss of failure.
- Excitement. Sometimes, the idea might seem so captivating and luring that we simply cannot wait to start the project and get everything underway. So, it looks like it is the mere impatience that brings projects down.
Think Twice: No Fears, Just Commercial Paradise
We will never get tired of claiming that at SPsoft, we take a different approach to developing software. We care about our customers’ projects more than they do, and this is why we propagate the discovery stage so much. This is not the way to make some extra money for us; this is a precautionary measure that we are willing to take in order to render your idea secured from any perils of the over-saturated competition and unforeseen circumstances of today’s business.
Remember, the discovery stage leads to better solutions and provides you with a wider picture that showcases the viable objectives and not only deliverables. Furthermore, while completing a comprehensive user profiling, it provides the context for any further decisions you might have to make. Even if you do think that you know everything about your idea; it is not so. Do not be afraid to face the truth and channel it into success. All the top healthcare software development companies, as well as fintech start-ups, retail corporations, and independent software development companies know that discovery is a must and not a whim.
A famous French novelist and critic, Marcel Proust, has once stated: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Somehow, it seems like the person that has never been capable of perceiving what the IT industry is, has managed to define the whole point of the discovery stage within one phrase. The discovery stage is all about having a clear vision of what your product must be; a vision that renders digital product development not an unpredictable adventure but a planned movement up the scale of commercial success.
It seems symbolic that Proust’s magnum opus is In Search of Lost Time. If you don’t want to be the one looking for lost time, make sure to conduct the discovery stage with thoroughness or get the professionals to do this for you. We, at SPsoft, would be more than happy to help you conduct a discovery stage that will bring fruits to the table of every stakeholder involved in the process.