Can You Skip the

Discovery Phase on Your Next Project?

TL;DR: You really shouldn't.


In agile development, the discovery phase is often viewed as optional or something that can be skipped if time is tight. But is that really a good idea?

Skipping the discovery phase can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts down the road and may cause your project to fail. In this article, we'll look at some of the benefits of doing the discovery phase upfront and why you should never skip it in your next software development project.

What Is a Discovery Phase and What Does It Entail for Your Project?

The discovery phase is all about communication–between the development team and the client, between different departments within the company, and between stakeholders with various levels of knowledge about the project. It's an opportunity to get everyone on the same page and ensure everyone understands the project's requirements and objectives.

In the discovery phase, a team of experts researches and gathers information about the project goals, target audience, and potential challenges. This also includes an analysis of the market, the competition, as well as identifying the project’s unique value proposition. At the end of this phase, the team presents their findings and recommendations to the client.

What Challenges Are Associated With Working on a Project Without Going Through a Discovery Phase?

One of the challenges of working on a project without going through a discovery phase is that you may not clearly understand the scope of work. This can lead to problems later on when you're trying to figure out what needs to be done and how best to do it.

These include unanticipated rising costs, an endless scope creep, erroneous results.  You may also miss important details or requirements that could make the project more difficult or even impossible to complete.

Another challenge of working on a project without discovery is that you may not have a clear vision of what you want the final product to look like. This can make it difficult to stay focused and on track and lead to frustration if the project does not look the way you want it to.

Finally, working on a project without discovery can also be more difficult from a logistical standpoint. For example, the project can be much more challenging to manage if you're unsure what resources you'll need or where to find them.

What Is Expected at the Discovery Phase of Your Project?

Usually, the discovery phase lasts from one to a couple of months, depending on the kind of project. Many activities can be carried out during the discovery phases of software projects. However, some of the most important ones include the following:

  • Conducting market research
  • Identifying potential customers and user groups
  • Analyzing the competition
  • Developing marketing plans and strategies
  • Creating prototypes and proofs-of-concept
  • Testing the marketability of the product or service
  • Assessing the risks involved in the project

These activities are important in helping to ensure that a software project is successful. They help to assess whether there’s a need for the software, what potential users want, how much they’re willing to pay, and what risks are involved in the project.

Discovery Dream Teams

When developing a new product, having a strong discovery team is important. This team will be responsible for assessing the target market's needs, understanding the competitive landscape, and defining the product strategy.

In most cases, your discovery phase can be run entirely by a product manager who will help with the preliminary tasks like assessing stakeholder needs and business goals, defining success metrics, documenting findings, defining the user journey, and determining the target audience, conducting competitor research, amongst others.

However, if you want a more extensive team, you may want to include the services of a consultant, business analyst, product manager, and UI/UX specialist. The consultant will help identify potential risks and opportunities associated with the product. The business analyst will gather and analyze data to better understand the target market's needs.

The product manager will develop the product roadmap and ensure all stakeholders are aligned on the vision for the product. Finally, the UI/UX specialist will create prototypes, and user flows that help bring the product to life. By including all of these professionals on your discovery team, you can be confident that your new tech product has a strong foundation and is well-positioned for success.

Image credit Daniela Holzer


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