What is Discovery Phase and Why it is Critical to Successful Project Completion
While not a panacea, the discovery phase is critical to successful project completion. Find what could go wrong if you overlook project discovery.
In software development, every stage is critical to successful project completion. Skipping or rushing through any step could be the first step in the project’s downfall.
Software discovery is therefore paramount. Some people often overlook it for reasons such as lack of time or the pressure to deliver. Some are also too excited to get things underway that they completely forget about discovery, while others often feel they know enough to get started. However, completely ignoring the discovery phase can be catastrophic.
Lack of discovery can lead to never-ending scope creep and ever-climbing costs. Not only that, but it could also lead to missed deadlines.
Let’s find out what discovery entails and why overlooking it could spell doom for your software project.
What’s Project Discovery?
The project discovery phase is a stage in software development where you analyze the target market, define your product-market fit, and determine project requirements and goals.
Doing so allows the development team to propose the project’s technical implementation, decide project timelines, and more accurately ascertain development costs.
Therefore, an easy way to define project discovery is – a phase in the software development life cycle during which the team nails down the details of each stage in the development process.
Discovery typically lasts one week to two months, depending on the project’s scope. The project manager and account manager, together with a business analyst, lead the discovery. Team leads, developers, and designers may or may not join the efforts.
The discovery team should focus on three aspects:
- System requirements specification: This document fully describes the project, its goals, features, proposed technology stack, and architecture overview.
- Preliminary User Experience prototype: User experience prototypes are needed long before the project commences to help the team and funders understand how the software will feel once it’s finished.
- MVP development plans and estimates: This document details the suggested development team (lineup) and an accurate estimate of the development timeline and budget.
The Benefits; Why Overlooking Project Discovery is a Death Wish
The best software development team will never ignore the project discovery phase for the following reasons;
1. Reduces risk
Software projects are enormous risks. It takes just one misstep for all the money, time, and other resources put into the project to go down the drain. This usually happens if you don’t have a clear understanding of your goals and requirements. It’s like walking in the dark without a flashlight.
Project discovery findings are like a compass in your hand to help you find your way to your destination by;
- Reducing (by 50%) the risk of getting lost and thus exceeding your budget.
- Reducing the risk of missing deadlines by 75%.
And this is what defines success or failure.
2. Builds consensus
According to Forbes, one of the main reasons software projects fail is a lack of consensus on priorities. Perhaps one section of the team wants to achieve the goals through route A while the other faction prefers route B. While you’d eventually reach the goals through whichever route, the lack of consensus can derail the development process and even threaten the project’s success.
Discovery is the only time during the software development process that stakeholders agree on which route to take to pursue the project goals. If you skip it, you risk having a lack of consensus throughout the project.
3. Establish trust
Project success has so much to do with trust. Although communication is often cited as the most important factor in achieving predictable project outcomes, trust is the underlying factor in the entire process. When there’s a low level of trust among project team members, you may run into opportunity costs arising from non-value-adding activities such as excessive follow-up, procrastination, and increased scrutiny. Finger-pointing is also common.
The discovery phase presents the first opportunity for the project team members to meet and build rapport. It also presents the team with a valuable opportunity to identify and iron out trust issues that may derail project progress in the future.
4. Gauge the project’s budget.
Statistically, 85% of all projects go above budget. It’s a huge number and a warning to anyone planning a significant project. Over 40% of such projects fail. What’s more interesting, though, is why projects almost always go over budget. Studies show that lack of foresight and poor allocation of resources are the two most common culprits.
The discovery phase is the most important stage to getting the insight necessary for the proper allocation of resources. It allows you to go into the finer details of each step of the project and identify contractors even before the actual development begins.
5. Test prototype and gain feedback
Finally, if you’ve worked on a software project before, you’ll know that customer-fit is perhaps the biggest reason most projects fail. Ill customer-fits are projects designed without the customer in mind or without a proper analysis of customer needs. If you cannot understand what the customer wants, you’ll eventually end up with a product that’s only appreciated within the team. Such a product is doomed to fail.
The project discovery phase proves an opportunity to seek user opinion to develop an app with which the user can relate. You can quickly develop a prototype, test it among the target audience, and gather feedback to inform the actual app development process.
Don’t Make the Same Mistake
Most app development teams that overlook project discovery fail. It doesn’t matter how good your app development team is. If you fail to schedule a discovery process, you’ll miss critical steps such as accurate project budgeting, trust-building, and consensus-building. It’s a death sentence even before the project commences. Contact the NIX Solutions team to learn more.