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Software Project Discovery Phase: Do You Really Need It?

June 8, 2021
11 min

In a recent article, we shared 4 efficient metrics to measure your software product’s quality. They are crucial to monitor the progress once your solution is in the market. But how to get prepared before launch and facilitate success?

A software project discovery phase is what you need to create a detailed software development plan and know what your future product will look like beforehand.

In this post, we’ll explain why you should consider starting your new software project from a discovery phase and describe in detail how the software project discovery phase is done at Ascendix Tech. Keep reading to get a better understanding of its’ key process stages, milestones, deliverables, team members engaged, etc.

What is the discovery phase?

The discovery phase of a software project is the first mature stage of discussion between a software development company and a client. Simply put, it’s a full project development analysis that includes such aspects as:

  • Analyzing the client’s business idea
  • Discussing what problems we are going to solve
  • Gathering requirements and expectations from clients
  • Defining a solution’s target audience
  • Analyzing the market and competitors
  • Identifying the scope of work
  • Setting a timeline and priorities
  • Building the project development roadmap
  • Project role distribution
  • Time and budget estimation.

 

McKinsey said that almost 17% of IT projects lead to general company collapses and 45% of projects are not correctly estimated and exceed the defined budget.

These numbers highlight the utmost importance of a software project discovery phase for both clients and vendors.

 

Why does the project discovery phase matter?

It helps you clearly realize when, how, and what you will get by documenting all crucial project development aspects: from expectations to exact functionality and estimates.

We, as a software development company, learn your exact expectations and requirements to get a better understanding of your business idea.

What’s more, as our Solution Architects and development team get to know the products’ background better, they can generate the most suitable solutions according to your needs and expectations.

It enables them to suggest alternative solutions that may greatly enhance the final value that end-users will get.

Sometimes, our technical specialists provide alternative solutions during a project discovery stage that keep up with the clients’ needs and expectations but are going to be implemented in a different way.

Thus, we can achieve a reduction in project development time and costs that are greatly appreciated by stakeholders providing extra value to them.

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A discovery phase of a software project is a great tool to identify the needs of a client and find the best suitable solution before actual implementation. It will definitely save your time as you will start the detailed discovery phase project plan. You will get specific answers to project discovery phase questions like ‘what are we going to do’, ‘how much time does it take’ and ‘what you will receive as an outcome.

Kateryna Voronkova, Business Analyst

What challenges can be solved with the project discovery phase?

Let’s briefly overview the key challenges that can be solved with a software discovery phase:

 

#1 Never-ending project scope changes and budget creep

An absence of strictly documented and measurable milestones can lead to endless alterations and extensions of project scope. In turn, this will most likely cause project launch delays and budget overruns.

 

#2 Missed deadlines and mounting costs

A software discovery phase allows generating a strict timeline with iterative project development phases that specify exact project development time. A lack of the defined goals, priorities, and requirements can lead to timeline outstretch and launch postponing. So, you as a client can bump into climbing costs throughout the project development process.

 

#3 Inappropriate projects that fail to meet your requirements

A project discovery phase allows both parties to avoid all misunderstandings and stay in sync further down the road. You can provide exact expectations and get meaningful feedback from our solution architects in terms of technical implementation.

It means that they specifically describe the way of building a feature or an entire product functionality to meet your needs and expectations. This is a win-win strategy for both your company and Ascendix Tech as we suppress all possible uncertainties beforehand.

 

Based on our experience, a project discovery stage can last from several meetings (1-2 weeks) to a month. The duration time depends on the project’s complexity, the number of details to be discussed, and clarification questions from both parties.

Our Discovery Phase Workflow at Ascendix Tech

#1 Getting started with your project

This initial stage happens before our first meeting with your team. We carefully learn your project description, business idea, market niche, and try to forecast the key technical and business milestones we will be going to get.

Also, we prepare a list of clarifying questions to better understand your business idea, product’s concept, and provide our development teams with more details on what functionality and logics you want to build and embed.

 

#2 Conducting our first meeting

We perform our first software discovery phase meeting where you describe a project, provide a demo (if any), and bring our team up to date with your business. Specifically, you need to answer the following project discovery phase questions:

  • Your project idea
  • The problems you’d like to solve or improvements that are expected
  • Are there any market competitors? What are their benefits and weaknesses?
  • What are your project expectations?
  • How do you measure the project’s success?

 

Also, we create a scope of work during this meeting that will help us get a high-level overview of what, how, and when should be done.

We can ask for technical access to your test environments that allow us to understand the flow and some implementation details better.

Based on the information received, our Solution Architect and Business Analyst create a list of project discovery phase deliverables with the key milestones. Here we can understand what should be done first and what functionality can be done at later stages.

Also, our SA specialists provide technical solutions based on your needs and requirements. The solution itself also takes into account technical feasibility and some legal requirements that might occur. As a result, you will receive the optimal system architecture and suggested technologies that perfectly meet your needs.

Sometimes, the chances are that your solution may have technical limitations that might increase the development cycle dramatically. However, there is no problem!

We are here to suggest alternative solutions and transform your needs and requirements into high-quality software in the easiest way possible.

It is always easier to understand the future solution once you see it. So, we always suggest our clients build clickable prototypes.

They demonstrate real end-user experience and help you visualize what the future product will look like. This stage may also help us to define additional improvements that can be done even before starting the development process.

 

#3 Preparing a proposal’s draft

Once conducted the meeting, our BA and PM start collaborating to develop a proposal for your company.

This document includes your project’s goal, description of project development phases, key milestones included in each phase, out-of-scope activities, software discovery project constraints, and risks.

Our project managers perform budgeting and develop a step-by-step project plan which includes a specific timeline with iteration phases, epics, sprints, etc.

During this stage, our Project Managers work in tight collaboration with development, QA, and UI/UX design teams to get the most accurate estimates. They will be transformed into software discovery project costs later.

 

#4 Discussing a proposal

The next meeting is related to analyzing and discussing the proposal we have prepared and shared with you. In case you have comments or updates, we gladly discuss them and make exact changes if needed.

If you have any clarification questions, we will present each proposal’s part in detail by describing what, why, and when should be done and answer your questions.

Once both parties are satisfied with the proposal’s data, we add our time and budget estimates and share them with your team.

Discovery analysis helps you, as a client, to distribute your costs efficiently and to plan the project implementation, based on your needs.

- Kateryna Voronkova, Business Analyst

#5 Kick-off meeting and launch

Ultimately, we schedule and perform a kick-off meeting during which we discuss and approve all the details of the development and communication processes:

  • Task tracking systems we are going to use
  • Environments we are going to set up
  • Communication channels for better productivity and ongoing reports.

The aspects we discuss during a kick-off meeting are strongly specific based on your project details.

Our core goal is to make a communication process as smooth for both parties as possible. We believe that mutual and timely communication is key to successful delivery.

 

To sum up, let’s overview the way we conduct a project discovery phase at Ascendix Tech in stages:

Main roles in the software discovery session

At Ascendix Tech, we usually have a specific list of specialists that take part in a project discovery session. Each member adds exact value to the discovery project’s outline and helps stakeholders and our project team better realize what, how, and when should we do it.

This process is crucial to create a software product that meets your expectations, requirements, and budget opportunities.

Let’s discuss the key software project discovery session Agile roles that take part to make it as transparent for you as possible.

 

Solution Architects

Our solution architect (SA) specialists analyze all project artifacts (technical specifications and requirements) given by stakeholders to offer the best architectural solution.

This person generally converts business ideas and logic into technical implementation opportunities. During a software development discovery phase, our SA specialists typically provide high-level technology solutions that offer transparency to clients and outline the key project aspects for Ascendix Tech.

Quite often, SA specialists can generate alternative technical solutions based on their development experience and your business needs. This may happen in real-time during a software discovery phase which leads to changes in a software requirement specification (SRS) document you provide/we create.

Ultimately, our Solution Architects offer the most efficient and result-oriented architectural solution that fully correlates with your business needs and end-users’ demands.

 

Business Analysts

Our Business Analysts (BA) initially analyze the project requirements of clients and stakeholders to create specific system requirement specifications (SRS). Most often, our discovery Business Analyst specialists ask the following project discovery phase questions:

  • What’s your business about? Please describe it.
  • What’s the product idea?
  • What problem will your product solve?
  • Are there any market solutions you like?
  • What product features are of major/minor priority?
  • If you already have a solution, could you please share a demo of a product?

Apart from these high-level questions, Business Analysts generate additional ones based on your answers to get the clearest understanding of your business idea and product’s concept.

Then, our discovery Business Analyst specialists create a Software Requirement Specification (SRS) which is a document that includes crucial project development aspects as:

  • Your project’s goal
  • Description of project development phases
  • Key milestones included in each phase
  • Out-of-scope activities
  • Project constraints
  • Project risks.

 

All these data are required for generating a time and budget estimate prepared by our Project Manager which includes an exact number of hours related to multiple project development activities.

For example, if you want to build a cross-platform application, the estimate will include front-end and back-end development, DevOps, testing, business analysis, project management activities represented in hours and rates.

 

Who defines the required amount of time needed to implement different project aspects?

At Ascendix Tech, our Solution Architects provide detailed estimates for each software development part of the discovery project as they know the scope of work needed to implement a specific feature set.

Depending on the SA’s solutions, our Business Analysts and Project Managers define the key resources we need to implement a specific feature set. This way, we then convert resources into a time and budget estimate according to the number of hours required.

If you want to create a clickable prototype and full-featured solution design, then our UI/UX designers estimate the number of hours they will need for prototyping and designing.

 

Project Managers

At Ascendix Tech, Project Managers are responsible for communication, budget estimation, and developing your project’s plan.

During the first meeting, our PM specialists also analyze your business idea, product’s concept, and project requirements to further prepare a detailed and correct estimate.

Also, they take care of the timeline and divide it into project development phases to make the development process iterative.

Ultimately, PM specialists prepare a final tailor-made proposal that allows you to understand:

  • What you are paying for
  • What is the project’s scope of work
  • What is the exact time and budget estimate
  • Exact discovery project timelines.

 

UI/UX designers

Our UI/UX designers help you visualize what the final product will look like by building clickable prototypes, wireframes, or final user interface design.

Let’s take a closer look at each type of visualization.

 

Clickable prototypes

Prototyping is the process of UX discovery activities through creating a clickable skeleton of your future software solution. This design discovery phase helps you visualize the way end-users will interact with your product by creating as realistic user experience as possible.

What benefits a clickable prototype provides?

  1. Visualize what your future product will look like
  2. Test the real user experience before development
  3. Pitch your business idea to investors by demonstrating the product’s skeleton in action
  4. Start collecting valuable feedback from end-users by providing a product prototype demo.

Below you can see a set of clickable prototypes of the Unilever e-commerce mobile app by Moslim Uddin.

unilever-prototype-set

Unilever e-commerce mobile app by Moslim Uddin

 

Wireframes

Wireframes are also among the UX discovery activities similar to prototypes, but they aren’t clickable and just schematically demonstrate different product screens. The key goal of wireframes is to visualize the project’s concept in an intuitive, cost-effective, and easy-to-understand way.

This design discovery phase helps to see the desired solution from a different angle. You may find that some functionality can be moved to different screens or even modified/reduced. Wireframes help you to see the user flow and understand whether it is optimal or requires some enhancements even before the development process.

Here is a great example of wireframes for Sundayz app by Anami Chan.

wireframe-sundayz-app

Sundayz App wireframe by Anami Chan

Looking for a software development company?

Let’s discuss your project idea during the discovery session so that you can clearly realize what your future product will look like. Answer a few questions to start with us.

What comes after discovery?

Now let’s summarize and list the key project discovery phase deliverables you will get after a software development discovery phase with Ascendix Tech:

  • A fully structured plan of works with accurate deadlines
  • A detailed project’s roadmap presented on a timeline
  • A project scope with an accurate technical specification
  • A specific price for the whole discovery project development process
  • A wireframe or prototype that will represent the real application user flow and functionality.
  • An exact cost estimate.

Conclusion

We hope our post will help you get a better understanding of what is a project software development discovery phase and why is it important for your project. At Ascendix Tech, we always suggest our clients perform a project discovery stage to sync up and eliminate any doubts you may have.

Typically, we constantly try to finish the discovery session by providing a clickable prototype or wireframes that will help you realize what you are paying for and what the final product will look like.

If you want to discuss your project idea, feel free to contact us. We will be glad to conduct a software project discovery phase and transform your concept into a mind-blowing MVP or full-featured product.

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