How Discovery Phase Helps Start Projects Better
Suppose you have come up with a concept for a software product for public use. In such a case, before a team of experts commences development, it is important to have some level of understanding of whether the product will be able to compensate the expenses and justify the resources dedicated to its implementation (people, time, and money).
So, how do you not miss anything which will be unprofitable or even detrimental to your financial state? The answer is quite obvious – you need to clearly see project’s requirements and goals. A separate team or company’s own human resources are employed for that matter. After having thoroughly analyzed the market, modern technologies, and individual client preferences/requirements, you will come to an all-round vision of the future solution, answering, at the same time, such questions as:
- How sensible will it be for my business?
- How complex will its implementation be from the point of view of technologies availability, dedicated development tools, and the client's deadlines?
- Whose interests will it satisfy?
If you should choose to proceed, all the following additions and corrections (which are both necessary moments in the development cycle of any Agile method-based software) that spawn during the whole period of active work on the product will be quite predictable and realizable.
In the Product Management field, the process is called Discovery Phase or Discovery Stage. Let’s discuss it in more detail.
What is a discovery phase?
As a notion, this phase has multiple definitions. We shall focus on the most comprehensible and informative one.
Project discovery phase is a complex procedure, which includes the collection and systematization of client requirements; research of target audience’s needs; analysis of the product efficiency for potential TA; and, of course, evaluation of how much and when exactly the dedicated resources will be compensated once the product is launched. This phase is essentially a bridge between a theoretical concept and the factual realization of the product. It is a process of ultimate realization of what the client needs, in what way their requirements can be implemented with minimal investments (and whether they are reasonable at all), and how reasonable everything is from the perspective of potential profits and losses.
Therefore, the goal of the discovery phase is to predict the possible potential of the solution and to decrease the chance of it not compensating all of the expenses dedicated to its implementation upon launch (in the software development sphere, one can usually see whether the product is profitable/unprofitable in a couple of months after its release – it either blows up or not).
For instance, if we are talking about the launch of a new website, you will have to know the answers to the following questions:
- Who will find your website’s content interesting and why?
- Who are the main competitors and why are holding leading positions in the niche?
- How do you achieve your own competitive ability?
- What are the functionality requirements for this site?
- What does the team able to realize all the requirements look like?
- How accessible will your website (particularly its content) be to users?
- How much traffic do you want to get (per day, per month)?
- What are the website’s success/profitability metrics?
- What is the minimum level of profit (per day, per month) to provide you with the means of launching the website?
- How much will its creation cost?
- How much will its support cost?
- Will the website’s content be as relevant at the moment of launch as it is now?
- What are the factors to hinder a launched solution’s way to success?
Ultimately, the main idea of the project management discovery phase is the development of an efficient, subsequent, and thoroughly worked-out plan of your project implementation.
Is Discovery Phase a necessary affair?
In case if you have already started anxiously looking online for strategies or even a separate team for conducting Discovery Phase, you might as well see some statements that consider it to be a useless waste of time and money. Well, what can we say?
According to the experience and arguments of the leading consultants in the Product Management field, such as Jeff Patton and Marty Cagan, the Discovery Phase is expected to become a totally standard procedure in IT pretty soon. Why so? Simply because the development of software is a complex, continuous, and expensive process. Very often, developers are able to meet neither a dedicated budget nor initial deadlines. The expenses might as well be infinite if cost-prediction of those aspects is conducted before the deep analysis of the prospective field of operations takes place.
You may believe that the Agile-method philosophy itself implies the constant perfection of the product through the continuous process of fixing mistakes. And you are right. However, we want to satisfy not only the interests of developers, for whom necessary overtimes are a profitable thing, but also the interests of clients who must spend hard-earned finances each time an addition or correction takes place. Otherwise, launching one’s own project would be a prerogative of only the large business owners. People who would find a $20,000 budget for a very simple website an insignificant expense.
That’s exactly why most modern product-creation models contain the implementation of the Discovery Phase as of the first sprint, to make it clear how well a client and a team of developers understand each other from the start.
What is PM’s part in discovery phase?
Lately, an increasing number of IT companies tend to employ services of separate, fully-formed Product Discovery Teams. They consist of at least three specialists – UX designer, hacker, and hustler. The UX designer is responsible for usability, intuitivity of navigation, and the project’s visual attractiveness; The hacker, for the technologies employed; and the hustler, for handling marketing. That doesn’t mean, however, that all the Discovery Phase implementation responsibilities fall on the shoulders of these three. In particular, you will also have to involve your PM in the procedure.
PM’s area of responsibility would cover such tasks as:
- Planning and organizing client meetings;
- Taking notes of all the nuances discussed during the meetings;
- Organizing productive interaction between a Product Discovery Team and your team of developers.
Why isn’t this phase practiced by all IT companies?
Despite its obvious usefulness, currently, far from every IT company decides to employ this phase. There are two obvious reasons for this: a desire to save as much money as possible (the services of a Product Discovery Team, despite the fact that it only consists of three people, will still add their price to the budget), and the company's focus not on providing the efficiency of the developed solutions, but on the best, utterly profitable solutions for a client (“Such-and-such Company requested x-thousand dollars, but we can do it for half that budget!”).
In most cases, such attempts to save money cause, as we mentioned above, numerous corrections and additions, which must be paid for by the client. As a result, their experience of cooperating with a company that follows such a route cannot be called an utterly positive one. Chances are, next time the client will decide to employ other people.
We have already mentioned that according to expert predictions, in the near future, Discovery Phase will become a crucial part of the software development cycle. If you want to get the maximum objective vision of a product and decrease risks related to its development, and further support - we will help you! Not only will our team create a successful strategy for the future solution-implementation based on a wide range of web technologies in the shortest terms, we shall also efficiently put it into practice!