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Discovery phase: an investment or waste of money?

Alina Seredenko
Alina Seredenko Business Development Manager
6 minutes to read

As our practice shows, a lot of customers have a good understanding of their startup, how it will work and what value it will carry for its audience.

Questions appear closer to the start of development. It’s actually normal because a person without a technical background can’t foresee all the nuances that often arise during the development process.

You can reduce your chances of facing issues if you integrate a very important step into your roadmap – a discovery phase.

Today we are going to talk about what a discovery phase is, how much it costs and why it makes the difference.

What is the discovery phase?

Sometimes startupers believe that if they have a fairly limited technical experience and a fairly good understanding of what they want to achieve, the business analysis (or discovery) stage can be skipped.

“I already have a functional spec, why do I need discovery?

Ok, let’s suppose you have developed a product concept and want to hire a team to build it.

Before the expert team starts working, it’s important that every team member understands how the product should work. This helps to offset the costs and justify the resources allocated for its implementation: people, time, and money.

This whole process is called a discovery phase or business analysis.

Requirements and goals of the project are the main things which you should determine for yourself at the initial stage.

In large companies, they dedicate a whole department for jobs like this. They analyse modern technology and the market in order to plan further actions and create a product.

Unfortunately, startups and SMEs tend to overlook this stage hoping that they’ll save time and money.

Nevertheless, our experience shows that by skipping the discovery phase you risk the consequences of creating a non-efficient design and overrunning costs at the production stage.

Who is the discovery phase team

As we said before, whole departments of business analysts work on the discovery phase, analyse and make up the functional spec in accordance with the requirements of the project. In JustCoded, the initial stage involves:

  • project manager
  • business analyst
  • technical lead

Depending on the complexity of a project, the number of specialists may vary, for example, when a client needs a UX assessment we involve an experienced designer in the discovery phase.

What happens during the discovery

The discovery phase process is quite hefty, but we can roughly break it down into 3 stages:

  1. Identification
  2. Analysis
  3. Recommendation

All these stages are closely interrelated and we don’t advise you skipping any of them. Next, we’ll take a look at what each step of the discovery phase includes.

Identification or requirements elicitation

At this stage, we conduct a lot of interviews with our clients to clarify all the needs of the project, as well as identify significant nuances. The whole process happens online and doesn’t require a personal presence, although on-site workshops give a much deeper understanding and help to build a good relationship.

After we clearly understand what our client wants and how exactly they see the finished product, our business analyst proceeds to the second step – analysis.

Analysis

In order not to miss important details, we carefully study the information we have, look for best practices in the industry, and plan the design and logistics. The analysis is one of the most important steps in the discovery phase. Before embarking on technical recommendations, together with the client, we clarify the following questions:

  • Who are the main competitors?
  • What are the functional requirements for the product or website?
  • How can the team fulfill the requirements?
  • How accessible will the site be to users?
  • How much will its creation and support cost?

Ultimately, the main idea of the analysis is to develop an effective, consistent, and carefully crafted technical recommendation for the implementation of your project.

Recommendations

After the interview with the client and thorough analysis, our specialists prepare recommendations as well as a project plan.

It’s possible that our recommendations may include several options based on cost, time of implementation, and other factors. We also factor in possible changes and improvements in the future.

What do you get after the discovery phase

After we’ve completed the identification-research-analysis flow, we proceed with the preparation of documents, providing detailed information on each item.

Our experts create 5 basic documents:

  • Research and Point of View documents
  • Functionality Specifications
  • Technology Stack
  • User Flows
  • Wireframes

Research and Point of View documents

Point of View contains information that answers the main questions of your project, namely:

  • Are there any competitors?
  • Are they better or worse?
  • How are you different?

Roughly speaking, this is a document with the conclusions based on the analysis of the market and competitors.

Functionality Specifications

In this document, we collect all the information and describe what your project will do in digital form in detail. Also, our specialists include various security requirements and restrictions in the operation of the platform or application.

Technology Stack

This is one of the main documents that describe all the technical characteristics of your startup. It contains information on programming languages, frameworks, and other software that can be used for the development of your product.

User Flows

We include UX in the discovery phase, as researching potential users helps create proper customer journey maps and will make an app or a website easy and nice to use.

Besides descriptions, we also provide diagrams that help visualise the flows.

Wireframes

Wireframes bring clarity to the project. They reflect page layouts, indicate the location of blocks and other elements, and show the future structure of the site. Our document with wireframes is the key to a good design of your product.

Depending on the complexity and requirements of the project, the discovery phase may include additional documentation:

  • Data schematics
  • Proof of concept experiments
  • Designs and mockups
  • Clickable prototypes

How long does the discovery phase last?

This is one of the most common questions that we receive almost daily.

Most often, customers want to know how long the discovery phase lasts and what they can expect to pay for it.

It’s quite difficult to calculate the duration and cost of the project since there is no universal set of functions that would be suitable for all startups. As our experience shows, usually the whole process takes 4 to 8 weeks and mostly depends on the size requirements of the project.

Why pay?

In order not to lose time, it may be more reasonable to get assistance from a team of specialists who will help you analyse and make a plan for your product, taking into account the ins and the outs of your industry. Perhaps a business analyst will reveal factors that were in the grey and possible game changers.

There is a flip side to the coin though. It’s not always possible to entrust the discovery phase to an agency. Sometimes instead of a sensible analysis, you can get the “best guess approach that will bring ambiguous results.

The discovery phase doesn’t increase the cost of the project as a whole; it just determines the further course of your startup development.

We recommend you to hand the discovery phase to somebody in your startup who understands the needs of your business and is ready to answer lots of questions.

To finish up

The main benefit that the discovery phase will bring you is peace of mind: you will know what functionality should be there, what systems to integrate, and how much the whole thing will cost.

Here are the 4 main tips from us:

  1. Always analyse user actions.
  2. Involve the whole team in the discovery phase.
  3. Treat the discovery phase as one of the main steps in creating your product.
  4. Trust your discovery phase only to professionals.

We at JustCoded find technical solutions for different projects, but if you are only interested in the discovery phase with no strings attached – give us a shout. We’ll do our best to help you out with analysis and planning.

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