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Why The Discovery Phase Is Essential For All Software Development Projects

Why The Discovery Phase Is Essential For All Software Development Projects

  • Posted by GM, Digital Solutions
  • On August 26, 2021
  • AI, Artificial Intelligence, Business Outcome, Discovery., Experience Design, Machine Learning, Machine Learning Project, Project Risk, Software Development, Software Projects

The Discovery Phase is paramount with all software product development. Discovery serves an important purpose by ensuring product teams learn all they can about their customers and define the optimum path to achieving the vision. They also bring stakeholders together from across the organization to align on a project’s scope and keep people focused on the ultimate end goal.

In our experience, many companies try to bypass the Discovery phase at the peril of the project. Discovery delivers alignment between the development team and the company, putting the whole project on the right path toward successful outcomes. 

Without taking the time to do Discovery, companies increase risk by over-investing in the early stages of a project.

Successful projects use Discovery to bring clarity to the early phase and reduce risk as well as, provide a more structured process for how investment progresses over time.

Doing the Discovery Phase Benefits the Business  

The main goals of a Discovery phase are to research and test your assumptions, validate your idea, build a coalition of cross-functional stakeholders, clarify development costs, and orchestrate what is needed to reach product launch.     

In today’s competitive world, companies can’t afford to jeopardize the investments made in building engineering teams and product development. Commitment to the Discovery phase is particularly valuable to the business in three ways:

  1. Reduces project risk — Discovery reduces project risk by revealing how product teams should dedicate resources. They bring clarity to conjecture and ensure that no projects move forward without validation from real-world data. Unless it’s abundantly clear how product development will improve customer experiences or bottom-line performance, projects shouldn’t move forward.
  2. Aligns the project to business outcomes — Discovery makes product teams map their development dreams to tangible business outcomes. Product teams typically have more ideas than resources to pursue them, which is why prioritization based on business impact is critical. A new feature that makes customers 5% happier is probably only worth it if it also increases profitability.
  3. Accelerates time to market — Discovery accelerates time to market because it gives product teams a laser-focused view on how digital projects should unfold. Discovery reveals the most important things that need to happen to achieve success, giving engineers the freedom to say “no,” even to relatively good ideas.

The Impact When Discovery is Skipped

When companies don’t create capacity for a Discovery phase, product teams risk putting misguided time, money, and energy into projects.  The impact can be felt across the organization and management’s confidence in engineering may become undermined. 

For example, a few of the more common results when a company decides to skip the Discovery phase is poor project scoping, underestimated engineering resource needs, and inaccurate budget requirements, which often leads to management dissatisfaction, as well as unhappy cross-functional stakeholders. 

Lack of investment in completing a Discovery phase can also lead to user interface design problems and adoption failures because there is insufficient research into truly understanding what the customer needs, let alone any iterations with users, to test the design.

Product rework becomes a required necessity because of narrow planning, which results in repeated testing and a superficially defined technology stack based on guesswork instead of data-driven decisions from real discovery.

Discovery Phase Activities And Deliverables for Project Development

While the advantages of Discovery are obvious, how they play out can differ slightly between software projects, AI projects, digital products, and experience design projects. It’s important for product leads to understanding exactly what these differences are so they can tailor their approach accordingly. It’s also important to realize that with every project, there are 3 things that occur as the Discovery phase progresses toward a Design phase — understanding, ideation, and decision.

The following table highlights some of the key activities and deliverables associated with 4 project types. While there is tremendous overlap, there are also distinct differences in what transpires during Discovery.

Unleash The Power Of The Discovery Phase With Daitan

Daitan believes in the power and potential of the Discovery phase to minimize digital project risk, achieve positive business outcomes, and accelerate time to market. We guide product leaders and engineers through the Discovery process, helping them build a strong foundation before investing time and capital into any project development.

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