Do you need a Discovery phase?

discovery phase software development

According to McKinsey’s research, around 45% of large IT projects run over budget, 7% run over time and 56 percent are delivering less value than it was expected at the beginning.  As well as big projects, small and medium ones are also at big risks to not meet the cost, time, and value expectations.  Software development is a complex process, so it requires proper upfront planning. Such planning is called a discovery phase. It’s a crucial part of the project development that decreases the chances of failure and helps to develop your project on time and on budget. 

Understanding the discovery phase. What it is?

The Discovery phase is the process of collecting and analyzing data about the project. The main goal is to gather all the needed details, define the clear requirements, and understand the business needs of the client. The composition of the team of specialists concluding the Discovery phase may differ based on the project. Often Business Analysts,(sometimes Project Manager) UX designers, Lead Software Architect, and of course stakeholders are involved in this process. The activities during the discovery phase will give a clear picture of what is needed and how to achieve that. 

A business analyst is responsible for gathering client requirements (functional and non-functional), doing user research, defining goals, and the scope of the project. UX specialists are producing wireframes, mockups, and creating an interactive prototype. Software architects usually create system requirement specifications where suggesting technology stack and offering architectural solutions. The team of specialists will estimate the final cost/timelines, prepare a team lineup, and plan the product development stages. Depending on the project this phase can last from two weeks to two months. Usually, it should take no longer than 10% of the project length. 

Which projects need a discovery phase? 

From a business perspective, every successful project should have some preparation phase. It can be called the pre-development stage, business planning, or the discovery phase, and done internally or externally. 

You may be thinking if it’s more reasonable to spend money on development right away. It’s definitely tempting to jump right into the development but remember a few minutes of planning saves you hours of execution. Don’t leave your project to simple luck, otherwise, it can be very frustrating to find out that some technical solution doesn’t fit or there is unnecessary functionality during the development. No matter what the size of the project, or whether you’re a large business or a new-born startup a  discovery phase is definitely required. It will decline the risks and ensure a high return of investment for development services.  

What is produced during the discovery phase? 

Discovery phase for the IT project

The main outcome of the discovery phase can vary based on the project needs. In most cases, by the end of this phase, you can get:

-high-level project plan with cost and time estimates

-project roadmap with the main milestones and engagement model 

-solution architecture scheme and list of suitable technologies

-prioritized scope and functional requirements document


-UI/UX concept and clickable prototype

The benefits of the discovery phase  

Among the main advantages of the discovery phase is the ability to make clear predictions on the future outcome of the project. Of course, you can’t be one hundred percent sure, unpredictable things could always happen. But there will be much less of them if you do the proper research and planning beforehand.

We’ve highlighted a few important pros of the discovery phase you need to consider:

Reduce uncertainty

In the initial stages of a project, there are many uncertainties that can further create stumbling blocks on the way to a successful project. During the discovery phase, you can determine what exactly needs to be done to achieve the result. As well as whether you have all the necessary resources to do so.

Reduce risks

A properly concluded discovery gives a clear understanding of project goals and requirements. Therefore the development team has a higher chance to produce accurate estimates, which drastically reduces the risks of missed deadlines and budget overruns.

Making decisions based on data

Relying on luck can lead to disappointment. With the detailed estimations on hand, you can determine. For example, the number of investments needed to be attracted, the stages of releases of new versions of the application, and so on. You will be able to give a clear answer to the stakeholders regarding the development and enhancement of product functionality.

To conclude

There is a famous “1-10-100 Rule.” related to the cost of quality. It simply means that prevention is cheaper than correction and correction costs less than failure. So it makes sense to spend 1$ at the beginning than to correct mistakes for 10$ or spend 100$ after the project release. This rule perfectly applies to the discovery phase. So make sure to discuss all the aspects of the discovery phase with your IT provider. If you have not yet chosen the developers you want to work with, the KeyToTech team is here to help you. Reach out for more information about our discovery phase and development process. 

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