The discovery phase (sometimes also called scoping phase) is the very first and initial stage of software development aimed to define who’ll be your end-user, setting overall product vision, goals & scope, and calculating risks.

Building a product is like building a house - one day you wake up inspired, full of ideas on how to implement your vision and get the most comfort (success when in software). And the next day the market can hit you so hard that your house ends up falling down with you fighting to keep your business alive.

Now, what if you could evaluate the risks & estimate the costs in advance? In business, especially in IT product development - the discovery phase is your building plan with all the critical points of safety assured. It’s a proven way to estimate &cut costs, reduce risks and create a reliable roadmap for great business results.

Thinking if the project needs “the discovery”? Nothing speaks better than numbers, so let's review some statistics:


How is the discovery phase performed? Or the process of discovery

The process of discovery is individual to each particular project. Not every project requires every step, as described here, but in general, you can think of including them or not in your process.

Step 1. Planning

Getting project objectives and strategy. During this step, you will define the general problem, solution, and goals of the project. It can be done in a form of a Project Charter, or another document, diagram, or schema.

Step 2. Research

Finding out industry trends and standards along with technological restrictions. At this step, you will want to do market research, which can include interviews with a focus group, an analysis of certain economic behavior, or even a Proof of Concept project to validate your hypothesis. Many new projects start from existing businesses, and the need for a new digital product is established based on past experience. But still, you will want to collect and group the understanding of the problem-solution idea from all the stakeholders.

Step 3. Assessment

Usage evaluation with user observation and testing. Also, KPI definition, use case building, and defining stakeholders' needs and goals. At this step, a team will work on the details of the implementation of the project. Usually, the project team will deliver documents like Work Breakdown Structure, Architectural Concept, and User Stories defining the requirements of the project.

Step 4. Interaction and visual design

Depicting flow diagrams, interaction diagrams, and mockups creation with UI kit. At this stage, the requirements collected will be translated into visual designs. Depending on the clarity of the requirements, the designs can be done in a form of concept, defining general look and feel, or can include a detailed design flow.

Step 5. Preparation for development

Deciding on requirements specifications, planning a roadmap, and making time/budget estimations. At this step, the team will define the timeline, budget, and necessary resources for the project.

What team is needed to perform the discovery?

Usually, the process is led by either a business analyst, project manager, or account manager. Depending on the goals set for the discovery, and for better product understanding in the development phase other team members can be involved, like developers, designers, and team leads. To start the process this team initiates several meetings to run the workshops and establish the requirements for the project.

How long does it take to complete the discovery?

The duration of the discovery phase can take from one week to two months, or even more, depending on the project complexity and the portion of unknown to be resolved.

What discovery deliverables can you expect?

As each project is unique, so is the scope of deliverables. But in general, you may expect some or all of the following:

  • System requirements specification: Full description of your project. Its features suggested a tech stack and architecture overview.

  • Market analysis: financial model and developing a business strategy based on picking the right niche for the product. Also, that includes competitors' research.

  • Target audience definition: Who is your customer? What problems do they have and how your product will help them to resolve them? How do they think and how they will know about your product? What interface will be suitable for your user? As well, user story creation can help with better understanding.

  • MVP development estimates: You will get the time and budget estimate along with the suggested team lineup. Also, the UX clickable prototype can be provided with your real potential clients having an opportunity to try it and give a genuine review.

    Once this phase is completed, you can expect the above deliverables presented in a form of documents, known as:

  • Product Vision

  • Functional specification

  • WBS work breakdown structure

  • Visual concept (mockups)

  • Architectural concept

To sum up, a productive discovery phase provides time to get most of the uncertainty out of the way. It establishes the necessary focus needed for timely and efficient development. If you want to start your product development and consider a discovery phase - contact us and we will help you to choose the best option for your case.