Discovery Phase in Software Development: A must have step for your software project

Discovery Phase in Software Development

Approximately one out of every three software development projects exceed budget substantially, miss deadlines, or fails. The primary reason for this failure varies from cost estimates and unrealistic expectations to requirement mismanagement and poor planning.

A McKinsey study shows that 45% of all projects involving software development exceed their budget. For startup companies, success is a long journey and a winding one. Budget overrun or missed deadline is a disastrous blow. There is only one standard method in the industry that can prevent failure, predict issues and bugs, and reduce risks – the discovery phase in software development, and that is what you need.

What is Discovery Phase in Software Development?

Software development processes are divided into different phases. The software discovery phase is an integral part of the software development lifecycle and the preparatory stage of projects.

The Discovery phase in software development is one of the initial stages of the lifecycle. It involves project teams and managers working synergistically to collect and produce vital data, prompt product architecture, assess non-functional and functional requirements, select a stack, prepare cost estimates, and plan the project.

The software discovery phase also provides time to project stakeholders to form a team and create a collective understanding of project goals. The collaborative vision also ensures that in different steps of a project, the goal remains one, i.e., to provide value to the business.

One of the powerful results of the software discovery phase is the bond that develops between the team. This relationship connects the gaps among the software development team, business development team, and client.

Why Businesses Require Discovery Phase?

According to the same McKinsey report, 56% of all IT projects fail to deliver real value for end users than initially planned.

The reality of business is, indeed, harsh. Moreover, it is not 100% guaranteed that business projects would succeed. However, the discovery phase in the software development process can undoubtedly increase the chances of creating a robust digital product and reduce the risk of failure substantially.

Read More: Software Project Rescue : Signs Your Software Project Is In Trouble

What is involved in Software Discovery Phase

An effective software discovery process should include its stakeholders. Stakeholders are affected by the project or are an integral part of it, ranging from members of the development team to experts in subject matter and end-user. Having several viewpoints into this process allows for better discussion around the feasibility of the technology, clearer focuses on overarched business requirements, and gather valuable user insights.

Software Discovery Phase Discussions

Ideally, the development team should be involved in the process, including programmers, quality assurance tester, business analyst, project manager, user experience designer, and solution architect. In addition, having end-user representatives would also add value. Finally, it is critical to have the owner of the product in all these phase-wise activities. So, here’s a list

  • Product owner
  • Project manager
  • Solution architect
  • Business analyst
  • UX designer
  • Programmers
  • QA testers
  • Representative end user

For the discovery process, it is critical to have user experience designers. They can monitor functional constraints in the requirements of the user interface. The most common practice of bringing the Discovery Process and the Design Process together is conducting a design thinking studio. Stakeholders can discuss comprehensively and include topics like motivations, project vision, and requirements.

Though it is evident, the most crucial participant in this discovery process is the client or you. If you want to build a software or have a team build it, the team would be obliged to end-users.

The discovery period in the software development lifecycle is also the window of opportunity to share ideas with your team and incorporate changes to the business plan. The software development team and clients should buy into Discovery Process and ensure that they don’t skip past granular details of the project. If you are committed to the process of the discovery phase in software development, you are likely to have apparent requirements that the client did not consider.

The Fundamental Goals of Discovery Phase in Software Development

In the software development lifecycle, the discovery phase helps minimize costs and reduce risks. It also ensures the product fits in perfectly, adhering to the technological requirement.

The primary goals of the software discovery phase include:

  • To work out project functionality and architecture that can be implemented. It is one of the most crucial objectives of the software development process in the discovery phase in software development. All vital functionality points are made evident in this step, and excess or redundant elements are eliminated. So, working with professionals pays off.
  • Produce a comprehensive estimate of the project cost. All the essential elements of the software product are laid out clearly, and it is possible to assess the project’s budget. The software development process is complex. It isn’t straightforward to estimate the cost of the project and timelines of development without proper analysis of the concept, business situations, technical details, objectives, and requirements.

A comprehensive and clearly defined range of work is the key deliverable of the discovery project, the order in which it would be done, how timeline and resources are needed to deliver the project. The team and clients, marketing teams, and senior management can also use the guidelines for critical decision-making.

Why is Discovery Phase in Software Development Useful?

Conducting discovery in software development processes allows the team to understand and discuss the goals of the project. The team would emphasize the ambiguities to prevent any mistakes in software development processes as the earlier defects in software development may be detected. In both app and software development projects, the discovery process is a phase to clearly define the requirements and resolve misunderstandings that improve the feedback cycle remarkably during the development process.

When the software discovery phase is ignored, end users aren’t consulted until it is too late in the software development cycle. The digital product is likely to miss its mark from its perspective. Taking early help of the users confirms the goals of the software development project and the potential value it can deliver.

Users provide feedback that can tweak project directions if its value is not clear. To make necessary adjustments, you can modify the task that can lead to new bugs and even require new changes as per feedback. Consulting users in due time can help the team modify requirements instead of the code and even save money and time.

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How Does Discovery Process Work?

The Discovery phase takes form through various processes. However, the most common factor is generating a precedent for consistent and clear communication amongst the team and the client.
Usually, discovery phase experts begin with a planned pre-discovery process that eases the transition from the sales team to the operations and development team. Then, the team collects project information that allows them to make this process effective.

An initial ice-breaker meeting must be conducted between the client and the development team to introduce the project to everyone and answer specific questions about the client and the project in a friendly environment. This maximizes the time spent discussing particular needs and considerations during the discovery.

In the next step, a design workshop that focuses only on user-centric design must be created. In this environment, project stakeholders discuss users, their problems, needs, and expectations. After garnering all the information, user stories are designed to point to the specific functionalities.

Why Should You Consider Discovery Process for Software Development?

The answer is straightforward; the software discovery phase can save money and time. It may also prevent painful mistakes. Here are some of the key structures of discovery phase projects that explain exactly how it works:

  • It gives a complete view of the unique opportunity and introduces cross-industry experiences to the project. When a discovery project takes off, the knowledge and understanding of experts experienced in different markets and industries, fluent in their best practices, suggest essential points.

Reasons to consider discovery phase for software development

  • From the standpoint of software engineering, the discovery process is the step to collect data that assists in making essential technical and architectural decisions. This is a significant benefit for startups and companies that do not have respective tech teams in-house and experience in this field.
  • Optimize development cost with a discovery phase. You can work out ideas in detail, plan the design, and develop software without any strategic blunders, delays, or hitches.


Once the discovery process is complete, the company can switch to software design and software development efficiently. When discovery is made early, it allows designers to create a compelling experience for users to match their habits and needs. Precise requirements also ensure better and faster development. You can also hire a dedicated software development company experienced in handling discovery processes and executing your ideas with ease.

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Pratik Mistry is a rare mix of technologist and vice president of sales at Radixweb. His passion lies is in helping companies to grow revenues by delivering top notch software development services and build value-based partnerships. When not driving high-impact go to market strategies, Pratik loves to try new cuisines and going to the movies.