What is Project Discovery Phase in Custom Software Development
What is Project Discovery Phase in Custom Software Development
Coming up with a new product idea is fantastic. But what’s next? You need to get a cost estimation and product timeline from a software development company. However, it’s possible that the product team may not be able to provide an accurate timeline and cost estimation upon request. The matter is that to provide a product estimate, the development team needs to undergo a project discovery phase to get all the necessary information. In this article, we will share a brief overview of a project discovery process, its benefits, main tasks, and deliverables for customers.
Project Discovery Phase in the Product Development Process
Software development is a continuous process of conceptualizing and developing products based on certain requirements using the available resources. The product discovery phase precedes the development process itself, and as such determines the success or failure of the product. The software development process comprises several phases which run simultaneously, however, the discovery phase has to come first. Here’s a rundown of the appropriate development process model;
1. The Product Discovery Phase
What is project discovery phase? The product discovery phase is an intensive brainstorming session that takes place before the software development process. This phase defines the specification, architecture, design, and project’s cost estimation of the future product. During the product discovery process, both the client and the development team have to agree on features of the minimum viable product (MVP) for a web or mobile app to test the idea. After the project requirements have been formulated and a project plan approved, the software developers can start working.
Having a coherent project plan helps you create accurate time and cost estimates to lower the risks of missed deadlines or loss of resources. The deliverables of a product discovery process can also attract extra funding. Moreover, the product discovery phase is the perfect time for the client to get to know the software team better. If both sides discover that they aren’t a great fit during this process, it is possible to switch with minimum losses.
2. The Product Development Stage
The product development stage follows the approved project plan, client’s requirements, and incremental team reviews. This plan is useful for the client to check the timeline for all deliverables and project deadlines, and for the software developers to have a step-by-step plan of the actual product.
3. The Product Review Phase
During the product review phase, the software team detects and fixes errors regarding the requirements stated during the product discovery phase.
4. The Product Deployment Phase
The product deployment phase is about delivering the product to the market (actual users) after scaling through levels of testings. During this process, the development team corrects last-minute errors that could jeopardize the product’s success. Upon release, a product that went through a proper discovery and deployment phase will be less likely to fail in the market.
5. The Product Maintenance Phase
The purpose of the product maintenance phase is to consistently service and upgrade the product’s quality and guarantee reliability. As the product market grows, the product requirements may need to be revised, prompting another product discovery phase for the project. Although the product discovery process is regarded as a standard part of the software development process, sometimes clients choose to neglect the process or skip it entirely. However, there are some cases where failure to conduct a professional product discovery process can prove fatal to the entire development effort.
What is Project Discovery Phase?
What is product discovery process? The project discovery phase or process is the first stage in custom software development which focuses on collecting information to define the product requirements and analyze the customer’s business needs. Clients benefit from accurate project estimation and development costs as a result of this. The product discovery process is also useful for software teams because it allows them to answer the following questions:
- What are the different aspects of the customer’s business?
- What is the application’s intended audience?
- Who are the product’s end users?
There are three (3) efficient options to conduct a product discovery meeting which include; the client office, the agency’s office, and/or remotely. You can choose the most suitable format for your product team depending on the time difference, location, and personal preferences. If you don’t have the opportunity to visit the software agency’s office or invite them over to your office, you can schedule a remote product discovery session.
At Mobirevo, we pay attention to our clients during the product discovery phase while discussing the product, its business goals, and target audience. We ask questions that allow our project team to explore the subject area, define bottlenecks, offer high-level solutions, and provide project cost and time estimates. Afterwhich, we provide a client with application wireframes and clickable prototypes to represent the final product interface and simulate user interaction.
Benefits of the Product Discovery Phase in Software Development
Why do you need to conduct a product discovery session and engage various teams before you even start the development process? This is because it helps you save a ton of time and money while avoiding painful mistakes. Here are several benefits of the product discovery process in software projects;
1. Get a Comprehensive View
The product discovery phase for a software development project is a unique opportunity to introduce the cross-industry expertise of different teams to your project. You are a pro in your domain and know exactly what works in your field. When you start a product discovery project with a software agency, you bring in the experience of all the experts who have worked in various markets. These experts are fluent in the industry’s best practices and can suggest shortcuts and crucial information.
At Mobirevo, we have solid expertise in providing product discovery services and first-hand knowledge of how to develop web and mobile apps across different domains. We channel our experience from competitive niches along with research insights into our client’s market. This allows us to develop a clear vision of how the client’s business can evolve in line with global best practices industry standards.
2. Bring Tech Competence
The product discovery phase is an opportunity to bring technical expertise to your project. From a developer’s standpoint, product discovery is the best time to collect essential data to make important architectural and technical decisions. This is particularly important for companies that don’t have an in-house tech team or any experience in software development. However, even tech-savvy clients find it useful when engaging software developers to enrich their vision with tech.
3. Optimize the Cost of Development
The product discovery phase allows both teams to work out an idea in minute detail, and carefully plan the product design discovery phase to avoid costly delays or strategic blunders during development.
4. Find Your Competitive Edge
When building a software solution in a highly saturated market, finding and formulating a competitive advantage is essential. To do that, you need to study the market competitors and target audience to provide more value. During the product discovery phase, we conduct thorough industry research, determine the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors, find the gaps in their product offer and identify specific user needs that haven’t been addressed yet. Using these insights, we shape your value proposition to reflect your competitive edge.
5. Create a Clear Product Vision
One of the main reasons for conducting a product discovery phase is to develop a clear vision for the project. Oftentimes, the client may have a vague understanding of how to flesh out their breakthrough idea. In this case, the product discovery phase helps to define project goals, collect necessary data, refine product ideas, draw a clear product vision and bridge evident tech gaps. Moreover, the insights gained during the product discovery phase offers a new perspective on how certain decisions can be implemented.
What are the Key Product Discovery Roles?
A whole team of specialists is involved in the product discovery process, which may include project managers, solution architects, designers, and web or mobile developers. The client’s job is to give the team all of the initial data they need to start working, answer multiple questionnaires, respond to follow up strategic sessions, and evaluate the resulting prototype. Every project requires an individual approach to its product discovery phase due to the varying specifications.
To be effective, the product discovery process requires the active participation of both the client and the software team. We firmly believe that close cooperation between both teams helps build a successful and profitable software solution. Here are some of the main participants in the product discovery process and their respective roles:
Business Analyst/Product Manager
Proper business analysis helps the product team to understand and define a problem by analyzing both stakeholders and users. Once the problem has been defined, it gets framed, and the product vision statement is born. The business analysts and product managers collect, structure, and analyze data from clients, competitors and target users. They also facilitate a discussion process by making a list of clarifying questions so that both sides are in sync. Product managers create epic user stories which can be transformed into an estimate for the client.
Web designers discuss and elaborate on the product requirements and client’s preferences, as such they analyze the competitors, target audience, and end-users. They are also responsible for designing the user flow for the product. This information is important in creating a visually appealing and intuitive web solution based on the client’s demands. Based on the elaborate analysis of the client’s requirements, target audience, and competitors, the UI/UX designer prepares a prototype to demonstrate the product’s interface with functional features.
Lead software developer
As technical specialists, the lead engineers analyze the product documentation to understand the project architecture and provide a suitable technology stack for the software solution. It is crucial to ensure that the proposed business logic is feasible within the development process. The development team also creates a system architecture design that defines how everything interacts within the software along with the technical vision of the product. This includes APIs integrations, web/app restrictions, localization, performance, scalability, and portability.
The stakeholders represent the client’s team and deliver the product idea to the software development company. They explain the product goals, and their expectations and the project requirements.
How is the Product Discovery Phase Conducted?
Each product discovery session begins with exploring the subject area, defining bottlenecks and priorities, discussing high-level product solutions, and forming a project scope. The essence of this process is to enable the software development agency to provide the client with an accurate timeline and cost estimates. Let’s take a look at the core tasks addressed during the product discovery process.
1. Explore the Subject Area
Both the client’s and project teams investigate the subject area, analyze the product idea, target market, and business competitors. At this stage, the client explains how the product should work, its functions, and user flow.
2. Identify Bottlenecks
When the client provides their expectations for the product, the software development agency analyzes the data and discusses the possible project bottlenecks.
3. Discuss High-level Solutions to Expected Challenges
The software development team offers high-level solutions to certain expected pain points in the project. The software agency explains to the client why certain architectural solutions perfectly meet the proposed product requirements.
4. Define Priorities and Discuss a Project Scope
At this stage of the project discovery phase, both sides move towards identifying set priorities for the main tasks and creating a project scope. The software developers collaborate with the product managers to efficiently allocate resources for the development process. The project scope shows clients user stories that are crucial to the product vision.
5. Provide Project Cost and Time Estimate along with a Project Documentation
The final goal of a product discovery phase is to create the product documentation which includes accurate technical specifications, and the initial project features for the product.
Basic Project Discovery Questions
At the end of each product discovery session, the client is given an individual product discovery plan prepared by the software team. The software agency needs to create a list of questions before meeting with the client. These questions should be personally adapted for each client they form an integral part of a product discovery plan. The main questions for the meeting may vary depending on the customer’s business goals, and product requirements. However, here are some basic questions that need to be included in a product discovery template;
What is the business goal?
The software agency questions the client on the main problems their product will solve to understand the overall product concept.
What is the product’s target audience?
It is important to define the target audience for the product solution and build a portrait of the buyer persona. These stages include defining the users’ demographics, geolocation, ages, habits, etc to build a customer-oriented product.
Who are the main competitors?
The competitor analysis allows you to identify the core strengths and weaknesses of the existing products in the market. This information is useful for building a unique and valuable solution that can stand out from the crowd.
What is the project’s timeline?
A timeframe is an easiest and most efficient way to track and manage a project’s planned activities. It gives a clear picture of the project’s course at a single glance.
What is the budget for the project?
This information is crucial to define whether the set requirements are feasible to implement. It results in an accurate software estimate from the development company which is important for both parties as well.
When is the Product Discovery Phase Indispensable
1. When Building your First Software Project
Cooperating with an experienced software development team during the product discovery phase will give the client a clear understanding of optimal user experience (UX), product development stages, and how to align their business goals with the user’s needs. A software team with strong industry expertise can spot technical issues, predict possible risks, and suggest ways to promptly address the challenges.
2. When Rebuilding an Existing System
In this case, implementing various methods of product discovery, including legacy code review, can help you define the project scope, understand the strengths and weaknesses for maximum transformation. The tech experts will provide recommendations for improvement, detect potential bottlenecks, and work through implementing effective solutions. A clearly defined scope of work will also facilitate critical decision-making by the project team, and the company’s management.
3. If the Software is Complex
If the desired solution needs to be integrated with third-party APIs, software libraries, artificial intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR) algorithms, blockchain, smart sensors, and other intuitive technology, a team of software specialists are required to provide the necessary consultations, research, and support.
4. When the Project Requirements are Vague
Most entrepreneurs have brilliant business ideas but aren’t sure of how to meet the user’s needs. The product discovery phase allows for the client and project team to plan the product from the user perspective, ensure user satisfaction, retention, and long term loyalty. It’s reasonable to hire a reliable software development team that has built a portfolio of custom solutions. An experienced team can also identify and suggest the most suitable technologies to materialize your idea.
5. When the Project requires Proof of Concept (PoC)
PoC shows that a solution can be implemented by testing its feasibility to become a commercial success. The analysis done on business case studies, competitor niches, and target markets during the product discovery phase facilitates the rapid creation of a prototype based on the market need. A prototype built during the product discovery phase can provide feedback from real users for investors.
6. Having a Limited Project Budget
During the project discovery phase, experienced professionals can help you define the product’s architecture and functionalities to be implemented, to replace the redundant features. After evaluating the product development process, they also suggest ways to reduce overall expenses and avoid over-budgeting. The deliverables of the product discovery phase will also help you create a stronger presentation for pitching to the board of directors or investors.
What are the Deliverables of the Product Discovery Phase in Software Development?
The main purpose of a product discovery phase is to get a detailed project plan along with accurate time and cost estimates. The project plan includes product specifications with a technical stack, product architecture, project scope, and wireframes which can be upgraded to a clickable prototype that allow you to test the product before the development phase. Let’s take a closer look at the deliverables related to the product discovery phase.
A wireframe is the skeleton of a final product design which schematically shows the basic application structure and users interact with the interface. It is created to look aesthetic, but simple. The colours black, grey, and white are typical wireframe palettes. This is necessary to implement and test a custom scenario to show a client how users can reach the desired result; evaluate the product discovery UX/UI designs and create an interactive prototype.
2. Clickable prototype
A prototype is a mockup created to represent the final product by simulating real user interaction. It is clickable which means users can experience the app’s functionality, navigate through main pages, and open drop-down menus. In this regard, prototypes are quite different from MVPs, as the latter are working solutions with minimum functionality for early adopters.
3. User Portfolio
A user portfolio describes the user persona, their characteristics, and goals. This document features vital information needed to create an excellent user experience.
4. Competition Report and Market Research
This report includes the findings of a competitor and market research including expert recommendations on how to better address the demand of the market.
5. Project Goal Statement and Value Proposition
One of the essential deliverables shows articulate project goals, a detailed vision of the product and its main advantages.
6. Documented Requirements
This document provides a glimpse of how the product can evolve from a prototype to a scalable MVP and then to a fully-fledged product.
7. Project Scope and Timeline
The client gets a detailed project scope that explains what resources need to be implemented for the project and how much time it will take.
8. Project Implementation Plan
A project roadmap is a product development plan which shows a clear picture of the development process and delivery timeline.
9. Product Concept
Depending on the terms of the product discovery phase, this features a set of black and white wireframes that demonstrate the user flows and system functionality, user interface design ideas, and a clickable prototype.
How much Does the Product Discovery Phase Cost?
A project discovery phase that doesn’t include UX/UI development will cost around $5,000 and won’t take more than a month. This is a perfect option for moderately complex software development projects that will last between 3-12 months. It typically doesn’t require a very detailed development specification. The cost for product discovery largely depends on the complexity of the project and required deliverables. For instance, if it includes product discovery UX/UI design, multiplatform systems integration and other detailed specifications, the cost can get up to $10,000 – $15,000.
The product discovery phase in software development is an efficient way for clients to validate their product idea, identify business goals, desired product outcomes, get accurate time estimates and development costs. This allows both the client and software team to prepare for the development process. At Mobirevo, we devote optimum attention to this development stage and offer quality product discovery services. We ask questions that allow our software team to explore the subject area, its bottlenecks, offer the most suitable tech stack and high-level solutions.
We also provide our clients with accurate time and cost estimates, along with functional application wireframes and clickable prototypes. Have a great project idea but not sure where to begin? Contact us today to schedule your Product Discovery session with our team and get a free quote. You can also check out our case study page to see our client’s portfolio and get a better understanding of the quality of products we deliver.
Our team of developers are available to help you conduct your project discovery phase and turn your project into reality. Want to receive more content like this? You can signup for our newsletter, which features curated opinions, and product discovery tools for building remarkable digital assets.
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