How to Shape Your Business Idea with a Discovery Phase

Oleksandr Moshenskiy
Head of PM Department at TRIARE
7 min read

The magic secret to the success of your website/app? Oh yes, it does exist. The two enchanted words are "Discovery phase," and we're giving away all the details in the article.

How to Shape Your Business Idea with a Discovery Phase

At TRIARE, we have expertise in every stage of web and mobile app development, from the discovery phase to post-release support. That is the reason we provide our clients with a warranty period. Our team dives into the business processes and gathers the information that will be the basis for the next steps.

In this article we will guide you through the discovery phase process from initial request to preparing the artifacts, so you can make sure why it’s critical not only for software development, but in the business building process too.

It’s a lot simpler to launch, advertise, and monetize a product nowadays. However, after six years of software development at TRIARE, we discovered that the project’s failure was due to two major factors: bad marketing and insufficient technical execution. Our team is in charge of the entire technological product development cycle, which includes relevant design, a clear understanding of product, audience, and business KPIs.

In light of this, the Discovery phase is grossly undervalued. We wish that more entrepreneurs went through it before squandering all of their funding. Fortunately, when a founder understands exactly what to do, the route map becomes crystal obvious. Here’s a quick guide on how to be ready for a successful launch.

Key takeaways:

  • The biggest failures happen when no Discovery stage has taken place
  • The Discovery stage has a shared structure but also a lot of peculiarities
  • The key challenge is to establish a common understanding of the project and address the right problem/indicators

Discovery phase: the Definition

What is the Discovery phase? It is a brief period during which professional software development businesses investigate a client’s needs and objectives. They decide whether or not to develop a product and, if so, how. All development processes begin with the Discovery, which aids stakeholders in identifying objectives and needs. The following are the major reasons to participate in the Discovery phase:

discovery phase reasons

  • Gather all available facts and complete an objective business analysis
  • Create mockups of the future product and/or a clickable prototype
  • Create technical documentation 
  • Calculate the cost and evaluate the time effort

This method, however, is not required for every project. If your ultimate product isn’t obvious or you only have a concept, or if it’s a long-term/complex project with high stakes, move on to the Discovery phase. A young startup entrepreneur may, of course, explore and bootstrap. 

Why is it crucial?

Before we go any further, we want to make sure there are no questions about the importance of the Discovery process in software development. You may certainly try to “play by air,” or “be agile.” The fact is that such a strategy would end up costing time and money in the long run. We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to dispel such myths. As a negative outcome, your project may just fail on one of the phases, starting from development and encoding, finishing with the product launch.  

Discovery flow: a Big Picture

Here is a simple and reasonable workflow for the Discovery process:

Step 1: Initial request

Step 2: Pre-Discovery and follow up

Step 3: Workshop

Step 4: Feedback, estimates, and project timeline

Step 5: Preparing all the artifacts

discovery flow

Step 3 (the workshop) may appear to be the most important activity. Indeed, after a few dozens of Discoveries, we recognized that significant ideas emerge at various points during the process. For example, by asking more questions regarding the project’s past, one may observe what the founder believes is significant while also highlighting what is vital.

A pre-discovery gives you more information and helps you plan the workshop’s agenda. Step 4 is frequently a transformative exercise that connects all done before. The firm develops the required artifacts at this point, such as the scope of work (SOW) and software requirements specification (SRS). Let’s take a closer look.

Step 1. Initial request

When a startup team decides to initiate Discovery, the company is looking for answers to these questions:

  • What is your project about?
  • Who are your potential users?
  • What is the most important problem that you are trying to solve for them?
  • Have you thought of the business and monetization models? What are they?
  • How would you measure project success?

We ask these questions by email or a brief phone call. Despite the fact that the questions appear to be simple, we find that most founders have difficulty answering them accurately. As a result, the software company proceeds with further details such as “resources required” and a “project timeline/roadmap.”

Step 2. Pre-Discovery and follow up

Once they get a sense of the general direction, they compare it to previous standards. They usually want detailed documents such as a white paper or PRFAQ, graphics (wireframes or model design), current code with supporting documentation, and, if applicable, a feature list.

The goal here is to understand the knowns and unknowns and then move to the prototype.

Step 3. Workshop

As a result, both the company founder and the consultants have access to all accessible data. Now is the time for a hands-on session that includes brainstorming and validation. Multiple face-to-face meetings with all stakeholders, either online or offline, will allow the working team to ask a lot of questions and learn everything there is to know about the firm.

Here is how a predefined agenda looks like: 

  • Identifying the core idea
  • Defining SOW for this Discovery
  • Spotlighting any other relevant hints (for further research)

The Discovery team consists of:

  • a business analyst who ensures the problem-solution fit, product-market fit, and business model fit.
  • a project manager who communicates the bridge between the working team and the customer.
  • a software developer who is actually responsible for product development.
  • and a UI/UX designer who is in charge of creating a complete user experience.

discovery phase team

Why is it so important for all stakeholders to attend the workshop? By the end, everyone has a common understanding of the final product and the prototype’s principles. After the session, one of our clients abandoned the project concept, saving time and money. Other clients knew what to focus on and what to leave out during the development process.

How much time does it take? For a small project, the discovery and workshop might take 1 to 3 days. That means 1-2 weeks for a medium one and at least 3-4 weeks for a large one.

Step 4. Feedback, estimates, and project timeline

The most intriguing things happen at this time. At this point, the creator rethinks the purpose of his or her enterprise. One customer loyalty startup, for example, ditched an unnecessarily complex model of business-to-customer interactions in favor of loyalty points. For new clients, the business also simplified digital onboarding.

Before the next step, businesses should validate the findings and give feedback to the Discovery team. On the consultant side, they prepare:

  • Research on target audience and competitors
  • User journey map
  • SRS
Want to get your business idea shaped?

Step 5. Receiving all the artifacts

The following deliverables are part of a successful Discovery phase:

  1. The system requirements specifications document that describes the project in detail. Your consultants will use a template based on the IEEE830 standard. It covers the feature set, a recommended tech stack, and an architecture outline. 
  2. A prototype that can be clicked on. The developers estimate the schedule and money for the whole project once the founder makes a final modification and accepts it. It’s a good idea to brush up on your estimating skills ahead of time.
  3. The expenses reflected in the SRS and highlighted in the full estimate breakdown. It offers an estimate of how long each item will take to implement in hours.
  4. The Design and Development phase schedule will allow you to evaluate the overall project based on the number of sprints, features, and people engaged.

Step 6. Completing the contract

This final phase will allow your project to move on in the product development process. You’ll also need to sign a common agreement, make a down payment, and then effectively launch the product development process. Our workflow series will teach you more about the project delivery process.

What’s next?

To have a defined scope of the project and clarity on how to assess success, the explained procedures must be followed. If you do it, your chances of a good outcome will skyrocket. The Discovery phase, in fact, is just a basis upon which development and marketing will be made. All of the work has still to be done.

Oleksandr Moshenskiy
Head of PM Department at TRIARE