How Discovery Phase Helps to Stay on the Market and Save Money

According to Fortunly (CB Insights) 42% of startups fail because they offer products or services that the market doesn’t need at all.

7 min read, Sep 26
how-discovery-phase-helps

If you are going to launch a startup you always think about money and requirements, don‘t you? You head is occupied with the burning issues that demand complex solutions and constatly arising questions including the following:

  • How can we be sure we develop what exactly our customers need?
  • How can we know what market really needs?
  • Don't we forget about anything?
  • How can we provide the best UX for our users?
  • What do we need a hybrid mobile application on React Native or PWA on Vue & NodeJS?


To be able to find accurate answers to them you need Discovery phase especially if you have a product without predefined requirements.

What is Discovery phase?

Discovery phase definition can vary within the process and team terms depending on a certain IT company. In Springs we involve our Project Manager, Business Analyst, UX/UI Designer, and development team to create product specifications, design, wireframes, MVP scope evaluation, and other required materials. Specification and design depend on each other a lot, so it’s required to sync them and work on them simultaneously.

Developers investigate and research APIs, existing technical solutions to make sure we are not reinventing the wheel and can reach our goals in the most affordable way. On the other hand, there is a Product Owner and/or other team members who are responsible for business requirements. They work closely with our developers and Project Manager to reach the highest synergy, which can turn into the best product.

Who is involved in Discovery phase?

Teamwork. That is the core thing for each stage of product development. Application of Discovery phase approach is absolutely necessary for both contractor and client to be involved as much as possible.

Discovery phase team

Here is an example of who we involve during our regular discovery phase:

Product Owner - the person from the client`s side, who is responsible for reviewing and adjusting deliverables to fit business requirements.

Project Manager - person, who is responsible for managing the process, making sure the team is following a timeline and fitting budget limitations, perform invoicing and control overall process.

Business Analyst - person, who is responsible for market research and creating product specifications.

UI/UX Designer - person, who is responsible for creating visual and UX-related deliverables (wireframes, layouts, UX-diagrams, etc.).

Developers - people who are responsible for approving and adjusting deliverables in terms of development possibilities, risks, and budget, making project evaluation.

Advisors - people optionally involved, who can advise on deliverables to save budget and time, improve UX, get the better product, etc.

Discovery phase in software development

Usually, a discovery phase time limit is 2-6 weeks. It'ss an appropriate period to perform the necessary research, prepare specifications and agree on initial requirements for MVP. However, depending on the project complexity it may take from 1 week and to a couple of months.

We defined a list of steps that we consider are necessary to make the process smooth to fulfill the purpose of a discovery phase:

1. Communication

As a good starting point, we suggest exchanging visions of the concept implementation. So the answer to the question how to start a discovery phase? is to arrange an intro call to talk details in order to understand mutual initial requirements fully and discuss further flow.

2. Drafting

Business Analyst and Project Manager create an initial draft of Product Specifications. At this stage, it’s important not to go too deep into details but describe system overall: modules, pages that product should have to fit primary business requirements, etc.

3. Revision

This document is reviewed by Product Owner and other team members, the team performs meetings and gives recommendations to BA & PM to adjust document from the side of the business, budget, risks, UX, etc.

4. Design

During Discovery phase requirements for the product UI/UX are defined. If the choice is to use ready-made themes for web or mobile interfaces, UX & UI Designer and developers choose a theme to use as a base for UI. If custom design is required, Designer prepares the concept.

5. Deep review

Product Owner reviews and approves a ready-made theme or custom design concept. Business Analyst & Project Manager based on discussions with other team members add more details into Product Specifications.

Discovery phase process

6. Deliverable adjustments

Simultaneously Designer prepares UX-related deliverables, adjusting them based on discussions with other team members. During this step of Discovery phase Project Manager controls time for review iterations and makes sure the process fits allocated timeframe and budget.

7. Record evaluation

As soon as a team is ready with all deliverables Project Manager gets approve from all team members: Product Owner checks business requirements, Developers check technical possibilities and risks, Project Manager checks budget and deadlines.

8. Backlog preparation

Project Manager prepares backlog based on project evaluation, where all features are listed in the order of their importance starting with required features and ending with good-to-have features.

It’s very important to determine the required scope as exactly as possible during Discovery phase app development it's intended for. If any of the features from this scope won’t be implemented it won’t make sense to launch the app. Otherwise, this scope shouldn’t have any extra features, so we spend the budget wisely.

9. Budget estimation

Based on the required scope and estimations we calculate a minimal required budget. If the project budget was determined before, we make sure we fit the initial budget.

10. Final approval

As soon as all team members approve deliverables, it can be considered as completed and we can start the development phase.

Why you need Discovery phase

After reading all this you might still have questions in your mind: so how this stage will help me to stay in the market and save money? The following discovery phase benefits make the process the first step to your project cost-efficiency and ergo are answers to your question.

Risk minimization

More planning before - fewer expenses later. This phase can be considered as an integral part of strategic planning for your business. It more definitely outlines project specifics and allows discovering more risks and preventing or minimizing their influence.

Project optimization

Putting the concept under such a review allows uncovering inappropriate and excessive aspects to change or remove. Since the conductor's team is directly involved the project feature variations can be synchronized with the tech stack formation for the quality implementation.

Priorities setting

Such project evaluation simplifies focusing not just on development and delivery but also on ultimate product goals mostly defined by user needs. Finding the balance between the possibilities and interests of all involved parties is a background for future success.

Decision-making ease

On the early stages of product development, there are so many vital issues to solve and aspects to define. Such multiplicity can bewilder and puzzle affecting the decision reasoning and reaction speed. The phase simplifies challenges associated with the creation of required solutions.

Cost reduction

The mentioned above Discovery phase advantages commonly result in the decrease of the project cost without affecting its basic concept, functionality or implementation quality. So you can build MVP with features that the market actually needs without exciding the set budget.

The time when you'll actually appreciate adding this stage to your project development is after you complete MVP. After its launch, you'll be able to match defined needs in your market research and feedback from real customers to apply improvements and adjustments.

In our experience, it actually works.

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