When it comes to any software development project, every phase is critical to your success. If you skip a phase or rush through it, you put your entire project at risk.
The discovery phase is among the most important. It’s also the one that many people skip over, assuming that they’ll catch up along the way. While you may be able to get away with it, it’s a big risk that can cost you time and money.
The discovery phase is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an intensive research period that’s undertaken in the early stages of a software development project.
The primary purpose of the discovery phase is to reduce uncertainty, ensure that everyone is on the same page, and pin down the direction that the project and development teams will follow.
Furthermore, this phase is also useful for identifying potential roadblocks and discussing contingency plans.
There are a variety of professionals who typically partake in the discovery phase, including but not necessarily limited to the following:
- Project managers
- Business analysts
- Quality assurance
Even if you don’t think a particular individual needs to be involved in the discovery phase, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
But is it Necessary?
At this point, you have a clear idea of what the discovery phase entails and how it can help put a project on the right track from the start.
However, you may still question whether it’s truly necessary to the success of the project.
Projects fail for a variety of reasons, with ignoring the discovery phase at the top of the list.
For example, here are some statistics shared in a recently published LinkedIn SlideShare presentation:
- One in six IT projects has a cost overrun of 200 percent.
- Only one-third of projects are successfully completed on time and on budget.
There are a variety of reasons for project failure, with many of them tied to the discovery phase in some way, shape, or form.
These reasons include:
- Poor planning in regards to project requirements and specifications;
- Poor scope control;
- Lack of communication between the developer and client;
- Lack of qualified resources;
- Improper risk management.
And that doesn’t even take into consideration everything else that could go wrong.
The same presentation lends insight into one of the most common myths surrounding the discovery phase:
The discovery phase is surplus to requirements and just a way to waste a little money while delaying the project launch.
That’s the myth, but the truth is this:
The discovery phase reduces the risk of failure, to ensure you launch with the right tools, to cement developer relationships, and to maximize the potential of getting off to a flying start.
Do you see the difference?
If you believe the myth to be true, it’s easy to assume you don’t need the discovery phase. In fact, you may consider it a waste of time and money.
The fact of the matter is that the discovery phase sets the table for everything that’s to come. It improves the likelihood of getting started on the right foot.
Is There Ever a Time to Skip the Discovery Phase?
As a general rule of thumb, you should always focus the necessary time and resources on the discovery phase.
However, there are exceptions to every rule. Here are two times when it could make sense to skip the discovery phase:
- You already have what you need: For example, if a client comes to you with all the documentation you need to get started - such as from another vendor - you may not need to spend much if any, time on this phase of the project.
- You’re only making minor changes: Sometimes, you’re not staffed with building a product from the ground up. Instead, you’re only going to make minor improvements to an existing product. In this case, the discovery phase isn’t necessary.
Play it Safe
You want to work in the most time and cost-efficient manner possible, which is likely to point you toward the discovery phase.
If you start here, you will:
- Reduce uncertainty regarding scope, timelines, and functionality;
- Reduce the risk of bugs and other setbacks;
- Optimize time;
- Optimize costs;
- Test your products with interested users, who can provide invaluable feedback.
With all this in mind, it’s easy to see why the discovery phase is so important.