First explore, then start: 5 reasons why you need software product discovery

BA's role on a project

5 Ways Your Business Will Win With Software Product Discovery

Here’s a typical path startups take: the founder has an idea. The development team is gathered to implement it, and the founder loves the result. But when they try to sell the solution, no one buys it. This is a major issue startups have to deal with. In fact, 42% of businesses fail because they just don’t meet the market need. That’s why it’s so important to do your research before the development hits off.

So, if you have a brilliant software idea that promises huge earnings, and you just can’t wait to start implementing it, hold your horses. Make sure you’ve weighed everything before launching the development. This is called the discovery phase, and at Selecto we’re convinced that the success of software development stems from here.  

What’s Software Product Discovery?

At the discovery phase, your idea and its implementation are evaluated. A business analyst, a UI/UX expert and a software architect will work together to deliver:

market research

• wireframing, prototyping

• feature analysis

• business goals outlining

• user requirements analysis

• technology stack suggestions

• team composition and size

• time and money estimates and more.

The discovery phase consists of several stages and usually takes from one to several weeks to finish, depending on the size of the project.

It’s nice to go through the discovery phase if you want:

• to gather a team ASAP. And not just any team - a team of pros who would grasp your business idea and build an MVP with the necessary functionality quickly.

• to lay down steps that will lead to maximum results with minimum effort according to the Pareto principle.

• to analyze the data you have and come up with the steps for further growth.

• unbiased, clear and profound analysis of your idea, a plan and the anticipated results.

Discovery phase deliverables

When You Absolutely Need to Have The Discovery Phase

Sure, there are cases when you can skip this phase and still be successful. But some startups and growing businesses need it badly. See if yours is among them:

1. You have a unique or risky idea that needs to be tested

No one has ever done anything similar before. There are no competitors in the market. Several-million funding is at arm’s length… Wait a minute. What if the reason nobody has done it before is that no one needs a solution like this? Or it’s so technically complicated that there’s no point bothering? The discovery phase will help you find out if the need for your solution actually exists. Then, research will show who your customers are and what you can offer to meet their expectations. Mind that your users and their needs should be at the very center of every development initiative. Finally, product discovery will estimate the time and cost it would take you to present the product to your users.

2. The functional or technical requirements are raw or incomplete

Usually, a customer comes with a product description, a set of requirements and a vague idea on how to implement it all. And sometimes, you just can’t combine all the requirements in one application because of certain technical issues. The sooner the team - and the customer - understand this, the less money will be spent on useless development.  

As for the functional requirements, it’s always better to find out what the customers want to see in your product before you start developing. Sure, you can play the guessing game, but it will probably cost you more than the discovery phase.

3. You need a proof of concept

Sometimes the customer will want the solution to be developed using some trendy technologies few people have actually had experience with. It will require some experimenting to see how it combines with different tools, hardware, etc. When you’re planning to go with machine learning, 3D printing, blockchain, you have to prove that your hypothetical product or service will survive in the real world and be commercially profitable.

Product team working on the proof of concept

Why Do Customers Still Skip the Discovery Phase?

It seems pretty obvious that starting a project with the discovery phase will save you time and money down the road. Then why do customers still skip this most underrated phase of the software development life cycle? The reasons are purely psychological.  

Enthusiasm.You have an idea, and you want to start implementing it right now! Once you start thinking it over, conducting research, examining the weak points, the enthusiasm plummets, making you less excited about anything that’s connected to your idea.

Overconfidence. Why bother researching? I know I need a solution that does what I want, which means the users will want that too. No doubt our product will be awesome, we’ll have no problem selling it. Or how about this: we have a super talented team, and they’ll deal with any technical issues once they occur. Well, maybe, but at what cost?

Time spent not coding is wasted. This is the issue of the team consisting of technical specialists only. And we all know that they underestimate the role of marketing, sales and communications as compared to the development itself. Still, all these elements are crucial for startup survival.

5 Reasons Why You Should Go for the Discovery Phase

Product discovery is sure to make your team work more efficiently and let you avoid many challenges along the way. Here’s why we recommend starting software development with the discovery phase.

1. Building a strategy

Here comes the initial stage: market research. Discovery phase helps you understand the problem(s) your solution will solve for the users and the scope of it; who your typical users are; where they will meet your product (and in what form: mobile, desktop, web, etc.) and how they will interact. To find these answers, you need to study your competitors, discover (or come up with) unique features or benefits that will make you stand out on the market, define your target audience and create user personas.

2. Listing requirements

Software product discovery will help you create a list of features and set their priorities right. Our priority is pleasing the users, so we focus on launching a product that contains all of the most important features for them.

3. The information architecture

The next stage of product discovery is sketching the information architecture, building low fidelity wireframes and generalizing the project roadmap. It will give you the “skeleton” of your app or website at hand. You can review it with your client and make changes while it’s not expensive. It’s always better to visualize the tasks and see where you are and if the direction is correct.

4. The technology stack choice

You may have already chosen the tools you want to use to implement your solution, but getting a second opinion never hurt. Besides, your team may include professionals in several specific technologies, which might influence your choice. But what if you could build your solution more efficiently and cheaper by switching to other technologies and hiring dedicated talent from an outsourcing vendor? You’ll find all that out during the discovery process.

5. Price estimates

Once you have the strategy and the roadmap visualized, the market research and competitor analysis summarized, timelines drawn, the talent gaps found, you can estimate the budget quite accurately. This is especially important for startups that have rigid money limits or create investment proposals for funds and investors.

Bottom Line

What will you get after the discovery process? First of all, you’ll know what you have to do, for whom and why. Next, you’ll have your market research, competitor study and challenge prediction ready. All this gives you plenty of information to create customer personas and user journeys and define the list of functions for an MVP. At the end of the discovery phase, you’ll also get your tech stack description and low-fidelity prototypes. The user insights a thoroughly conducted discovery stage provides will also be helpful when you decide to update the product.

The couple of weeks it may take to run the discovery phase are nothing compared to the amount of problems you’ll avoid once its results are ready. So, why not make sure your idea will see the world and succeed before investing in it?

Our design team is always happy to help you with the roadmap, milestones or сompetitive analysis for your project. Contact him now.

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