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Viktor Timchenko

Head of Delivery

Why the discovery phase is so important

Digital projects can be expensive, with larger initiatives involving several partners and often challenging targets. But even today, many businesses just begin new projects with little to no detailed research, just an idea, an audience profile and a promise from a partner. But is that really sensible? Just because its digital, doesn’t mean the risks are not real, and the costs are certainly real. You would never start building a new home without plans, so why start building a website or other digital product with no formal approach?

What is a Discovery Phase?

Think of the discovery phase as the plan for your digital project, it helps you and any other organizations involved understand exactly what you are trying to build, and how you are building it, to ensure the best approach and best outcomes. Through the discovery phase, all stakeholders gain the required knowledge to ensure the project is cohesive, meaning you have a team that is capable of delivering the project successfully.

The discovery phase should be comprehensive for maximum benefit, covering several areas as follows:

  • Verification of your goals
  • Ensuring that proposed solutions are tailored to goals and business models
  • Identifying users to accurately highlight user needs
  • Create UX concept, user journey draft
  • Providing opportunities to explore ideas and tap into expert advice to see how ideas can be brought to life, including considering new or alternative technologies
  • Proofs of concept (required sometimes) creation
  • Documentation requirements and technical plan. Comprehensive documentation is produced as a result of the discovery phase
  • Test drive your agency partner relationship during the discovery phase to ensure they are a good fit. If they can’t perform at this stage, you can review your relationship before starting the full project.
Identifying the importance of the Discovery phase

Knowing what the discovery phase is though, is just a part of it, and understanding why it is so important is best shows with a practical example. If you are looking for a technical partner to work with you on a new project, you may draw up an outline of the project and its requirements as you currently see them to obtain quotes and proposals. If we look at the possible, and common, responses, we can begin to really clarify why the discovery phase is essential.

The first respondent provides a quote very quickly, within a week, with a surprisingly low figure. The second responds with a request to call them for more information about the project. You spend an hour discussing the project, including your business model, goals, the suggested technology stack, how responsibilities would be split and how the most effective ways of launching the project, some of which included areas that you did not cover in the initial outline. At the end of that, they quote a 50% higher fee than the initial respondent. Then the third vendor follows the same approach as the second, asking for a call to clarify details, and they go into even more detail in a 2-hour call. After that, their proposal recommends beginning a discovery phase for a set amount to establish an accurate cost estimation.

The question is, which one of those will actually deliver the project you want? The first vendor only has your outline, its missing many details and there is no established plan to follow. The quote is low, but you do not really know what you are getting from that. While the second vendor asked for more detail, there is still no established plan for the project, the quote is higher, but again, the reality is even after the discussion, what exactly the quote is for is open to interpretation. However, the third vendor proposes a discovery phase at a set cost, to establish the exact plan of implementation of the project, and they will then provide a cost for doing that.

It is the third vendor who can deliver your project effectively, not the other two, and that is why the discovery phase is so important.