Project Discovery: What is it and Why Do You Need it?
It was the great Greek philosopher Plato who said over 2000 years ago that “the beginning is the most important part of the work.” I’m not sure whether he was talking specifically about the Discovery Stage for Digital Products but he was hell right!
Despite we cooperate with many teams from different industries, at the highest level the stakeholders of our clients expect the same: CEOs and Product Managers want the project to be cost-effective and showing a great ROI and ARR, while CTOs want us to create a technically scalable and supportable product.
But how can we satisfy the expectations of all stakeholders? That’s exactly what we usually try to find out during the Discovery stage.
🗂 Top 4 Cases When We Go through a Project Discovery with our Clients
Let’s start with the basics — what is the Project Discovery Stage at Stormotion?
A Project Discovery Phase is the process of collecting and producing any kind of essential data as well as clearing all open questions that precede the execution and development of the project itself, with the aim to satisfy the expectations of all stakeholders.
The Project Discovery process is a common stage in the development lifecycle of many digital products. The most common cases (you may find yourself on this list, too) when it’s required are:
- You have general understanding and market research of your idea and nothing else. Then your project requires preparation of essential product-related data: user stories, use cases, wireframes and a UX-mindmap.
- You already have use cases or user stories but the clear vision of the product is still missing. UX-Prototyping would be our solution during the Discovery Stage for you.
- Your Product includes some non-common requirements - for example, an integration of a specific SDK or a new AI-based matching algorithm. Our Senior Dev team will investigate and implement those requirements.
- You are well prepared, you have use-cases, wireframes and your project doesn’t require a deep research. In this case we just need to hold an onboarding session (we’ll explain what it is a bit later) and prepare a realistic estimate.
However, we tailor this stage to the needs of every client so even if your case isn’t mentioned, the Discovery Phase may still bring some benefits to you. Which ones? Let’s find out!
📈 Benefits of the Project Discovery: How it Will Help You
A correct Discovery helps both the team and the client to get on the same page and ensures a smooth workflow for the future development. Moreover it answers 2 important questions: “What exactly are we building? What do we need to build it?”
What are the other possible gains of the Project Discovery process for you? Take a look:
- The scope of work is clearly defined, allowing us to provide an estimate of the time frame and budget. This allows to manage cost expectations and understand which Web or Mobile product we’re building for you.
- There are no dark spots within the project — we have a comprehensive solution to each task and just need to execute it using our clear-cut workflow.
- Project Discovery Phase provides you with some material deliverables (mockups, a prototype, user-stories and use cases) that give you and us the full vision of your product. It can even be presented to investors and early-stage angels during Pre-Seed and Angel pitches.
- Finally, for both teams it’s a kind of test drive that helps our customer to decide whether we’re a good fit for the future cooperation or not.
It seems everyone stays happy after all. CEOs will get a clear picture of how we’re going to optimize and deliver the project at the most reasonable price & time frames. CTOs, on the other hand, will be ensured that the development flow is refined and involves only the best scalable technologies and approaches.
⚙️ What Is the Typical Workflow during the Discovery Stage?
After working on many different projects, we came to the conclusion that every Project Discovery Phase usually goes under a typical scenario. Yet, we may eliminate some stages if they are unnecessary but we’ll discuss it a bit later. So here’s how the typical workflow during this phase looks like:
When a new client reaches out to us with an idea and minimal description, we start with holding an onboarding session via Skype, Hangouts or Zoom. Our team dives in by intensively communicating with the client and asking questions to get a ground understanding of his project. Stormotion’s Engagement Manager oversees the whole process.
Our Engagement Manager is a good listener whose job is to ensure that all the stakeholders are satisfied with the progress and each party receives what it expects.
Additionally, we usually prepare a rough estimate to provide the client with a general understanding of how much time and budget the project will require.
2. Business Research
The second stage begins when our Business Analyst joins the Discovery. Together with the client, he prepares use cases and project’s requirements: what the main goals are, who and how will use the app etc.
The Business Analyst is an expert who turns your idea into a more technical form, by writing requirements, use-cases and aligning the App with your business goals.
3. Story Building
The third stage involves another kind of specialist - a Product Manager.
His main task is to complement the Project Charter (the document which contains all the info on the client’s project which we prepared before) with user stories. They’re needed to outline typical behavioral patterns of app’s users and capture product functionality from their perspective.
When the Project Charter includes all the needed data (requirements, use cases, user stories and so on) our UX-Designer is ready to create a UX-mindmap. This is a backbone of the application which shows how the mentioned use cases and user stories are realized on different screens.
A UX-Designer is an expert who develops smooth user flows for your target audience or customers. He creates Wireframes and a clickable UX-Prototype to visualise the team’s vision of the product and ensure that your TA will understand how to use the product.
Finally, the mindmap is converted into an interactive and clickable Marvel-Prototype.
5. Technical Research
While the UX-Designer is working on the mindmap and prototype, Stormotion’s experienced Senior Tech-Team conduct a separate research that provides us with an in-depth understanding of solving challenging tech tasks. This may be the integration of a specific feature, like an AI-Based matching algorithm or working with a non-common SDK, for instance.
Using a minimal UI and the simplest prototyping, Developers test these solutions to eliminate the trickiest parts of the project.
6. Providing a Detailed and Accurate Estimate
Finally, all the previous steps provide us and the client with the clear vision of the project. It allows us to make a realistic and detailed estimate and move further to the development itself. For the Discovery process this stage is the last one. The whole process is supported by the Project Manager.
A Project Manager is a organized negotiator whose mission is to ensure that the aims of the Discovery Stage have been achieved and all parties are ready to start planning the execution of the project.
However, as we noticed at the beginning of this paragraph, some stages may be replaced or avoided, if reasonable. Thus, the length and cost of the Discovery Phase will change as well.
A few examples:
- If a new client already has use cases and user stories, we can skip stages 2 and 3, and start with making a prototype.
- If a client has even more (for example, wireframes or even a design), we just do the step 2 and the step 6.
- If a client already has all the essential data, we perform steps 1 and 6, and then move straight to the execution and development stage.
⏱ How Much Time Does It Usually Take?
Depending on the complexity and the scope of work it may take from a few days to a few weeks to conduct a Project Discovery. The average time frames are:
- For a small project — 1-3 days.
- For a medium project — 1-2 weeks.
- For a large project — 3-4 weeks.
At Stormotion, we usually try to complete the Discovery Stage within 1 Sprint (2 weeks).
💸 How Much Does It Cost to Conduct a Project Discovery?
Since the Discovery requires some hours of researching, brainstorming, writing software requirements specifications, conducting market analysis, creating wireframes or a prototype, you name it, it’s usually considered as any other kind of work that the agency does for you. Therefore, it makes the following rule pretty reasonable:
The cost of Project Discovery services is usually calculated in the same way as the development itself: by multiplying the number of needed hours by your team’s rate.
Let’s imagine that you’ve hired a skilful squad from Eastern Europe with a $40/h rate. And considering the scope of work, they’ve estimated that the Discovery Stage will take a week. Multiply 40 hours by $40 and you will get $1600. You can use the same formula for your project.
The truth is that a false start, when nobody is sure that the team has the full vision of “what we want to do and how we’re going to achieve this” can cost you much more — in terms of money, time-to-market, customer satisfaction and even the ability to attract investments.
🔎 Stormotion’s Case Study
We wanted to give you additionally an example of a Discovery Stage, which we conducted for our NY-based client, before jumping to the development of his project. So, the story begins with a Fitness App development request that we’ve got from an American gym owner and his technical friend after they found our article and decided to contact Stormotion.
Guys, actually, presented us the idea with a solid business research and a detailed project charter, covering possible risks, tech challenges and ways to handle them. During the discussion stage we’ve pinpointed 2 main tasks that should be done prior to start developing their product:
- Create a clickable UX-prototype to turn the client’s vision of the project into something more material, get on the same page of what Mobile Product we’re building and then use it for writing a reasonable and accurate estimate.
- Conduct a deep research on the best ways to integrate BLE Fitness-devices in React Native, prepare the optimal tech stack, implement several dummy-integrations for this purpose and be able to adequately estimate the project cost.
Described above Project Discovery plan was our initiative, which, by the way, was totally welcomed by the clients. They’ve recognized it as a good opportunity to pre-test us and get additional proofs that we’re the right team to cooperate with.
Our Discovery Team included 4 roles:
- A Developer who was responsible for finding a solution to integrate devices.
- A UX-Developer who was responsible for creating the prototype.
- A Project and Engagement Manager who supervised the Project Discovery process in general and served as a communication bridge between developers and clients.
The agreed time frame was set at 2 weeks. During this period we managed to complete all the tasks: we’ve found ways to successfully integrate the mentioned BLE-devices as well as delivered a nice UX-prototype.
At the end of the day, the benefits of the Project Discovery phase were obvious:
|To Clients||To Us|
|Were able to check our skills before signing the contract||Defined the most challenging tasks and find solutions to them even before the development itself started|
|Established a close contact with the development team||Got on the same page with the client, built trust|
|Became able to clearly see the project’s structure — for example, its milestones and quite accurate deadlines||Created a comprehensive roadmap that allowed us to smoothly move along the development lifecycle and effectively use client’s resources|
|Eventually received a realistic estimate||Figured out the actual scope of work and, using this data, structured the dev team to meet the deadlines and don’t exceed the budget limits|
That’s how the Discovery Phase gets nailed by the Stormotion Squad.
As you could see, the Project Discovery is a pretty straightforward process aimed at maximizing potential and minimizing risks of your Web and Mobile App development. It’s just one of the first steps in the lifecycle, but we all know that a good beginning is half the battle.
After an appropriate Discovery we can freely move to building the MVP of your Product and you’ll be sure that your back is covered.
Need a partner? Just get in touch with us in any convenient way, and we’d be happy to conduct a Project Discovery for you!