The Discovery Phase. What is it and Why is it Important?

They say, just starting is already 50 percent of the success in any endeavor. However, in software development, it’s the stage that precedes the project’s start that is critical for business outcomes, especially to startups as they often only have a raw concept. The Discovery phase aims to answer key questions:

  • Is the idea feasible?
  • Will the product survive the competition?
  • How to make it highly demanded with end-users?

Let’s have a look at the process of the Discovery phase, its deliverables, and types of projects for which it is an absolute must.

What is the Discovery phase?

The pre-development stage, first of all, aims to eliminate financial risks for the client and make the development process as predictable and smooth as possible. All project goals and requirements are gathered and analyzed from multiple perspectives: optimum architecture, user interface, functionality, etc., and, consequently, the best implementation strategy and deadlines. Mistakes with planning may cost too much and sometimes are very hard to fix at later stages, which can lead to considerable delays with an MVP launch. Unfortunately, to many businesses, it means failure.


  • Formulate clear product requirements
  • Define successful outcomes
  • Conduct an in-depth user research
  • Develop and test the customer journey
  • Analyze competition.

Who is engaged?

The team is formed depending on the specifics of the project and consists of people with various types of expertise to cover all aspects.


  • business analyst, who is in charge of detailed market research, identifying functional and non-functional project requirements and assessing them against business goals.
  • solution architect, who decides on the most advantageous technology stack to make the product scalable and maintainable.
  • UX/UI designer, who makes sure the future product has high usability and intuitiveness and presents the vision in the form of wireframes.

On request:

  • Front-end and back-end software developers who have relevant knowledge and experience with this type of product.
  • project manager, who ensures effective communication between the client and the team and prepares the resulting documentation.
  • tech lead – helps to clarify tech requirements, maps out the development process, and makes time estimates.

What result should you expect?

  • A profound understanding of the product scope and competitive functionality
  • Knowledge of the end-user needs and how to best satisfy them with your product
  • A well-planned budget
  • An estimate of time necessary for an MVP

What are the deliverables?

Architecture — a document/code or both with information about the core structure of the project, which will demonstrate how technical challenges will be solved.

Wireframes — to show user interaction with the system and how all workflows will be done.

Backlog — a set of tasks that need to be executed by the development team in order to achieve Prototype, MVP, or Release versions of the product.

When do you need a Discovery phase?

Each project is unique. However, there are certain types for which skipping this stage may have far-reaching harmful consequences:

Functional requirements are not clear

You have only a general understanding of what your app should do from a user’s perspective.

Non-functional requirements are vague or evolving

You don’t know what technologies and tools can be used for your project, and it may involve the trial and error method to find out.

A Proof of Concept (POC) is needed

You want to get evidence in the form of prototypes that your idea is feasible and commercially viable in the real world.

Have a fresh look at your idea with Blackthorn Vision

The Discovery phase at our company meets the highest industry standards. It creates a much wider context both for the development team and the client and helps to come up with non-standard and sophisticated solutions. It slices and dices your idea and gives you all the necessary information to make the right decision.

Will I know exactly when my product can be ready and the exact budget?

Yes, the Discovery phase provides the answers.

How much does it cost?

The price depends on how many people are involved.

How long does it last?

The phase takes two weeks on average and may last a bit longer if the project is complex.

Do I have any commitments?

No, you can either continue cooperation with our team or be completely prepared to negotiate with another software development partner.

Here is how the Discovery phase worked for one of our clients – SmartCloud:

Why was it offered?

The client did not have a finished vision of the application. There was only a complicated workflow that didn’t seem very user friendly. Besides, there were many user-app interaction points of which the client was unaware. Therefore, we did through research of the planned app functionality, found comparable samples and best practices, and came up with our own optimization ideas.

What was the goal?

To transform a rather complicated workflow, which included many services, into a highly usable application.

What did the process involve?

1. Investigation of the client requirements and the existing workflow

2. Comparison of its parts to the best practices

3. Identifying the lacking features

4. Formulation of our vision statement based on the aggregated data

5. Presentation to the client – Discussion/Approval of the changes and adjustments

What was the result?

The client received a fully-fledged concept of the future application and its workflows.

How did the Discovery phase influence the project implementation?

It served as a basis for creating all documentation for the project that we carried out later; saved costs for the client and time for us as a development team; helped the client to formulate an advertising concept for the end-user.


Originally published.