Custom software solutions can provide an incredibly powerful tool for you and your company. The software development process gives organizations a chance to create a solution to meet their specifications and needs. Unfortunately, one of the most important steps in software development is often glanced over or skipped altogether, this step is the discovery phase. A report published by McKinsey" found that on average, large IT projects run over budget by 45%. Whether your company is a startup or well established in its field, this kind of poor planning can have serious consequences. That’s where the discovery phase comes into play.
The discovery phase is the initial step of a project that establishes a framework going forward. During this phase, management teams work together to flesh out any details of the project, establish key requirements, estimate costs, lay out a timeline. Without this phase, goals can lack detail and design, which can cause significant issues down the road. Discovery phases play a key part in ensuring your job:
• Stays on budget
• Incorporates all key features and requirements
• Has a realistic timeline to follow
• General requirements and expectations
The discovery phase of any project needs to be a thorough and detailed process. This means that a number of parties need to be involved to ensure that all the proper information is collected and built into a blueprint/plan.
Designers are responsible for taking the details of a project and constructing a design of the overall process. A skilled designer can listen to the needs, requirements and construct a general idea of the product much like an architect or an engineer lays out a blueprint prior to building.
A business analyst is another important member of the team. He can provide insight into many aspects of the business and how certain tools might integrate and improve processes. The business analyst is there to clarify business requirements and provide an in-depth look at how the project will affect the company. Business analysts offer a unique advantage within software development, take a look at what a good business analyst should bring to the table.
The inclusion of a software architect is pretty obvious, as they are the ones responsible for building and testing the software. Having a software architect involved allows them to get on the front end so that they can better understand the intent and thought behind the project. They can also provide valuable insight into how the software can potentially work.
Project managers play an important role in just about any business, and software development is no different. While different industries may have a variety of definitions and responsibilities for a project manager, their primary concern is the management and completion of assigned tasks. They should be the go-to resource for anything related to ongoing tasks and should facilitate communication and resources as needed.
So with the importance of the discovery phase well established, what exactly does one entail? If you plan on outsourcing development, then this is highly dependent on the company you choose. However, a demo meeting with InventorSoft would go something like this.
The end goal is the most important aspect of a project, which is why it’s the first thing on the list. Establishing short and long-term goals is integral to establishing a vision for the overall plan while having a clear picture in mind. It also ensures that your money is well invested in software that provides you with exactly what you’re looking for.
Budget is another important aspect of a project. This helps to establish a clear idea of what can be done and how expensive the software can be. Drafting a budget provides developers with an idea of what they are working with so that feature implementation remains realistic. We wrote a detailed article about how to select the best outsourcing pricing model.
When dealing with outsourcing, it’s important to set your expectations. Discussing your time investment allows the agency to understand your involvement in the process and cater a tailor-made plan just for you. As a partner, InventorSoft wants to ensure you get the updates and input you deserve, so establishing this upfront can help throughout the process.
Obviously, talking about the product/software itself is extremely important, so outlining the features and requirements you might have is another vital piece to the process. This is where all the features, wishes, and necessary things should be discussed and recorded. Provide a thorough explanation of important aspects of the project as well as aspects that seem a little less important. That way, if there is room in the budget, you have a good idea of the features you’d like to add.
Deadlines are integral to all types of tasks because it establishes expectations for all parties. Discussing deadlines with everyone present is good because it allows everyone to have a say in the matter and whether or not it’s possible or probable.
Setting priority for the features you’d like to see can help give direction to the developers involved. Focusing on key features will ensure that the end result is what you envisioned and captures what you were looking for. Without this type of guidance, developers could end up spending time on less important features and neglecting the ones more integral to the project.
Once the initial meeting is held, it’s time to gather any requirements and clarify anything still up in the air. The meeting should provide enough information and discussion to formulate three specific things necessary to perform a successful job from start to finish.
Project vision provides an over-encompassing summary of the goals, features, and expectations you are looking for. This is essentially the “mission statement”, and is what will be adhered to throughout the project.
A project charter is a more detailed and in-depth look at the overall project. It describes the details, assignments, objectives, and deadlines, and serves as a reference for anyone involved.
A mind map is a useful visual illustration to help layout the job and show the different relationships involved between the different stages and features. Designing a mind map helps to provide clarity and a visual element to an otherwise complex task or job.
Initial information gathering and discussion are some of the most important parts of a discovery phase in software development. But the next step is taking that information and assembling it into a working solution.
This is where a design model is made based on the features and implementations are discussed. This design should give an accurate idea of what features can be implemented and what can be expected within the established budget. This is a prototype of sorts before the real work begins.
Gathering feedback on design gives everyone the opportunity to voice their opinions and suggest changes prior to the development. This can save countless hours on the development side and ensure the end product is exactly what you envisioned. It also gives you the opportunity to see which features can be incorporated and which may be out of budget.
Now it’s time to get things in writing. A Software Requirements Specification (SRS) is a detailed description of the software system being developed. It’s modeled after a business requirements specification and is used similarly. This document is important because it establishes exactly what will go into the software and what features it will provide.
Once all the details are down and fleshed out, it’s time for the estimate. The budget was established early on in the planning, but an estimate proposal is based on the features, timeline, and scope discussed throughout the process. Since the budget was established early on, an estimate shouldn’t be far off, since the design and SRS were based on prior discussions.
The discovery phase serves as an initial testing ground for thoughts and ideas before getting fully invested in a master plan. It allows you to establish realistic expectations based on your budget and timeline. But what happens if a discovery phase is skipped?
The discovery phase entails quite a lot of work and coordination, but it’s a vital part of putting together a successful plan. With so many different moving parts and pieces, it’s extremely important to establish expectations ahead of time before jumping straight in. But what other benefits does the project discovery phase offer?
Once the discovery phase is complete, you should have a full, comprehensive idea of what the project will look like and what to expect from a final product. But there is also a multitude of other deliverables you will get by completing a successful discovery phase.
You will get to have input on the design and user experience of your software system
You have the ability to showcase and test the design, sharing it with future users in order to gain valuable feedback before things become permanent.
SRS is a valuable resource that establishes standards and expectations within writing so all parties are on the same page.
You will have a well-detailed design and project process that can be easily understood and conveyed to your team and partners.
You will have input on the tech stack including things like the desired platforms, programming languages, software, and other tools used in development.
A team is established beforehand and work can be assigned and managed right off the bat.
You will have accurate and detailed costs associated with the job, so you can be well aware of where it stands in relation to your initial budget.
The timeline of a discovery phase really depends on the scope and the extent of the job in question. This can range from a week up to a month in time as jobs become more complex and intricate. But investing time upfront can help save months during the development and implemented phases later on.
The discovery phase is an essential part of the software development process. With so much detail and intricacies at stake, it pays to invest a little time upfront to establish standards and expectations before launching into a project. This can save countless hours and thousands of dollars later on by identifying issues and fleshing out details before the start.
However, facilitating a discovery phase can be a difficult process as well, and it pays to have experts involved in the process. InventorSoft is a well-established software development company that provides Front-end and Back-end development. With years of experience, we know exactly what it takes to run a successful software development project from start to finish. So if you are in need of a partner that can support you and provide the expertise you need, contact us or set up a meeting here.