Why is the project discovery phase so vital?

Updated: 10 Feb 2023

In the Discovery phase of the software project, participants discuss and reflect on things together.

About the author

The following guest article about the discovery phase is written by Maya Kirianova, DDI development. Maya is a tech enthusiast with expertise in startups.


The prerequisite of successful software development is a consideration and elaboration of each project phase from idea to closure. Though it seems to be obvious, the statistics are poor:

  • 7% of IT projects are delivered late;
  • 17% result in the collapse of the organization;
  • 45% climb above the budget estimated in the very beginning.

Why does it happen? Usually, it's because of skipping such an essential part of the project lifecycle as the discovery phase. Extensive review, careful planning, and strong analysis can avert many failures and save not only the budget but even the company.

What is the discovery phase?

It’s where any development process begins. It's a scoping phase when you validate the entire idea and determine key features and aspects of the project. This process includes:

  • Gathering and analyzing crucial data such as niche/market, main competitors, audience, and so on;
  • Defining the main features of the future software/application to develop;
  • Evaluating the scope, budget, limitations, possible risks, etc.

Usually, it takes about 2-6 weeks. The discovery phase is a way for the developers to learn the project deeper and better understand the entire idea and purpose, to get the artifacts necessary for the successful realization, and build the exact product so that the expectations will match the reality.

Why the discovery phase matters

This phase helps not only to define a baseline of a future product but gather needed information to find optimal technical solutions. Skipping this phase often leads to scope creep, failure to meet deadlines, climbing costs, and other undesirable development issues. Below we outlined the key reasons to run the discovery phase.

1. It leads to better solutions

A discovery phase is how the digital team gets deep insights into the project. By doing so, the engineers understand the underlying drivers and all the backgrounds. It can help them to see the ways to improve the end product by offering alternative solutions that are more effective and much better than those proposed at the very beginning of the project discussion.

2. Achieving goals, not just results

The matter is that this phase focuses on objectives and not just deliverables. The product is considered to be successful when it delivers on broader goals and meets the end-users' needs and wishes. It can be achieved only when you have a clear vision of what you wish to receive as a result. A well-run discovery stage is a method to fix this issue.

3. A user-centered approach

Building any product, it’s critical to remember that you do that for the customers. Yet, often the project starts without any understanding of the user needs, pain points, and wishes. The digital team can understand the audience better by completing the discovery stage so that all the decisions made won’t undermine the user experience. Thus, you can develop a product, build functionality, or produce content that will be interesting for the end-user.

4. Daily changes in the workflow are taken into account

This approach provides you with a context for many decisions you and the team make daily at every stage of the development process. In such a way you decrease misunderstandings, avoid the building of unnecessary options and functionality, and eliminate other costly mistakes. Thus, you will get a broad picture so that you can predict, take into account, and calculate the costs of the changes in the workflow.

Benefits of the discovery phase

Knowing why this phase is vital, let’s check out the most notable benefits of the discovery phase that have a direct impact on the success of any IT project.

Reduced risks and costs

The discovery phase gives you a clear understanding of the objectives, key requirements, and features to develop. In its turn, all the insights and data obtained enable the team of software engineers to create estimates more accurately, including the budget and timeframes required for project implementation. In such a way, you reduce risks and costs by preventing undesirable changes and adaptations that require extra efforts and resources.

Roadmap in place

Knowing the final destination and ways to reach it enables you and your team to build a detailed plan with all the steps, exact milestones, and deadlines depicted. Thus, you can create a concise project roadmap that includes a full timeline. That allows you to quickly adapt to possible changes, improve decision-making, and so on.

Increased trust and credibility

This approach provides full transparency and clearness of the project for investors, vendors, and teams. Regular in-depth discussions of the product and its features will establish two-way trust relationships and build credibility that leads to the improvement of the project overall.

Meeting the needs of users

Knowing why and for whom the product is created, you can base all the ideas on the data, not on the assumptions. By conducting customer research, you will get insights into their pain points, wishes, and needs. Thus, you can create a customer journey map to build a user-friendly product/service to meet their expectations.

Final thoughts

Scoping or discovery stage is not a panacea. However, if you want the project to be completed on time and within budget, then it is a vital phase. It is a way to create a thorough and cost-effective plan for project development.

This is the very first stage that helps:

  • Determine and set the main goals;
  • Define the workflow;
  • Identify the scope with more accurate estimates;
  • Organize the process;
  • Create a user-oriented experience;
  • Make design decisions based on data.

Neglecting and skipping this stage can result in:

  • Never-ending scope creep;
  • Missed deadlines;
  • Increasing costs;
  • Failure to meet both client’s expectations and customer needs.

Completing the discovery stage, you just increase the efficiency of the team, maximize the chances that the project will be successful, reduce costs, and improve the quality of the final product.


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