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What Is Discovery, and Why Do We Need It for Software Development?

Published on8 Oct 2018
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When it’s time to kick off a new custom software project, many businesses are champing at the bit to get started. They’re eager to launch their new software and start seeing results, and we can’t blame them. But if we hit the ground running right away, we’re actually doing our customers a disservice. In reality, the first thing we need to do is hit the brakes on development and kick off our partnership with a thorough discovery process.

It may be tough to have this kind of patience at the outset, but the discovery process saves significant time, resources, and headaches in the long run, ensuring an efficient development process so our customers can launch a clean, fully functioning software solution as soon as possible.

What Is Discovery?

Discovery is the process by which the development team and the customer sit down to develop a clear and complete understanding of the goals for the new software application and the ways it will support the client’s most pressing needs.

The discovery process looks a bit different from vendor to vendor, but at Syberry, it involves the whole team, including leading players on the client’s side as well as a hand-selected project manager, design team, and development team who are well versed in the client’s business and needs. The Syberry team also includes a business analyst who is responsible for collecting all the relevant data and information to create detailed specifications and mockups, and a software architect who designs the structure of the system and identifies the technical standards — a crucial process, especially for systems that need to be scalable.

The team’s first task is to identify and clarify the client’s goals and customer personas, gather any existing materials or documents relevant to the product, and analyze similar software solutions from other companies. All of this information helps the developers identify the problems this product will solve and understand what will work best for its intended users, whether they’re the client’s employees or its customers.

Next, we use all the information we gathered during the first phase to create a mockup of the product, outlining user journeys, design elements, and requirements. Then we use feedback from the client to iterate on these mockups as much as we need to in order to ensure our team and our client’s team are aligned in their expectations and pleased with the target result.

While we’re iterating these mockups, we also start to identify the technologies that will be best suited to meet our client’s unique needs. At Syberry, our agile team is technology-agnostic, meaning we don’t limit our capabilities by selling or promote specific technologies. Instead, we use our broad expertise to choose just the right stacks and components for each customer.

Once we’ve worked with the client to nail down the target result and its requirements, we enter the last phase of the discovery process, which is to create and deliver the project roadmap that shows clients what we plan to build, test, and deliver at every phase of the project.

Once the discovery process is complete — and not a moment before — our developers can finally get to work building your custom software solution.


Why Is Discovery Important?

Imagine trying to complete a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle with no picture to guide you.

  • Or playing a new board game without reading the instructions first.
  • Or building a house without any blueprints.

You may have a vague idea of what the end result should look like, but without detailed guidelines from everyone involved, the process will be messy and inefficient, and the end result may or may not be what the client had anticipated. In the case of the builder without any blueprints, he may manage to build a functional house, but he has no way to know whether it will really meet the client’s needs and expectations in terms of size, style, cost, or number of rooms.

The same principles apply to software development. If all we know is that our client wants a new CRM system to improve customer retention, we can build a CRM based on best practices for customer retention. But if we don’t sit down with our client to learn about their current pain points, their customers’ needs, and their specific requirements, our software will be built on nothing but educated guesses — and who knows whether it will solve the client’s problems?

What’s more, completing the discovery process before development begins gives clients the opportunity to make informed decisions about how to proceed with their project’s development. Once they understand the full picture and all it’s technical implications, they may decide to make strategic or functional changes to the software. Without discovery, these changes would come mid-development, and they’d add significant cost and resources to the project.

Scrimping on the discovery process — or skipping it altogether — may mean getting the project started faster, but it will invariable lead to mismanaged expectations, costly revisions, and a much longer timeline than the client had hoped for.

It’s not easy to be patient when you’re excited about all the ways your new application will help your company grow, but rest assured that the discovery process is critical to a successful engagement, and the time we spend on it upfront will pay off many times over in the long run.

  • Timour Procopovich
    Timour Procopovich
    linkedExecutive Vice President
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