Let’s imagine the situation: the client comes with a very interesting idea and with a little experience in working with teams. The budget is limited, and you have determined amount of money for the idea development and implementation. And then … the darkness.
There is no understanding of deadlines, client expectations from the team, team expectations from the client. How to shed some light on this situation? Start the discovery phase!
The discovery phase is an opportunity to clarify the idea, lay the foundation for a quick start of the project, decide on technical and organizational issues and, most importantly, work with the client: share the work approaches, prepare the project vision and strategies. The most important thing for a successful project is to formulate a future cooperation model in the client’s head, so that the client, after the project completion, can compare the expectations presented to him with reality, and not just compare his own self-generated expectations with reality. What’s the difference? Usually, clients have a very active imagination. If we let the client dream and fantasize about the project or how it should be, then there is a very great chance not to fall into the client’s expectations, come to complete disappointment and interruption of cooperation, which could bring many more projects and ideas. There is no necessity to take such risks.
Let’s now move to more specific details of the project.
Who are the key participants of discovery phase? Project Manager, Business Analyst, Tech lead / Solution Architect, Lead QA, Development Teams Leads.
Discovery phase deliverables:
Business Analyst (BA) approach, which will allow you to find out the client’s involvement in the project, determine the stakeholder’s responsibilities, and outline the expectations of the collaboration between the business analyst and the client.
Project Manager (PM) approach, which will show the client how the project manager plans to control the project’s input criteria (budget, timeline, quality). It will also outline collaboration with the client to understand the progress of the project, current and future status, risks, change requests, etc.
QA work approach, or QA strategy, which clearly fixes product quality expectations and reveals the nuances of QA team work on the project.
Communication and escalation matrix. It is very important to elaborate and fix the effective communication strategy between the team and the client. The client does not always understand the necessity of timely communication. For project success team and the customer need to be in touch with each other, the more often the better.
Tech Lead / Solution Architect determines the technology stack, lays down the project architecture.
Business Analyst prepares a project scope and determines analyzed, prototyped, and documented requirements for the riskiest functional areas, which will help identify risks and determine the complexity of the project at an early stage. The project scope is built on the assumptions, constraints, and exceptions of the project.
Based on the developed scope, we can make more detailed project estimation, which allows outline the boundaries of the project.
Project Manager prepares a whole set of documentation, which may include Schedule baseline, Milestone diagram, Cost baseline, Project artefacts, etc.
Risk matrix with well-developed risk mitigation strategies, which will become the basis for future control points for changes in conditions in the project.
Also, during the discovery phase, the future project team is already gathering and onboarding, it is the basis for future effective work.
Do we always need a discovery phase? If the idea is worked out in detail and the scope of work is clear, then it makes no sense to conduct a discovery phase. If there is great uncertainty in the incoming information about the project, then discovery phase is required.
What are the benefits of the discovery phase? The client will receive an understanding of the team capabilities, learn all the nuances of cooperation and communication with the team, understand the areas of project member’s responsibilities. The discovery phase helps to outline plans for the team and the client at the start of the project, it brings certainty, an understanding of where we are going, how long it will be and what difficulties we will face. In addition, it gives the information about how we are going to overcome these difficulties and act in these situations. As a result of the team’s work in the discovery phase, the client gains an understanding of the current situation, project scope and vision, final expectations. At the same time, the team can start the project without unforeseen circumstances.
What happens if you do want not include the discovery phase in a project with a high degree of uncertainty? Development stage will begin, no one will cancel it, of course, but you will face problems without preliminary preparation, you will organize work in project and build communications on the go, these factors can lead to chaos in decision-making process, in development processes, demotivate the project team and clarify the nuances for which you were not ready.
You should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each move to decide.