The importance of a project's discovery phase

The discovery phase of a project is essential however it is one that is often overlooked. This usually happens due to an anxiety to save time and start to get things done. What most project managers would tell you however is that usually overlooking this phase would usually result in issues later on in the project. This would usually be due to the deliverables not meeting the requirements set out in the first place and as a result rework might need to take place. This would mean extra cost and time required in order to fix the errors. 

What happens in a discovery phase and why is it important? 

Identify the problem: 
This step includes identifying the problem or challenge at hand and the relevant users involved, business or otherwise. This is defined accurately in terms of; what problems are going to be solved by the solution, what the benefits expected are and the feasibility of going through with the project. 

Describe the solution: 
This step includes describing at a high level the solution that is planned to be developed along with the business needs that it caters for. 

Identify the needs of stakeholders: 
Once the users and stakeholders are identified, meticulous requirements gathering needs to take place to understand what the needs of each of the users and stakeholders of the system are. This is a very important part of the project as it ensures that the business and users' needs are met. 

Define the solution:
This allows the definition of the solution in detail including the parameters of what is being built. The definition delves into the planned features of the system and also the non functional requirements. The documentation of this would capture workflows, dependencies and processes. 

In technology projects there is an element of discovery that is usually done upfront in order to understand the problem, the description and the feasibility of the solution. In agile projects the rest of the requirements analysis is done iteratively. This allows for a certain level of flexibility throughout the development stage and ensures that the project deliverables cater for the business requirements as they are being built. I have found that looking at a project one building block at a time in light of the bigger framework allows for less mistakes to be made in the long run.

Irrespective of whether a project takes a waterfall approach or a more agile approach however, the discovery phase is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of a project to ensure its success. 

If you are about to embark on a project and need help in gathering the right requirements? Let’s talk in more detail on how I can help. 

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