15 Mar 2022 - 1 min read

Why the Discovery Phase in Software Development Can Transform Your SaaS Project

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Building a SaaS product without a Discovery phase is like building a house without a blueprint; it’s doable – but potentially very risky… and why take that risk?

According to McKinsey, a third of all software development projects significantly exceed budget, miss their deadline or fail entirely. 42% fail because their product isn’t actually needed on the market, and more broadly, 56% of IT projects deliver lower value than originally anticipated.

Why? From unrealistic expectations to poor cost estimates, there are many reasons why a SaaS project may fall short – but one explanation comes up time and time again; poor planning. Failure to intensively research your market, foresee potential issues, mitigate risks and establish a well-considered, reliable roadmap to development will almost certainly guarantee problems and challenges later down the line.

The Discovery phase in software development is your armour against those issues. Proven to reduce risks, accurately estimate costs, determine realistic development times and, critically, prove the business case for your product, it ensures that you’re fully prepared financially, technically and commercially for SaaS success.

What exactly is a Discovery phase in software development?

Put simply, the Discovery phase is the ‘prep’ stage of your software development project. The main focus is to do the ‘groundwork’; think market and competitor analysis, understanding the end user, clarifying the project vision, determining goals and identifying risks. It also gives you the opportunity to explore different technologies and commercial opportunities that may be relevant for the project, as well as creating space to set realistic deadlines and assemble an effective team. Once all of this information has been collated and assessed, a detailed roadmap is created that will act as the blueprint for the development of your SaaS product.

The Discovery phase in software development is typically run by those who will physically develop your SaaS product – but it’s essential that all stakeholders of the project provide input at this stage. Again, this ensures there are no surprises later down the line!

At Yozu, we believe that the Discovery phase is the springboard for your SaaS development project. Click here to learn more about our approach.

Discovery phase in software development

What are the key objectives of a Discovery phase?

Clarify product vision

Often, a big idea or ‘lightbulb moment’ is enough to reduce patience and increase mistakes! We’ve all been there, right? Gotten a little too excited about starting a project before really knowing the ins-and-outs of what that project should ultimately look like? But a vague understanding of what your SaaS product is – or will become – will not suffice when it reaches the development stage, and the results could be costly.

The Discovery phase offers a critical opportunity to ‘fill the gaps’; by collecting relevant data, defining project goals and clarifying a clear, concept-to-completion product vision, your SaaS product can start to come to life. It’s also a great chance to consider new perspectives or refine ideas, resulting in a crystal-clear understanding of what your product will be.

Understand the market

Through intensive market analysis, competitor and end user research, this stage of the Discovery phase will help you to ensure that your product is commercially viable. It will allow you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your product, as well as the opportunities and threats it may face.

Accurately estimate development costs

An especially practical benefit of the Discovery phase, this work allows you to optimise costs by understanding – in great detail – the level of work required for each element of design and development.

Identify potential risks

While there is always inherent risk in developing a brand new product, through the research conducted during the Discovery phase, many of these risks can be assessed and minimised to ensure that they affect your product as little as possible, or not at all. These may include:

  • Investment and development of features or functionality that don’t serve your market or end users
  • Tech choices that will require extensive amends or updates, potentially leading to missed deadlines and additional costs
  • Discovering issues mid-development that result in more work or the need to backtrack on work already completed

Establish a clear roadmap for development

Essentially a culmination of all of the work done during the Discovery phase, the development roadmap provides a clear, visual blueprint for how your SaaS product will be designed and built. It will consider all of the information and insights gleaned during the Discovery phase to ensure no stone is left unturned, and the plan for your product is in the best possible shape that it can be.

The Discovery phase of software development should not be an afterthought – and never has the phrase, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’, been more apt!

If you want to give your new SaaS project the best possible start to development, get in touch with us today.

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