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What is a Discovery Phase in App Development? 

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Undoubtedly, every software or app development project needs some preliminary planning and budget estimates. However, statistics gathered by McKinsey indicate that most app development projects eventually end up asking for more funds to reach a finish line. The budget requirements keep growing and they look nothing like the initially planned. This is a common pain point of most startups and companies that want to build a mobile app but have a rather vague idea about product requirements. 

If failure is not an option, 90% of the time the discovery phase can save it all. Things go even better, if a software development company offers different discovery packages done by the team of experts. 

Let’s talk about what a discovery phase in a project is about and why chances for building a successful product become much slimmer if a company omits the discovery phase. 

What’s the discovery phase in a project about? 

Project discovery phase is about gathering info regarding the product requirements and further data analysis. Basically, if a company has an idea that needs to be shaped into a mobile app, a smart move would be to begin the mobile development process with the discovery phase. Yes, it is a preliminary step but the most important one. Why is it so? Let’s talk about it! 

Who’s involved in the discovery phase cycle? 

Any discovery phase in a project is mostly about effective communication between clients and a team of experts at a software development company. Most of the time, there are from 3 to 5 specialists onboard in the discovery team: 

  • Product manager/Business analyst adds all the necessary improvements and info about the product specs/requirements, gains insights, performance indicators, and runs analytics, provides a good estimate about the length of time starting from the launch of a prototype to an actual release of a final app.
  • Tech analysts analyze the technical part of the project: best tools, platforms, find effective tech solutions to resolve potential problems, propose the most suitable infrastructure and provide specs for the product development lifecycle.
  • Designers develop an app’s design concept with the results derived from business analysis. Designers build wireframes, create a working prototype for preliminary testing, and evaluate user experience.

What are the main steps of the discovery phase? 

Market studies/research. Collecting data about market demands and in-depth analytical work, careful planning to make sure that the project will be a success. Basically, this step of the discovery phase in a project is about getting a more clear vision about what motivates the client’s target audience and what their needs are. Competitors research involves analysis of client’s main competitors to understand what tools work best for a particular market niche. 

Industry trends analysis. This is about trends evaluation, analysis of industry problems and client’s expectations to make sure that the app will succeed on the market. 

Scope of proper documentation. This step involves producing documentation about project requirements. For instance, the Product Requirements document (PRD) contains a list of all tech specs necessary for having excellent app functionality and smooth product development lifecycle. 

Roadmapping or a step-by-step development plan with an estimation for time/money of the upcoming workflow. This document is focused on describing the best strategies and potential problems. However, roadmapping is not so much about the app’s features but rather about the value for the end users. 

Are there any alternative approaches for the discovery phase? Since the discovery phase in a project takes some time (up to 3 or 8 weeks) if done by a software development company’s team of experts, some clients think that it is time-consuming. Some can wonder if they can initiate a project and MVP development lifecycle in-house with internal resources. However, the discovery team can develop a much more accurate list of the essential items that need to be developed/implemented to build a successful product. All the client needs is to look into a price range of the different discovery packages and choose an affordable one to reach the main goal – develop a winning project vision while identifying all potential risks. 


One of the greatest outcomes of the project discovery phase is that clients get a project roadmap with deadlines, deliverables, and necessary resources. The discovery team at a custom software development company creates a written proposal with estimated financial and time investments. This makes it so much easier to move ahead with the product development with no hassle and no headaches knowing that the project won’t have any budget overruns and will meet its deadline.