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How to build a great product: a step-by-step guide to product discovery

17 December 2021 • 11 min read
How to build a great product: a step-by-step guide to product discovery
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Slava Ivanov
Slava Ivanov
Global IT partnerships and Strategic development
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Slava Vaniukov
Written by Slava Vaniukov
CEO and Co-Founder at Softermii
Experienced engineers for enhancing your team
Remote engineers are ready to meet all your software needs
Dedicated Team

The absence of the discovery phase falls in one of five main reasons products fail. According to CB insights, in 35% of cases, poor market, product, development, and customer research resulted in product failure.

The successful product is the one solving a deep and genuine need for the customer that they feel the need to use from the first try. So, how to achieve the goal to build such a product? Product discovery phase is here to help! In this article, we’ve gathered all the techniques that’ll help you through a successful product discovery process and build a great product ready to take over the market based on Softermii’s more than seven years of experience in helping companies develop prosperous products.

What is product discovery?

The product discovery or planning stage is the very first stage of the development process. The whole process of product discovery aims to point out the product's market fit, analyze industry demands, evaluate budgeting, and other available resources. It is intended to identify the main problems and risks that may arise when developing and launching a product on the market.

The project's discovery phase also helps the team draw up a step-by-step development plan and vision of the final product. Well-thought planning ensures cost optimization, thorough user research, accurate process, and other benefits. That's why you can't skip planning, as you might omit some essential points that will later fail the entire product.

The Benefits of Product Discovery

The benefits of investing time and resources into the software development discovery phase are undeniable, yet they are sometimes overlooked today. However, you need to know them to appreciate the discovery phase at its fullest and take steps in the discovery process.

Idea Validation

Your idea may have seemed amazing and novel when you came up with it. Still, there can already be a business with that model in the market for years, or it may also be unnecessary and not fully understandable for the potential customer. You need to validate your idea to reduce risks before losing time and money on a business doomed to fail.

Cost optimization

When you understand your product's potential, you can create a development process of what you're making and how you're going to make it (instead of figuring it out as you go). It can save developers from doing extra work and save time and money for project delivery.

Marketing Strategy Development

The discovery stage is aimed to map the user journey throughout the funnel, outline the messages to use in each phase, and define a pricing model. Once you have a clear idea of what your product is, you should create a step-by-step process of releasing it to the market.

Prototype Creation

Product discovery phase aims at defining the main view of the product. Thus the discovery process allows to uncover and add necessary features, describe the core functionalities and give a clear understanding of main design deliverables.

Setting the Project’s Full Scope

After you understand how your project will look like, it’s much easier to build the step-by-step development process. It’ll help define the project roles, determine the time the team will need to complete the development, plan the production and specify the technical requirements.

Success Indicators’ Definition

It's always better to set up the goals. However, when delivering the project, each stage should have clear indicators of success. They'll help understand if the project fulfills all the requirements, works properly, is in demand, and is popular with users.

Bottlenecks Definition

Any project will have bottlenecks, and the discovery phase will help prevent these problems before they occur. At the end of the software development discovery phase, you need to clearly understand what the process will entail, including how to manage the main pain points.

Identify stakeholders

The stakeholders are the participants of the process. You'll need to find one or several professionals with experience in this early stage of development to fill every slot. The solution is either relying on your network, a robust HR and staffing firm with experience in this hiring, or choosing an expert agency like Softermii.

Product Discovery Team

One of the most important parts of the discovery phase is choosing the right team. It’ll be their task to start the project and define the step-by-step development process. The team involved in this phase should consist, at minimum, of the following:

Business Analyst

This person has an outsized role in the process and is responsible for conducting market research, analyzing it, and synthesizing it into actionable plans for the teams involved at later stages.

Project Manager

The PM's role is to organize the whole team's work process, supervise deliverables, and keep track of deadlines.

Tech Lead / Architect

Their job is to choose the tech stack used during the product development and its architecture, including all APIs, SDKs, and non-proprietary code in the solution. They must also decide what timeline is most appropriate for the given project and determine a budget for the scope of work defined by the BA.

Designer

During the discovery stage, the designer is tasked with creating the UI/UX wireframes for the software, which will be the backbone of the look and feel of the application under development.

Step-by-step Product Discovery Process

As we've already learned from the benefits of the discovery phase, well-thought planning ensures cost optimization, thorough user research, step-by-step process, and other advantages. Let's dive into the step-by-step guide through the discovery process.

Step 1: Creating Alignment

Creating alignment for product discovery

The very first stage is when the Product Manager needs to step in. It's his role to define the team needs and the project development timeline. It's crucial to distinguish the corporate aims and the real-life problems of your audience, which your product will solve.

Step 2: Researching User Problems

Researching user problems in product discovery

When the team for product development is set, the research stage starts. This step aims to uncover as many problems your user faces as possible and find ways your product can solve them.

There are different product discovery techniques at this point. However, behavioral, qualitative, quantitative, and attitudinal research is usually used. Combine them in a way that suits your product discovery aims the most.

Step 3: Ideating Solutions

Ideating solution in product discovery phase

Once all the pain points have been defined comes the ideation stage. It is the stage of discovering new products and features. It aims to open the space to create solutions that will solve all the uncovered user's problems from the previous step and maintain effective brainstorming to gather as many ideas as possible.

Step 4: Creating Prototypes

Creating product prototype

At this stage, the team is turning ideas into real-life solutions. This step can help simulate the user experience and journey, showing possible bottlenecks and creating the general form of the final product.

Step 5: Validating Your Ideas

Validating product idea

After your prototype has been created, it needs to be tested in real-life user scenarios. This stage will help define whether your product is good enough to invest time, money, workforce, and other resources needed for its implementation.

Step 6: Refining Results

Refining development results

When you've gathered all the discovery phase deliverables, comes the stage of polishing your idea, making it easy to execute by all the needed team members. It's the final step to gather everything done throughout the discovery phase and put it together into the new product.

Product Discovery in Remote Teams

You definitely know these buzzwords: communication, organization, tracking, tools, and using Jira and Trello to structure the process. However, in the current 'remote-working' reality, you need a more data-intensive monitoring system to track staff performance. We've decided to share our experience arranging the workflow and product discovery tools so that everyone participating in the process is satisfied and happy with the results.

Synchronize the Alignment

You must make sure that everyone on the team involved in the discovery process is on the same page. That's why it's better to invest time into synchronous meetings with the team members and stakeholders to walk everyone through your narrative and discuss it.

Conduct Facilitation Sessions

In the ideal world, all the discussions are made in the same room. However, when the whole world is stuck in remote working conditions and parts of the team are scattered worldwide, you can still find a way to organize sessions with the same dedication and mood. Video conferencing platforms and applications are here to help! Organize the space and tools for everyone to use simultaneously so that it'll be seamless to share, right down, and fixate different thoughts and ideas.

Keep Everything Organized

When your team is working on the same product from different places, there might arise the risk of having your user insights, experiment results, and ideas scattered across numerous tools and file servers. That's why we recommend using the same tools and platforms from the start.

Miro offers the Product Discovery template to link or embed all related documents. It allows to embed entire prototypes, .pdf presentations, and video recordings from user interviews, run the ideation sessions from there, and maintain continuous Impact Maps to tie everything together. This method of product discovery will come in handy when the time comes to create the final product.

Allow Everyone Involved Access and Editing

Suppose you want every team member to be as involved in the product discovery process as possible. In that case, you should allow everyone to edit, add and use all the documentation created throughout all the stages.

Also, ensure everyone adds all the insights and ideas that emerged during the meetings to the shared board, where the team gathers discovery phase documentation.

Validate Your Idea with Softermii!

It’s obvious that if you want to develop a successful product, the discovery phase of a software development project cannot be skipped or rushed. It involves deep thought from multiple highly specialized professionals using the latest technologies in product discovery frameworks and tools.

Even if your project has already had funding, you will need to stay budget-conscious when delving into a new venture, at least until you've found product/market fit and get some revenue. At the same time, later success will directly result from the quality of the work done from the start.

The good news is that Softermii has lots of experience creating software from the ground up, including helping our clients through the discovery phase of a software project based on more than seven years of developing successful products of different complexity for multiple industries. We, at Softermii, strive to arrange our workflow so that all customers are satisfied with our services.

  • Our savvy developers and designers monitor the industry to use proven tools and cutting-edge methods.
  • We rely on our business analytics monitoring the market and up-to-date trends to keep up with the times.
  • Our team is constantly searching for new effective approaches, tools, and methodologies, pumping up our broad experience.

Do not hesitate and hire an experienced development team with a proven background!

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