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

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

11 February 2022 • 12 min read

The absence of the project 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 do achieve the goal to build such a product? Product discovery phase is here to help! In this article, we’ve gathered all the product discovery 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.

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The Benefits of Product Discovery Phase

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 product discovery process allows to uncover and add necessary features, describe the core functionalities, and give a clear understanding of the main design deliverables.

Setting the Project’s Full Scope

After you understand what 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.

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.

QA

The task of the quality assurance specialist is to establish, monitor, and improve processes, standards, and procedures. QA defines possible risks that can occur throughout the whole development process providing mitigation strategy early on, thus eliminating emerging problems at an early stage.

Read also: Detailed Description of a Software QA Process

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.

6 Product Discovery Phase Steps

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-by-step product discovery process

Step 1: Creating Alignment

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

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: Requirements Design

The main goals of this step is to investigate possible problems and “as is” processes, to create business case specifications, elicit, document and confirm requirements and “to be” processes, make gap analysis and sketches. We in Softermii also research accelerators and potential third party engagements to help raise funding and find the perfect niche for the product.

Step 4: Technical Design

Once the design requirements are all well defined, it’s time for a technical design step. Here the team should investigate compliance and regulations aligning requirements accordingly. Then define product hypotheses, and plan to configure or disprove them, specify BRD MVP, create concept UI design of key pages and prototype. After that the team defines logical and infrastructure architecture, provides tech stack description and prepares tech risk and mitigation strategy.

Step 5: Implementation

On this stage, we compose the whole roadmap and timeline of the project, set up Jira and Confluence, approve communication plan and schedule, provide budget, timeline, and scope control, and create a pitch deck for potential investors.

Step 6: Handover

It's the final step to gather everything done throughout the discovery phase, put it together into the new product and hand it over to the client or pass it on to the development team.

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. 9 out of 10 startups fail because of skipping the discovery phase and lack of external audits. But we in Softermii can help – we have a special Discovery Pack, where an experienced team of two developers, one quality assurance specialist, two business analysts, two designers and one project manager dedicate more than four weeks to your project, helping collect the necessary data and deliverables to find out if your project fits market and users’ needs for the price of $12 000.

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 who can effectively manage the product discovery phase with a proven background! Fill in the Contact us form, and we'll get back to you to discuss all the details.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the discovery phase compulsory for small companies?

The product discovery phase of a software project aims to hear business needs, formulate requirements, understand users and the context of usage, research competitors and trends, to map customer journey, identify tasks, roles, permissions, rules and restrictions, and create MVP backlog. In other words, everything the project needs from the start to be successful. The size of the project doesn’t matter, as discovery phase deliverables help mitigate risks and collect user feedback from the very beginning.

Does the discovery phase help businesses to mitigate risks and collect user feedback?

It is one of the main goals of the project’s discovery stage. It helps to validate the idea, optimize costs, develop marketing strategy, create a prototype, set the project’s full scope, define success indicators and bottlenecks, appoint stakeholders, thus mitigating risks and collecting users’ feedback preparing business for the next phases of a software project development.

How many people are involved in the discovery process?

The discovery team doesn’t necessarily need to be big, however, it should definitely include top-notch professionals and skilled specialists with hands-on experience in the required industry. Our typical discovery team consists of two developers (usually team leads or architects), one quality assurance specialist, two business analysts, two designers and one project manager.

What are the typical discovery phase deliverables?

Discovery phase deliverables can be divided into three main parts – UX/UI, BA and Development/PM deliverables. UX/UI artifacts contain competitors' analysis, choosing the available guideline to follow, navigation concept, site map, content structure, design sketches in Figma, concept design of key pages, dynamic prototype in Figma.
BA deliverables are MM, initial solution vision, target audience and user role descriptions, problem definition and processes as is, business cases definition, prioritization and scope definition for prototype, drafted BRD with solution introduction and business justification, list of accelerators, solution description, investigate compliance, regulations and align requirements according to it in updated BRD, define product hypotheses and plan to configure or disprove them, hypotheses validation, requirement specification including MVP in final BRD, solution’s conceptual roadmap creation.

Architect/Development and PM artifacts are as follows – architecturally significant requirements list, logical architecture, infrastructure architecture and cost estimation, tech stack description, tech risks and mitigation strategy, gantt chart, tools for team communication and knowledge base, communication schedule, status reports.

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