Why Your Project Needs a Discovery Process

Jim Hutchings, Business Analyst and Project Manager

When most companies decide that a new software solution is needed, there is a tendency to dive right in and get building. After all, the solution needs to be delivered yesterday. 

This is not a situation, however, where cutting corners and skipping important steps will actually help meet that tight deadline; this is a perfect example of when the benefits of a discovery phase will help the project be successful.

Plus, at the end of a discovery phase, Trifecta Technologies delivers an expertly documented set of business requirements, a technical design, and a thorough project plan. 

Run a Mini Project

Rather than throw an entire project team into a yet-to-be-defined project, the discovery effort is a fraction of a large software development project. Typically, discovery involves a senior-level business analyst working with a technical lead. Sometimes, they will consult with a project manager or UI/UX designer to refine some of the discovery deliverables but, in general, discovery is a rapid process with minimal staff, which keeps costs low.

The discovery process includes the following steps:

  1. Identify Project Goals: While the project initiators likely have a good idea of what they want to accomplish, an analysis deep-dive almost always uncovers hidden problem areas that should be recognized.
  2. Elicit Business Requirements: More than what the stakeholders want, the requirements will also address what they need. A talented business analyst will get to know the customer and be able to extract the requirements using a variety of skills and tools. This process involves interviewing the users and subject matter experts, observing and documenting workflows, reviewing existing documentation or artifacts, and conducting workshops. 
  3. Define the Solution: The business analyst works with a technical lead to complete a proposed solution and high-level design for the work effort, usually including wireframes of major user interface components.
  4. Determine Project Approach: After understanding the project requirements and high-level design, an approach starts becoming apparent. Trifecta’s analysis and development teams use their experience on similar projects to structure a project team and propose a plan and schedule.

Common discovery deliverables include:

  • Functional requirements documentation
  • Technical design
  • High-level project plan
  • Cost proposal for the larger development effort

Discovery is a Win-Win-Win

A Win for the End Users

An effective discovery process will establish a clear idea of the needs and scope of the full project, and does so early in the project’s lifespan. This reduces delays and cost overruns that would be incurred as requirements are found later in the process, while giving the project a much better chance of successfully delivering what the users truly need.

A Win for the Budget

A standalone discovery process will be completed at a fraction – typically 10 to 20 percent – of the total project cost. Besides being easier to get smaller, investigative discovery efforts approved, it also provides a natural phase gate with specific deliverables prior to attempting to approve a larger project budget. This incremental, agile approach ensures risks are identified and issues mitigated early in the process, reducing overall waste in time and money.

A Win for Trifecta Technologies

By working with our customers through a discovery phase of a project, we ensure a complete understanding of the endeavor and allow for project ramp-up and resource identification and allocation. We will also have a working knowledge of the needs, challenges, and limitations of the project, so that we can deliver an effective solution.

A talented business analyst will guide you through the discovery process and define all of your requirements, leading to the perfect technology solution for your situation.

Jim Hutchings

Jim Hutchings

Jim Hutchings is a Business Analyst and Project Manager at Trifecta. He is often found supporting Trifecta’s internal improvement initiatives, and he is passionate about producing high-quality deliverables for Trifecta’s clients. In his free time, you'll usually find Jim giving vineyard tours at a Lehigh Valley winery or taking care of honeybees at his family’s apiary.

Contact Jim at jim.hutchings@trifecta.com or visit his LinkedIn profile.