Every new business project begins–whether you realize it or not–with a process called Discovery. What do we know, what must we learn, who do we need to talk, which requirements are essential and which ones are nice to have, and so on goes the exercise of Discovery. Its ultimate goal is the mutual understanding of the parameters of a project among a diverse set of stakeholders some very technical, and others not so much.
Ask an attorney how important the process of Discovery is for a successful outcome in a court case. Often we see its importance dramatized in movies, a lawyer cries bloody murder to a judge when his opponent drops some surprise piece of evidence, “Objection! Your honor, my esteemed college should have introduced this during Discovery.”
Likewise the same thing happens in the midst of project development. Suddenly an important stakeholder drops a bombshell, “the legal department says we cannot geolocate a user in the app without the user’s consent”. Chaos ensues. The lead engineer states that in order to add consent we’ll need another sprint, the marketing director believes user acquisition will be reduced 20% putting the viability of the app in question, the CEO is wondering how far out of budget this project is going to end up!
It's no wonder that trial judges typically grant counsel 3 to 6 months to perform Discovery depending on the complexity of the case. They do not want any surprises which may compromise the trial thus waste tax player money, or worse, prevent justice from being served.
Discovery is the most underrated phase of software development!
The primary reason we neglect Discovery is because we think we know our project. With confidence we say, “Mr. PM, you have our project’s documentation, please get us quotes from three developers.” Unfortunately none of three developers were involved in the production of the documentation nor any strategy planning meetings; therefore, in most cases the documentation generates a load of questions for them and many more that they don’t even know to ask. The poor PM scrabbles with the tender inevitably without success in getting apples to apples quote comparisons. A word of advice Mr. PM: don’t even look at the quoted price, go with the developer that demands to be treated like a stakeholder and requires a significant discovery phase before given a final evaluation of estimated development cost. And expect to pay for it.