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    Product Discovery: How to Build an Awesome Product

    Most startups fail. According to Investopedia, the failure rate for a business within the first ten years is around 90%. There is no definitive statistic as to why startups fail, but the reasons usually come down to one or several of the following:



    The absence of the product discovery phase falls into one of the 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 solves a deep and genuine need for the customer that they need to use from the first try. So, how do we achieve the goal of building such a product? The product discovery phase is the key to success.

    What is the Product Discovery Phase?

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

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

    It is impossible to overstate the importance of the project discovery phase in software development — the groundwork done in this stage can make or break a business before it even starts.

    Benefits of Product Discovery

    The benefits of investing time and resources into the software development product discovery phase are undeniable, but many companies don’t realize that. However, you need to know them to appreciate the discovery phase fully and take steps in the discovery process.

    Validate Your Business Idea

    Your idea may have seemed incredible 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 entirely 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.

    Your product is supposed to solve a problem and address a pain point for your target market. You need hard evidence to know if the problem is legitimate. It may happen that the problem you want to solve is not a pain point. In such cases, you want to pivot to avoid wasting time and resources on building a product for nothing.

    Optimize Development Costs

    If you know what you're making and how you're going to make it (as opposed to figuring it out as you go), it will save developers from doing extra work they don't need to do and save you money.

    Build a Prototype

    The product discovery phase aims at defining the main view of the product. Thus the product discovery process allows for uncovering and adding necessary features, describing the core functionalities, and giving a clear understanding of the main design deliverables.

    Define Your Project Scope

    After you understand your project, building the step-by-step development process is much easier. It’ll help define the project roles, determine when the team will need to complete the development, plan the production, and specify the technical requirements.

    Define Success Indicators

    It's always better to set up 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.

    Pre-empt Bottlenecks

    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 must clearly understand the process, including how to manage the main pain points.

    Identify Stakeholders

    You'll need to find one or several professionals with experience in this early stage of development to fill every slot. The stakeholders are the participants in the process. 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 ExpertTal.

    Develop a Marketing Strategy

    The discovery stage aims 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 your product, you should create a step-by-step process for releasing it to the market.

    Build a Product Discovery Team

    Choosing the right team is one of the most critical parts of the discovery phase. 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 the solution's APIs, SDKs, and non-proprietary code. 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.


    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 development process, providing a mitigation strategy early on, thus eliminating emerging problems early on.


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

    Stages of Product Discovery

    Build and Align Your Team

    You must build a team of several professionals with experience in this early stage of development. The solution is to rely on your network, a robust HR and staffing firm with expertise in this type of hiring like ExpertTal.

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

    Understand Your Audience and Competition

    Start by identifying the customer you're targeting. What are their pains and needs? How are they solving the existing problem now? Research your competitors — find out what their product can deliver, what it lacks, and how much it costs. What does it take to implement beyond the financial cost? Knowing the playing field well is the first step to avoiding being outcompeted.

    There are different product discovery techniques at this point. The most common approaches you can use include behavioral, qualitative, quantitative, and attitudinal research. Combine them in a way that suits your product discovery aims the most.

    Set business goals

    What does your MVP look like? What are the resources that your business needs to get there? What is the optimal time to market? How does success translate into measurable units? You need to have answers to these questions before moving on to development.

    Requirements Design

    The project discovery phase in custom software development is necessary from a technical point of view to have a clearly defined tech stack for developing the product. You should also know what the product can be moving forward. Prioritize features based on how essential they are to your product and its intended target market, planning only the essentials for the MVP.

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

    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, and create concept UI design of key pages and prototype. After that, the team defines logical and infrastructure architecture, provides tech stack descriptions, and prepares tech risk and mitigation strategies.

    Product Discovery Deliverables

    As mentioned above, when it comes to the discovery phase for software development, there is no limit to the depth of preparation and analysis you can do. But several vital documents must come out of this process to ensure the project's success. Here are the key deliverables you and your team should focus on producing:


    Technical Specifications

    This document should contain a detailed description of the MVP you're building, from the overall logic of it down to each feature and button.

    Project Roadmap

    Your Tech Lead and developers will benefit from a clear roadmap they have to follow. It should cover every part of the development process, including a plan for what to do after the release. Remember to include deadlines.


    Whether you're going to outside investors or self-funding, it's equally essential to forecast any expenses that the project will incur. Estimates are OK in this phase, but it's best to be predictable in business, so do your research and be as accurate as possible.


    The final product design illustrates your application's functionality, flow, and interface. Finalizing this in the Discovery phase will unite the development team under a shared vision.

    Product Discovery in Remote Teams

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

    Synchronize the Alignment

    You must ensure 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 your team members would be in the same room to discuss matters. However, when the whole world works remotely, 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 so everyone can use them simultaneously. Everything will be seamless to share, right down, and fixate on different thoughts and ideas.

    Keep Everything Organized

    When your team works on an identical product from different places, the risk of having your user insights, experiment results, and ideas scattered across numerous tools and file servers might arise. 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 you 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.


    By now, it should be clear why the discovery phase of a software development project cannot be skipped or rushed. It involves deep thought on the part of multiple highly specialized professionals. And it's not going to come cheaply. 

    Whether your project already has funding, you must stay budget-conscious when delving into a new venture until you've found a product/market fit and earned some revenue. At the same time, later success will directly result from the work's quality. It's an impossible dilemma without offshoring.

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    About the Author

    Kamal Rastogi is a serial IT entrepreneur with 25 yrs plus experience. Currently his focus area is Data Science business, ERP Consulting, IT Staffing and Experttal.com (Fastest growing US based platform to hire verified / Risk Compliant Expert IT resources from talent rich countries like India, Romania, Philippines etc...directly). His firms service clients like KPMG, Deloitte, EnY, Samsung, Wipro, NCR Corporation etc in India and USA.

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