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What discovery is

What discovery means and how you prove you've done it well causes a lot of confusion. This confusion is often caused by the idea that by the end of discovery you must know everything you need to know and have a fixed plan for everything you're going to do next.

The truth is that elements of discovery happen through every phase of the agile process, including alpha, beta and live - you do not need to know everything and you can do elements of discovery if the unexpected happens at any stage of your digital project.

What you should have by the end of the discovery phase

By the end of discovery you should have:

  • captured everything you know or think you know about your product or service in one 'store' - this can be something like Confluence or another online tool

  • looked at solutions that already exist that are relevant to what you're building, and whether there are things that are reusable that could save your project time and money

  • understanding of what the users of your service or product need - user researchers asking users is one option, but there are lots of things you can do to inform this, including gathering data about how similar services perform and user feedback on these services

  • understanding of gaps in knowledge that you'll be looking to fill in the alpha phase of your project - you'll need to document these gaps, what you plan to do to fill them and the resource or skills you'll need to do this

Sometimes, there's confusion about not prototyping any products or services during discovery. This is not a hard rule. Sometimes prototyping a few options in a basic way can help you work out what solution to develop further in the alpha phase of your project. 

Prototypes can also be a powerful communications tool in bringing your service to life for stakeholders.

How long discovery can take 

There’s no set time period for a discovery, but 2 - 3 months is typical. You do not need to know everything by the end of discovery, you just need to know enough to have confidence in the product or service you're going to build in alpha.



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