Discovery and Definition

Avoiding a common mistake

When working with an agency to develop a website or an app for your business, it’s natural to start by thinking of a maximum budget you want to spend. This is especially common for those of you who don’t have much past experience with these kind of projects.

That’s understandable, as you’ll want to make sure you’re getting something you can afford that will also deliver strong ROI. From there, you may think it’s simply a case of the agency telling you what you can achieve for that amount of money.

But taking this approach is a mistake that can actually cause significant long-term problems for the project, and can often result in a far higher spend than you’d originally planned.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

It’s crucial to realise that, for your project to succeed, taking the right approach in working with the agency is far more useful than setting an arbitrary budget to aim for.

With that in mind, one of the most important phases of a website or application project is a ‘discovery and definition’ phase. Why? Because it gives everyone involved a clear understanding of exactly what you need from your end-product. That understanding is essential for your agency to be able to successfully deliver it on time, within budget, and without any issues.

What is a Discovery and Definition Phase?

In the discovery and definition phase, your agency will help you explore all the possibilities of what your website or app could eventually become, and will carefully scope out everything you need. This includes design, functionality, features, and everything else included in the end-product.

Within that discovery, you’ll be able to determine what your budget should be specifically based on what will be built. Working this way then allows you to determine what features and functionality are actually necessary, rather than what would just be nice to have.

What’s Involved?

Think of this as a mini-project within itself. It will ensure everyone is clear on what needs to be done, how it will be done, how much it will cost, and what the end-product will look like.

The typical steps of a discovery and definition phase are as follows:

  • Setting a scope of work to define what functionality you need
  • Producing wireframes so you can visualise the user interface
  • Agreeing a budget with an itemised breakdown
  • Determining a timeline for delivery of each stage of the project
  • Hosting requirements – whether that’s cloud hosting, databases or functions
  • Setting a release or roll-out plan for a pilot or full launch
  • Agreeing acceptance criteria to allow the test team to check work is accurate

This may seem like a lot on paper, but it should only take between two to four weeks, depending on the size and scope of your requirements.

It’s also worth noting this should always be included in the cost of the overall project. So, for example, rather than committing £50,000 right away without knowing what that can achieve, you’ll only spend a small fraction of that to make sure you’ll be getting exactly what you need.

Once this is all complete, you have the choice to either approve and start of the project, take the planning to a different agency, or decide not to proceed at all based on what you’ve learned.

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The consequences of avoiding Discovery and Definition

If you decide not to go through this process before entering into a project, it must be said that you’ll be making a critical mistake. Many agencies will even kindly decline the opportunity to work with clients without first conducting a discovery and definition phase.

This is because proceeding without one will invariably result in serious problems during the development, because your requirements won’t be properly scoped out. In that case, your website or app may take longer than initially estimated to build, or certain features will end up failing to meet your needs.

This misalignment of expectations will not only result in a challenging project and a disappointing end-product, but the cost implications on your business from unnecessary spending could be enormous.

Final Thoughts

A discovery and definition phase is one of the most important parts of any successful digital project. With that in mind, it should always be prioritised as the first step on the journey towards launching a great website or application.

The main thing to remember here is that the budget shouldn’t be the primary consideration. If you want your project to run smoothly, you must make sure your expectations and requirements align with your agency’s understanding of what they’ll be building for you.

If you do that, you’ll be able to work together to produce the exact digital product your business needs in an efficient and cost-effective way.

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