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Discovery Phase: How to Explain Your Idea to a Developer

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If you’ve ever tried to explain your idea to a programmer you probably faced some difficulties. This is why there is a dedicated development stage called “discovery phase”. You may say this is just a fancy naming for what’s called: find a common ground. And you’re probably right.

  1. Discovery Phase
  2. The Purpose of Discovery Stage
  3. How Long Discovery Phase May Take?
  4. OS Platform
  5. Use Cases
  6. References
  7. Business Problems vs Business Goals
  8. Quote Request Examples

Discovery Phase

The discovery phase is a first step in the delivery of any service, we just don’t call it that way. This is a part of our everyday lives. You go through a discovery stage every time before making a haircut, traveling, shopping, food ordering etc.

Unfortunately, trying to explain your software idea is generally harder than trying to describe your perfect trip. Trying to describe your idea to a left-brained developer might be even harder than to a creative person. You’ll get all those in-detail and annoying questions up to the moment you want to cry: “Just do it somehow!”

That’s why the discovery phase is usually performed by our client management team. An intermediary who makes this process go unnoticed by you. During the discovery stage, our team gets a first vision of the project: what needs to be done, who is it for, why it is important, and what are the metrics to measure service quality.

From your point of view the discovery stage may look like a series of simple questions, but rest assured, your answers will give us core details we need. This way we finally create a shared understanding of the problem.

The Purpose of Discovery Stage

It is important to make the discovery before estimating the project. Because often you don’t know enough and that negatively affects the accuracy of estimates. The developer may find himself in a position where he/she has only 10% of the details that really required.

Sometimes, if you have a difficult project, it is also safe to pay for a discovery + design stage. Because during design you’ll come up with the feature set or use cases that will help with future prioritization of the project.

The discovery stage can also help plan out following releases: what needs to be done in a first place, what can be added later as the budget freeze up or as a time is available.

How Long Discovery Phase May Take?

discovery phase of phone call

This is the question agencies usually ask. And if you’re representing an agency, you probably interested in how many meeting the discovery stage is going to take.

From our experience, it takes up to 5 emails to settle all preliminary details and get to the estimation. Or we’ll be fine with just 1-2 Skype calls to ask all question up front.

You may notice that one call is worth more than emails. Unfortunately, clients are uncertain about whether to jump on a call right from the start. They think they are not ready, or not prepared yet. Our advice is don’t be afraid of making a call, we’ll just give you general questions, and it’s our concern to make things clear.

Choice OS Platform

A preferred OS platform is one of those things that should definitely be in your inquiry. This information is crucial for the estimation process because the prices and technologies vary greatly depending on the platform you choose.

Still, it’s up to you whether to start from a single platform or develop a triple solution. It also depends on your monetization model and target audience preferences. Just pick one of the variants below:

If you want your app to integrate with external devices (wearables, sensors, cameras, drones), you should specify this information in advance. You can even write down specific names of devices, so we could examine software that powers those gadgets and finds possible ways of integrations.

Use Cases

use case scenario

If you don’t know where to start, just describe a core use case of your future app. Write a detailed, step by step user journey from the very first moment they open your app to the final goal they achieve.

Moreover, such a detailed use case description is possibly the best time investment you can do. It will reveal hidden issues in app structure, highlight critical functions, and possible inconsistencies your app might have. In addition, use case scenario will serve us as a good starting point for specification development and add 10% accuracy for estimation.

In case if you’re still afraid of giving away your idea, here’s a great article on this matter. Remember that ideas worth nothing without execution.



It must be acknowledged that one image worth thousand words. If you happened to have any examples, references, similar projects already developed by your competitors, all these materials are most welcome.

If you’re representing a digital agency, you probably already have the designs or wireframes approved by your client. Don’t be afraid of sending those materials to us. Of course, we can sign the NDA in advance, just don’t keep your designs in secret, these materials will greatly enhance estimation we prepare for you.

Business Problems vs Business Goals

The discovery usually depends on the type of your business and how things work inside your company. There are two core approaches in terms of how the added value is created, what drives demand and costs.

Problem Solvers

The first kind of business thrives on problem-solving. In particular, the company makes money on solving a very specific set of problems like wedding decorations or banner ads management.

If you’re one of those businesses, your first and foremost priority is to explain this core problem to the development team. Only by knowing the core problem the developer will be able to come up with a suitable software solution.

You don’t have to invent the wheel. Don’t waste your time trying to describe all possible software solution that might help you. This is our job as a development company.

Again and again, we face the same issue during the discovery stage: the client comes to us with an in-detail vision of the software. It looks like kids drawings actually. No surprise that once we get to the specification stage it turns out that the solution can be really far easier and lighter.

Goal Achievers

This is the second kind of businesses that are trying to make the world a better place. Or some part of it.

These businesses are usually far more complex than problem-solving companies. They supplement an industry with complex service solutions. Such kind of business usually tries to achieve new service standards or create a new working environment.

This is how Salesforce, Microsoft, Oracle, and Cisco works. They provide complete ecosystems of products/services that supplement a particular industry or business activity.

If you’re representing this kind of business you probably need replaceable parts to improve existing processes or supplement your core offering. That’s why you better start from describing your industry and solutions you already provide, so we could be on the same page.

The first thing you should tell programmer is the industry landscape you’re working in and your part in this process.

The coder should understand how new software product will integrate with other services and what is the technological landscape he will be working in.

Quote Request Examples

A theory is nothing without practice. Here’s a simple example of software quote request for development:

A sample for Problem Solvers

Industry: Medical Equipment.

Platform: Android app.

The problem: Need to control the position of medical beds remotely. Here are the products of medical manufacturers I want to integrate with [Product Names].

Features I want to have: Scheduled position change, predefined bed positions, memory, a set of procedure-related bed position presets.

P.S. We can also send you preview of the app our competitor in Europe provide.

A sample for Goal Achievers

Industry: Sales & Marketing.

Platform: Web app, SaaS solution.

The goal: Find a better way to track client’s journey along the sales funnel. Here are software products we’re already using in our work [NAME].

Proposed solution: cockies tracking mechanism, visualization of client’s journey stages, customizable mapping tool, comprehensive statistics, integration with email services.

That’s it. Such simple description shave off 2 to 3 emails and greatly reduces the length of the discovery stage. From here we can start a preliminary estimation and get into custom details right away.

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