The nature of any custom software development project is complex. Unlike building a physical product that satisfies a need and can be repeated over and over, each custom development project that we work on with our clients has a lot of variables and context to digest before we can suggest a solution. It’s not always obvious what the solution is to your organization’s problem; in order to get the full picture of the solution you’re looking to build, we need to “look under the hood” of your business.

Enter the discovery phase: our opportunity to partner with your team and develop a custom plan of action based on understanding your business and how we can help you achieve your goals. If you’ve never heard of discovery in the software development process, let’s take a closer look into what discovery engagements exactly entail, what purpose they serve, and why they’re full of benefits for both your team and ours.   

What is the discovery phase in software development projects?

Simply put, the discovery phase is an opportunity for our team to better understand your business, what problem you’re trying to solve, technical requirements, and how we want to solve the problem at hand. This is a step further and deeper than the initial conversations you have had with our team. The project discovery process allows us to break down the epics and features of your project, what technologies might be required, and more.

If you remember our software development process blog series, we shared the following graphic:

The discovery phase of a software project takes place in the “pre-execution discovery” and “pre-execution planning” stages. Before we can run (move to the “rapid, transparent, iterative execution” phase), we need to walk or even take a minute to look at the map to figure out where we are going (discover and plan for your project needs).

The approach here is key – in discovery, senior members of our engineering and project delivery teams will take a deep dive into your business to understand the full context. In some cases, we might talk about your requirements only, in some cases, we might talk about only the technology needed to power your idea – it’s all really dependent on how fleshed out your idea is.

There is value in doing some level of discovery before every single project among many of the services we offer, like custom software development, website developmentSQL Server development, Azure consulting, and Office 365. No matter if you come to us with a fully built-out idea or if you’re just in the early stages of ideation, discovery can benefit your organization. The process of discovery allows our team to not miss and the valuable context in your project and ensures that we can put our best foot forward when it comes to executing on your idea.

What is the purpose of doing the project discovery phase?

Now you might be thinking – if I know exactly what I’m looking for, why waste time and money on the discovery phase? While you think you might have every detail figured out, we have yet to see a client enter into discovery and come out of discovery with exactly the same idea they had going in. The bottom line is that the development process is complicated, nuanced, and there are many ways to solve your problem – so why not make sure that you’re getting the most value out of your budget and software development partner’s time?

In short, the discovery phase allows our teams to both fulfill the following purposes:

  • Outline exactly what you’re looking for and give us a chance to dive in to make sure we are understanding your needs.
  • Allows our team to choose the right solution to your problem, as well as confirm the limitations or tradeoffs of all possible options.
  • Helps to break down the actual features involved in creating your end product.
  • Opportunity for both parties to make it very clear what they’re going to be accomplishing during the project.
  • Align on your organization’s terminology/processes.

We have a diverse team with a ton of technical and industry knowledge and they help to bring a great perspective to the conversation. Often, this helps our clients to think through their ideas further than they might have on their own, and especially for the non-technical folks we help

We have a diverse team with a ton of knowledge, so they bring a great perspective to the conversation and guide clients to think their idea through a bit further than they maybe would have on their own – especially someone who isn’t in a technical role.

What are the benefits of the project discovery phase?

Now that we understand what the purpose of a discovery engagement is, let’s take a look at the benefits for both our clients and our team.

For clients:

  • Lower initial cost investment: if budget is a concern or you have no idea how much to budget for your project, discovery is a great opportunity to learn more about how much money your project will actually cost.
  • You get to keep our research, plan, and roadmap: Even if you decide to not partner with us on delivery, all our findings are yours and you could take that to work with another firm or your team internally.  
  • You get the technical expertise of our team: Our team's unique experience in various technologies and industries helps to ask the deeper questions your team might not think of and help take your ideas further.  
  • Helps you fully define what is needed to complete your project: As we’ve said before – custom software is complex and full of nuance. Working through a discovery with a software development partner can help you to outline what is exactly needed to complete your project.

For Teams:

  • Great opportunity to get to know the client better: Just as it’s important for your organization to find the right fit for your project, it’s important for our team to do the same! In every project, we want to make sure that our team is a good match with your team.
  • Shorter runway to project execution: Before a project can start the development phase, our team needs a plan of action. By working on some level of discovery before your project’s official kickoff, there is less time spent planning and more time executing.
  • Ensures that our team can plan accordingly: If your project is large, we need to make sure that we have the right team on hand to devote to it. During discovery, if we realize that we need to align specialized internal resources to get your project done, we have more time to plan accordingly.


Discovery – at any level – is a critical piece of making sure that your development project goes off with as few hitches as possible. Have an idea for a software development project but don’t know how to define it? Reach out to Emergent Software today to discuss your ideas!