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What Should a Tech Lead Be Doing in the Discovery Phase Of a Project?

Scrum-Meeting illustration

When creating a digital product, it might be tempting to keep lead developers with coding only. Nowadays’ companies, however, tend to introduce them to customers from the outset.

So before jumping into shiny design and clicky buttons, the developers require much input data. Luckily, the easiest solution to collect all the information is a project discovery.

Here, we talk about the benefits of bringing a tech lead into a discovery session. Also, you will know in detail what a lead software developer does at each stage.

Project discovery overview: why bring a developer?

A project discovery is an entry point to software product development. During this phase, a software agency defines the end-user value chain, clarifies a project concept, and identifies bottlenecks.

Simply put, its main goal is to transform once fragmented ideas into tech requirements and UX prototypes. On top of letting you know the right tech stack, project discovery is used to calculate the cost to build an online marketplace.

Missing focus and content issues (such as shifting requirements) are the main reasons why IT projects fail, McKinsey-Oxford research says.

Source: McKinsey-Oxford study

Too many startup founders fall into the trap of thinking why the idea will be a huge success. Unlike, tech leads have no shame in pointing why the project may end up a failure.

Lack of software developer during the discovery phase will likely cause the following troubles:

  • Poor scope control. A lack of measurable goals often leads to extensions of a development duration, making the launch date barely known.
  • Unplanned expenses. Misunderstanding the initial requirements provokes redirecting of a project with future cost climbs.
  • Missed deadlines. A blurred project timeframe can postpone the release. The lack of clear timelines will also negatively impact the investors’ expectations.

Companies can be in a rush to get their product finished. That is why a lead software developer must use looking-forward thinking. If so, both the client and product team are ready for a streamlined and transparent software building.

What does precisely a tech lead do at the discovery session? In the text below, we bring you a step-by-step guide.

1. Exploring the subject area with tech lead

First, a customer shares the vision of the future product, its core functionality, and user flow. So let’s talk in detail about what a lead software developer should know.

The product’s selling point

A lead software developer finds out about problems their upcoming product should solve. The overall solution concept is going to be built on the provided ideas.

Tailoring the product to the audience

A customer portrayal helps developers to predict how users are going to respond to a given product.

This includes defining users’ demographics, ages, location, habits, etc. Such a step is crucial for delivering a user-friendly product.

Pre-defined timeline

Tech lead sets up a timeframe letting you track and manage activities throughout software development.

It enables product managers (PMs) to see a clear picture of the project roadmap at a single glance.

Budget needed

It is essential for a lead developer to make up a question list prior to meeting the customer. As an integral part of a discovery stage, such a survey should be individually adapted for each new product development.

The final price, of course, can be significantly affected by different factors. On average, product discovery costs vary from 5% to 10 % of the overall project budget. Besides, the general production timeline is due to the hourly rate of the selected software provider.

2. Identify bottlenecks

A software agency needs to identify possible challenges that might slow down product development. Roughly, it covers a certain function or business logic implementation depending on the issue complexity.

3. In-depth analysis and challenges avoidance

A product manager is in charge of this stage. Meanwhile, a lead software developer provides insight-driven solutions to the expected pitfalls. The ongoing communication with stakeholders helps to synchronize all further actions.

Thus, a lead developer works together with PMs in order to finish preparations on time. Overall, the more uncertainty stakeholders have about functionality they bring to the table, the more time they need to invest in a project discovery.

4. Helping PM in project roadmap creation

The tech lead predicts an estimated time the whole project requires. Based on provided numbers, the product manager makes up a project roadmap. This, in its turn, eliminates gaps in functionality and customer demand on the launch.

5. Define project cost, time estimate, and tech documentation

The final thing that needs to be discussed with a tech lead during the discovery session is a list of documentation materials.

Technical specifications prepared by the lead developer may contain the following information:

  • An accurate tech stack;
  • A list of the product features, including functional and non-functional requirements (reliability, availability).

Clickable prototype

To facilitate the whole product creation, a client needs to check whether or not the end-user will act within a projected scenario.

UX designers create a prototype simulating real user interaction. It gives you a glimpse of how end-users can experience app navigation via the home page, drop-down menus, etc. 

Tech leads are not involved in prototyping. At this point, their responsibilities during the discovery phase are accomplished.

Here, for instance, you can examine one of many UX prototypes out there:

Source: Michal Kulesza, Dribbble

It might seem like a prototype is a limited version of a final product. Nevertheless, it only simulates the way people will interact with the user interface.

To wrap up

Many entrepreneurs see the project as a whole. Meanwhile, lead developers ask questions to catch error cases in the upcoming development — the exact thing they do every day.

During the discovery phase, a tech lead defines the technologies your product needs. Also, they select a development approach and give you an estimated timeline.

The reputation of a product team really matters if you want to start a website or an app with particular business logic. Regardless of the traveling and your location, the right specialists will help you. They can either meet in person or hold discovery sessions remotely.

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