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What is the Project Discovery Stage?

What it the Project Discovery Stage?

To me, the Project Discovery Stage is the most fun part of Project Management. So what is it?

It’s funny how we don’t really know about anything, until we are forced to think about it. Of course I knew about Project Discovery. But I always elided it into the Project Definition Stage. It took a simple question to get me thinking.

What is the Project Discovery Stage?

What is the Project Discovery Stage?

What is the Project Discovery Stage?

You can think of it as either the first part of the Project Definition Stage, or as a stage before it. Either way, Project Discovery has a simple purpose: discovery.

Knowledge and Understanding  

It contributes to your Project Brief, with knowledge and understanding. So it is a process of learning (which is fun). In the Discovery Stage, you explore and learn about:

  • What the business needs
  • …and what it already has
  • What solutions are available
  • …and which may be suitable

Development Work

As part of this, in the Discovery Stage, we also do a little development work. Perhaps you might create a prototype, test some technology, or build a small part of the product you’ll go on to deliver.

Why? Because this discovery development work will give you knowledge:

  • Which solutions can work
  • The likely pitfalls
  • Clarity over requirements
  • Customer or user experience priorities
  • How long things might take
  • Parameters for cost estimating
  • Evidence for your business case

Iterative Projects

If all this sounds a little like ‘doing your project, before you do your project’; you’re not wrong. Projects are iterative; even traditional ‘waterfall’ projects.

The Benefits of the Project Discovery Stage

But the benefit is two-fold:

  1. By creating a Discovery Stage, you can lift a lot of uncertainty and reduce your risk significantly.
  2. It’s just fun. Development, learning, and results, without the pressures of a fixed requirement or quality standards.

Call to Action

So, will you carve some time out of your next project for a Discovery Stage? I hope so.

About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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