Before we start building a service, we need to find out whether users need it and whether other services exist.

This part of our project is called the discovery phase.

We shouldn’t start building in discovery.

Before beginning any discovery phase, you must have agreed with the Product Owner: Bromley MyLife that this project can be started.

What to find out in discovery

In the discovery phase we need to understand and map out the user journey.

We should find out:

  • who our users are
  • their needs and how we are meeting them, or any needs we are not meeting
  • which services currently meet the users’ needs
  • the people we need in our team or virtual team for the alpha phase
  • what the user journey for someone using our proposed service might look like
  • what to name our proposed service
  • how we might build a technical solution given the constraints of the existing legacy systems

What to do in discovery

To get the information we need in discovery, we can:

  • carry out user research
  • analyse policies, laws and business needs

We shouldn’t use discovery to design a service to work around existing processes. We need to use it to find out whether we can build a service that meets the user needs.

How long discovery takes

Every service is different, but depending on the size and complexity of the service, our discovery should usually take between 2 and 8 weeks.

How we know that the discovery phase is finished

Discovery is finished when we know:

  • the scope of the service you want to build
  • whether to move into the alpha phase
  • the team of people we need if we do move on to alpha
  • that senior stakeholders want to begin building the service and understand our plans
  • how we will measure success and what a successful service would look like
  • any related services that exist to meet the user need
  • how impairments might affect our users – for example, visual, hearing, motor and cognitive (memory and thinking) impairments
  • how many of our users need assisted digital support and what their needs are

We should have:

  • a prioritised list of user needs
  • a prioritised list of user stories
  • a list of stakeholders, and information we have got from them about existing services

Moving on to the alpha phase

We should move on to the alpha phase if the discovery findings show:

  • we can build a service that better meets user needs compared to what’s currently available
  • the service we are building will be better value for money


Stopping after discovery

The findings may show it’s best to stop developing your service. For example if we discover:

  • there’s no user need for the service we planned to build or for an online service
  • user needs are already being met by another service
  • technology or policy constraints mean we won’t be able to build a service that meets the user needs you’ve found
  • it’s not cost-effective to develop the service

It’s not a failure to stop developing a service after the discovery phase if our findings show that’s the best thing to do.