The Cost of Discovery: A Small Initial Investment for Application Development Success

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Segue recommends performing a Discovery effort as a best practice in any complex and large web custom application development or mobile application development project. Business critical systems that need to meet specific customer requirements and provide a reliable and modern portal for a user community, need a focused and structured planning phase. This is our “Discovery” phase, where we work closely with our customers to identify their needs and present complete develop solutions with options for cost and schedule tradeoffs.

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The Benefits of Discovery

Many times customers seek a fixed price proposal for a full development effort, prior to establishing a relationship with their development company. Unfortunately, this opens the door for unidentified requirements, external interfaces, and other constraints to arise after development begins, which can have major impacts on a solution and lead to cost and schedule overruns. In some cases, unidentified requirements and constraints could represent a barrier to project success so great that the project is doomed to failure. However, if those had been identified in the solution planning phase, they could have been accounted for and managed within the initial budget.

Segue’s Discovery Packages

Segue has two typical Discovery packages. For smaller and medium sized projects, Discovery is a $25,000.00 flat fee to complete all of the necessary requirements elicitation and planning required to accurately scope and schedule the full development effort. This represents about a month of effort for a blended project team to collaborate under the direction of one of our project managers. For very large and more complex custom development projects, we encourage a longer and more robust Discovery effort for $50,000.00. In both instances, the customer will receive a comprehensive plan for bringing their web or mobile application to life. The difference in cost is just a reflection of the difference in team size and time required.

What to Expect at the End of Discovery

At the end of the Discovery phase, the customer either has everything they need to get a reliable quote from and commence development with Segue. The upfront cost of the discovery effort is then applied toward our full quote, and we typically end up getting started on development at the same time we’re finalizing the solution. Discovery starts a close relationship with our customer that allows their needs to quickly translate into our development efforts.

Alternatively, at the end of Discovery, the customer has everything they need to solicit competing bids from other software development companies. We hope that isn’t the case, because development is what we are really all about. However, we understand we aren’t the only software development company and there are various reasons to have different groups define requirements and execute on them. In the Government world, it is standard practice to separate requirements from development, and it is considered a conflict of interest for the same company to do both. This is not the case in the Commercial and Non-Profit world, where efficiency and flexibility have greater importance. Regardless, since Discovery has already fully defined the requirements and defined the solution, this cost can be eliminated from a different developer’s quote.

These two scenarios are what make Discovery such a great development project breakpoint. It’s a necessary first step, so the cost is a portion of the total, and it’s the only point in the project where a customer could pause or change direction without wasted effort or rework.

Certainty is a valuable commodity in software development and allows customers and development teams to work harmoniously toward a shared goal. Investing in Discovery, prior to solution definition and the full project cost estimate, is a down payment toward the total cost with an immediate return of certainty.

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