ONSITE & OFFSITE Discovery Phases: What To Choose?

Do you know what the software discovery phase is? We believe so, because the concept is gaining popularity month by month. And here's why!

You see, it is Discovery that allows you to find the right approach to project implementation. It offers you the best solution to delivering the product, capable of meeting all crucial user needs. 

Definitely, we could tell you about Discovery and its benefits for a long time, but why waste time if the key information has already been crying for your attention? Just follow the link and read the article covering this very topic.

And now we'd like to discuss with you another issue, namely, two discovery phases, or rather, two ways of conducting research and analysis. 

discovery stage

As a rule, we, the Agilie team, work remotely and perform the required activities online. But if necessary, we’re ready to visit your office in person and get information on site, so to say.

What should you choose? The answer is in the blog piece below. And we start, as usual, with the basics.

Why Do You Need a Software Discovery Phase?

Of course, Discovery is hardly an obligatory project part. That's why many skip or reduce it and start with the Delivery steps right away... which they usually regret later. The thing is, they think they're saving time and/or money, but it's not really the case. In the long run, they're losing much more resources because this kind of short-sighted savings result in increased costs over time. It's not worth the risk.

The story with the Everest app serves as proof. The original idea was to create a digital platform aimed at helping users make their dreams come true. The features included setting goals, describing steps to achieve them, getting support from like-minded people, and so on. 

The start of the project was successful: investors allocated $2+ million to finance its implementation. Alas, the developers failed to meet the promised six-month deadline. They paid too much attention to secondary features (such as offline synchronization: an option, which took too long to implement)... while they should have focused on releasing an MVP model first (the app with basic functionality).

Eventually, the app entered the market, but it was too slow and had poor UI/UX. And a few years later, the project had to be suspended. The most annoying thing about that is that the software discovery phase would have helped to avoid such a sad outcome.

If you don’t want the same fate as Everest, don't skimp on the initial thorough research.

What is a Discovery Stage Team?

Discovery takes from 2 weeks to a few months (roughly speaking) and involves a whole team of experts, including a business analyst, designer, technical specialist, project manager, and many others. They help the startup owner to understand how to approach the project, what features to create in the first place, what technology stack to choose to ensure the software runs smoothly. In other words, they'll explain to you how not to disappoint future users.

  • To get detailed information on all Discovery experts and their responsibilities, see the article we linked to in the introduction.

The aforementioned specialists can perform their work remotely; still further, the online format won't prevent them from showing their best (it's the so-called OFFSITE Discovery). However, in some cases, the business analyst and manager may visit the client personally to conduct on-site research (which is known as ONSITE Discovery). This way, they get first-hand information, dive into the nature of their client's business, and find out all the details.

Sounds good, but this has a downside as well. Moreover, both methods have their pros and cons, and the choice of a particular technique depends on the project's specifics.

Let's take a closer look at what's right for you and your startup.

ONSITE vs OFFSITE Discovery Phases

Let's briefly remind you of what steps Discovery traditionally consists of (in the above article, you'll find their full description).
software discovery phase

It doesn't really matter if we only do Discovery online or include offline activities too. In both cases, we go through the same stages. The main difference is the methods and tools we use to achieve the desired result (say, a personal interview in Onsite Discovery and an online survey when working 100% remotely).

OFFSITE Software Discovery Phase

Although the name sounds like it's offline, Offsite Discovery is all about remote work on the project (because we're working off site, and we mean your site). Undoubtedly, the option is at its peak today; and the following list explains why by highlighting the main benefits of online research:

  • New challenges of the times: we mean, of course, the coronavirus and the pandemic it has caused. Over the past couple of years, we’ve learned and got used to working remotely.

  • Saving time: no need to go anywhere, the project discussion takes place remotely. And it does matter, as businessmen are usually on tight schedules.

  • Saving money (we’ll discuss this advantage of Offsite Discovery a little later).

  • Convenience to the max. And finally, Offsite Discovery is really convenient! You aren’t limited by anything: neither the time zone, nor the location, nor other factors.

However, sometimes you have to resort to the help of personal meetings. Let's discuss the option at greater length, shall we?

ONSITE + OFFSITE Discovery Stage

Just so we're clear: the Onsite approach doesn't work by itself. Offsite activities will still be part of the project. Personal visits are needed to collect information about the client's business, conduct interviews with those who own crucial data, and perform similar offline activities. The subsequent processing of the gathered information will take place remotely (online) anyway. You see, requirements analysis involves a lot of time and effort... starting it on the client's location (site) is expensive and therefore makes zero sense.

Let's not deny, though: Onsite Discovery is very effective… but only if you manage to organize the process correctly. If you want Agilie experts to personally visit you, be sure to keep them busy all the time. Also, your employees must be ready to spend time with our specialists, answer their questions, and help them understand how your company works. And we're not talking about a few hours... The visit may last at least a week (otherwise, there is no point in Onsite Discovery).

Agree, if the business analyst just walks around one of your offices, he'll be of little help to the project. The final results are likely to be minimal (at high costs).

What About Discovery Phases’ Cost?

Surely you’ve already been wondering how long Discovery takes, right? We have the answer to your question, although the data is rather approximate (each project is unique).

discovery phases

As you can see, the implementation of the Discovery phase in the case of small and medium-sized projects takes a similar time, regardless of the chosen approach. But when it comes to large projects, the situation changes: Onsite + Offsite method gives faster results, which is hardly surprising. In the end, personal presence allows the expert team to get answers to all burning questions here and now, so to speak: you and your employees provide maximum information in real time. However, Discovery's accelerated process doesn't make it cheaper… quite the contrary.

See for yourself!

discovery phases

We cannot name the exact cost of the Discovery phases, whether it's offsite or onsite, a lot depends on the specific project and the techniques used. But exact data isn't needed anyway (at least, right now): as the second table shows, research, which includes online and offline activities, entails additional expenses. 

The explanation is simple: firstly, you should cover the cost of full board and accommodation for our team (usually, it's about a business analyst and a project manager, although there may be other options). Secondly, you need to finance the flight too (it would be unwise of us to work at a loss, right?). In addition, several of your employees will have to spend their precious time accompanying Agilie experts and showing them your business from the inside, figuratively speaking.

That's why so many people prefer the offsite format... The only question is how to make sure the Discovery phase remains effective even when executed remotely. What can we offer in this regard?

How to Conduct the Discovery Stage Online?

Among our advantages is the willingness to work in a flexible mode and adapt to your needs. You yourself, as a client, choose a convenient interaction format, including a suitable time zone. And we use our best efforts to provide appropriate working conditions.

To be specific, here is what we offer as part of Offsite Discovery:

  • agile approach to Discovery, when the development process is divided into repetitive cycles (sprints). Thus, we remain as flexible as possible and more easily respond to any changes. 

  • careful planning of current and future activities using modern digital tools, including the popular Google calendar.

  • daily online/offline meetings within our Discovery team, which means each of its members stays abreast of developments. It also ensures transparency of processes.

  • regular communication with the client (with you), so that you are in the know and can offer new ideas, if you have any. Our interaction channels include the following:

    • real-time communication in instant messengers (Viber or WhatsApp) and similar programs (Skype, Slack, etc.). If necessary, we can arrange an audio or video call;

    • email communication, which allows you to write to us when you are in a hurry to convey some important information but there is no time to make a call right away;

    • Google Meet/Zoom conferences if there is a need to have a longer and more detailed business conversation.

All the proposed ways to conduct the Offsite discovery stage aren’t just a set of theories. We've tested them in practice, and they've proved effective and decisive.

For more information about our Discovery services, follow the link.


Of course, there are situations when personal presence is preferable. So let’s not completely dismiss the Onsite approach to the Discovery stage. Instead, we invite you to discuss your project and decide which of the two options is the ideal solution in your case.


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