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Why Project Discovery, with Business Analysis and Market Research, Is a Must for Your IT Project

Maria Boyarko

Maria Boyarko

Head of the BA Department at Andersen

Business Analysis
Jul 20, 2022
6 minutes to read
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In our everyday business practice, we quite often face the following situation. A customer approaches Andersen’s team with an idea to build an IT tool that seems extremely promising, lucrative, and failproof to them. And when we offer to launch a proper project discovery phase involving business and market analysis, this proposal meets a skeptical response: “I know, I can see, I feel that the IT project we want to implement will work just fine.”

Unfortunately, market statistics indicate that such convictions are quite often wrong. That is why exploring the true potential and prospects of your IT initiative is never a bad idea - at least, if you are going to invest substantial resources in it or it is going to play a crucial role for your business.

In this piece, we are going to discuss this need in greater depth.

Costly consequences of miscalculations for an IT project

Before we proceed with a somewhat detailed description and examples of our Project Discovery framework, including business and market analysis practices, let’s start with the most important factor.

In particular, we must begin with some figures intended to substantiate a simple fact: if you omit the above steps, you are very likely to waste time, resources, and money on counterproductive IT endeavors.

As you will see below, companies are not 100% doomed to fail when they start developing their IT solutions straight away. There is still a chance for success without preparations - intuition may work properly, and guesswork may show you the right path. But still, the chance of failure is also very high unless you pay enough attention to the preparatory stages.

Below is what some reputable experts from McKinsey state in their “Delivering Large-Scale IT Projects on Time, on Budget, and on Value” report:

  • There is a 45% chance of a typical large-scale IT initiative running over budget;

  • 7% of large IT initiatives take more time to implement than initially projected;

  • 56% of such IT initiatives end up delivering less value than expected at the beginning;

  • What is even worse, 17% of failed IT initiatives cause grave consequences that threaten the very survival of their respective companies.

You may argue that the IT project you are contemplating is not a large-scale one, hence these figures are irrelevant in your case. Well, there are other figures for smaller initiatives.

According to CBInsights - their team did some thorough research of unsuccessful startups - the top reasons why young teams fail include:

  • No market need for these startups and their IT products at all - 35%;

  • Reliance on a flawed business model - 19%;

  • Mistimed idea - 10%.

A properly held Project Discovery phase with a strong emphasis on business analysis and market research could have prevented these failures.

Andersen’s IT Project Discovery framework: business analysis and market research

Project Discovery is a rather broad term. At Andersen, we understand it as an initial stage of IT projects aimed at shaping a clear picture of an envisioned IT product. This framework presupposes two aspects. One of them is tech-related, covering the solution architecture and functionalities to be delivered, as well as the range of languages, frameworks, and other means required to develop your IT tool.

While this tech-related aspect is incredibly important, it is still founded on a more business-oriented ground. Namely, it is about business analysis and market research.

In this respect, Andersen’s experts deal with the following challenges:

  • Identification of comprehensible and verifiable objectives, i.e. outlining what goals the envisioned product must attain, what criteria it must meet, whose interests it must serve, and which functions it must perform - in accordance with the guidelines initially submitted by the customer.

  • In addition, Andersen’s experts thoroughly scrutinize the product’s future competitors, its target audiences as groups, and its intended end-users as individuals (exemplified as the so-called user personas). This direction encompasses both already available studies and unique research conducted by Andersen’s team.

  • Competitor analysis is another must: our specialists scan the best possible industry benchmarks, assess their popularity and efficiency, record their flaws and blind spots, and figure out how the envisioned solution could outperform them in terms of functionality, UI/UX, look and feel, end-user needs matched, etc.

  • With these reliable takeaways obtained and coupled with the tech aspect, Andersen’s team will be in the right position to provide you with a project roadmap, schedule, and, most importantly, cost estimate.

This basis will enable you to avoid the following problems:

  • Insufficient understanding of the market landscape and successful and promising areas;

  • Lack of comprehension related to business and user processes that the envisioned IT tool is supposed to facilitate;

  • Unclear business goals and success metrics;

  • Vague product functionality that is not based on real-world needs.

Business analysis and market research: practical implications

Here you might ask us to stop promising and start substantiating. That is to say, the most logical question is as follows: “The deliverables you promise are more than desirable, but how are you going to ensure them? You are a custom software development company, not a marketing agency or an R&D center.”

Well, that’s the best thing you will experience while cooperating with Andersen. We can simultaneously act as a software development vendor, IT think tank, data-driven design studio, and marketing service provider. That’s why our team can address even the most challenging issues you may be worried about, for example:

  • Assessing the size of your targeted niche;

  • Evaluating the potential demand rates regarding your future IT solution, the disposable income of your target audience, and their actual willingness to use the resulting product and pay for it if applicable;

  • Identifying the real concerns, pain points, implicit needs, and explicit requirements of your target audience;

  • Fully comprehending the advantages and disadvantages of your competitors;

  • Identifying potential risks, problems, and opportunities;

  • Scrutinizing your current and future marketing policy on the basis of carefully observed industry trends;

  • Securing the most suitable combination of functionalities and positioning.

The research toolbox we apply is more than sufficient to address all of the above aspects:

  • Primary research including interviews, external and internal observation sessions, professionally compiled and conducted surveys, and, of course, focus groups with optimal audiences;

  • Secondary research based on reliable commercial databases, public sources of information, and our own internal corporate sources, guidelines, and data-driven expertise;

  • In-house models and projections based on quantitative research methods.

As for the market research route that Andersen will take to assuage the above-mentioned concerns and apply the above-mentioned sources of information, it will generally look as follows:

  • Together with you, we will establish the clear, explicit, and verifiable business objectives of the market research;

  • With a list of business objectives at our disposal, we will be able to generate user personas. User personas are deep and nuanced descriptions of semi-fictional representatives of your target audience. As such, they are not real people but rather projected ideal users of your IT solutions. The personas are based on empirical facts and should be thoroughly analyzed in terms of their needs, problems, pain points, and wishes;

  • Once the user personas are fully scrutinized, one can identify the most promising and suitable research method to be applied to the challenges revealed;

  • If necessary, research criteria associated with those methods will be further clarified;

  • On this substantial basis, one can start collecting data from different sources. At this stage, it is crucial that we know for sure what data we need and what we need it for;

  • Finally, the results of the research are analyzed to obtain valuable conclusions regarding your future IT solutions. As a result, you can make productive decisions with high market potential.

Project Discovery deliverables

Typically, our customers obtain an all-encompassing range of documents striking a perfect balance between details and generalizations. As a result, you can see a full picture of your future product, in its future landscape and in its interaction with target audiences pursuing their unique needs. Depending on a particular order, this range of documents may include:

  • Vision and Scope;

  • Business requirements specification;

  • Business model canvas;

  • Mindmap and roadmap;

  • User story map;

  • Customer journey map;

  • Value stream map;

  • Benchmarks;

  • Etc.

Conclusion

To sum up, let us reiterate what business analysis and market research can contribute to your IT project. All the research and deliverables described above are needed so that we can:

  1. Correctly identify your business requirements, find out what is really important and valuable from a business perspective, and what you should include in your product;
  2. Compile a list of features supported by a mindmap and story mapping;
  3. Translate this data into project estimates;
  4. Integrate the results into a transparent and clear proposal and project roadmap.

As a result, you can be sure that the actual outcome of your IT Project will be a success.

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Maria Boyarko, Head of the BA Department at Andersen
Maria Boyarko

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