Full Guide on Running a Project Discovery Phase for a Fintech App 2023
Interest in fintech products emerged in 2014 when banks began to develop their own applications and modernize traditional services. Thus, running a project discovery for a fintech app has been a popular request ever since. Now every third client of the bank uses at least one financial application, which means fintech apps are slowly but surely flooding the market.
In parallel, fintech startups with fresh ideas began to appear. They worked faster than conservative bankers, were not afraid to experiment with money, and were closer to the people. This is how the market for financial and technological applications and services, including mobile ones, began to grow. Development companies, in their turn, are here to help promising apps carry out discovery phases.
What Is a Project Discovery Phase?
In order to estimate the cost of the project and make a commercial offer to the client, it is necessary to conduct a discovery phase or a complete analysis of all aspects of the project implementation — from the emergence of an idea and business concept to the technical implementation of the expected product. This approach allows the protection of the product from unplanned costs and facilitates and clearly defines the working conditions of the team.
A preliminary analysis of the needs of the client, the market, competitors, target audience, the upcoming scope of work, and resources is carried out in any area where the contractor wants to fulfill their obligations to the client in a quality manner. However, running out a discovery phase for a fintech app is especially vital since this sphere often involves great budgets and high stakes.
Product discovery means:
- discussion of the project’s existing business processes or the concept of a future project, expectations, and wishes regarding the deadlines;
- definition of the target audience;
- competitive market analysis (direct and indirect competitors);
- formulating solutions to business problems;
- determination of the scope of work;
- setting deadlines and priorities based on the project complexity and market trends;
- schematic distribution of roles and appointment of specialists who should be involved in the process (cross-functional teams are often created).
The Purposes of the Discovery Phase of a Project
The discovery phase is the first and mandatory stage of development, where requirements are identified, and business goals are analyzed in order to make a proposal for technical implementation, fix the project boundaries and estimate the cost of development. The fintech discovery phase aims to tackle the next purposes:
- Make a development roadmap
In the final result, we will deal with a clear deal a clear technical task with a description of the key functionality of the future product, which makes planning the development phase itself easier and clearer.
You will receive a complete project schedule with milestones, deliverables, and deadlines. The Software Requirements Specification (SRS) and mockups developed during the product discovery process in fintech can be used to find additional investors.
- Improve communication
Even a good presentation cannot guarantee that you have chosen the right company. Regular communication at this stage allows you to evaluate the real team effort, your experience, and your approach to the project and establish two-way trust. Before starting development, you can use the discovery process results with other IT vendors.
- Save resources such as time and money
The main value is the expertise and experience the development company shares since they allow it to make the job faster. For instance, Devlight has been working in this field for years and knows how to help you perform a discovery. We are capable of conducting a product discovery process for a fintech app resulting in valuable insights that you will not find with a simple search on the Internet. These are live examples and real-life experiences. We share them so that you don’t have to dedicate years to learning everything from scratch.
- Idea validation
You will have an opportunity to check your actions with the guide and apply different product discovery techniques to implement changes at an early stage in case anything needs improvement. Thus, through discovery, you can validate your product ideas.
- Complex analysis and data gathering
The discovery phase helps both the fintech app development team and the client find an answer to the principal question: which problems of future users can our solution address? Modern product discovery is about gathering and analyzing requirements, systematizing all the input information, and lots of planning that eventually clarify the big picture of the whole project and eliminates any early-stage uncertainty.
Finally, the discovery phase is fundamental for the future success of your product development in fintech. Devlight will teach you how to conduct the product discovery phase in such a way as to avoid typical mistakes that often occur at the initial stage (we provide smart methodology/guidelines).
Our team believes in a properly conducted fintech discovery process as a way to save your resources such as time and money with “tips and hacks” content-type: we always provide a separate block with the solution space clarifying the main points of what you will have to do. With no lengthy instructions or unclear directions, we get down to business.
Briefly on Fintech
The fintech industry means financial companies and banks’ operation, applying innovative developments, as well as the cooperation of traditional financial institutions with technology companies. Modernization or cooperation is needed primarily in order to remain competitive with other participants in the financial market.
In the business environment, an opinion has formed that technology start-ups can replace financial institutions. On the other hand, economists consider this thesis doubtful because startups are not inclined to engage in lending. Rather, these parties will enter into more partnership agreements, which will allow them to gain people’s attention. After all, fintech users are already used to the fact that all actions can be performed automatically by pressing one button.
The partnership of two previously independent areas is truly mutually beneficial. Financiers and bankers have client bases, access to large capital, the ability to work in a highly regulated legislative area. But for the same reasons, internal innovation and rapid testing of new solutions is difficult for them. High-tech enterprises need access to this customer base, and in return they are ready to offer their ability to create value-added services that inspire users. This is how fintech has emerged.
Major Challenges While Conducting Project Discovery in Fintech
According to Forbes, fintech investments in 2021 reached $91.5 billion, nearly double what they were in 2020. The global fintech market is growing rapidly. It is believed that by 2028 the fintech return volume will reach 16652.68 billion dollars, which is 2.5 times more than now. For comparison, in 2021, the fintech market was worth $6588.78 billion at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 13.9%. In 2021, 64.6% of US citizens used online banking, according to Statista, and this percentage is predicted to rise. These numbers not only excite but put pressure on young fintech enthusiasts. What challenges should you be ready for when entering the fintech development niche?
- Creating a bank from scratch vs. finding a partner bank among existing ones
Digital banks, a classic fintech app example, do not use offline branch departments for customer service. They are available exclusively online via:
- Having a financial license and independently providing financial services.
- Directly cooperating with traditional banks to provide remote financial services.
The new model is designed for a user looking for a simple and affordable way to manage their money. It must be understood that such banks do not give loans, which means they do not take risks, and this allows them to reduce the cost of creating reserves. No need for an office either. This choice between these two models determines the API you will use for further integration.
- Issuing licenses
If your app operates on the basis of an existing bank, you will share their license. It’s good when everything you need is already there. Otherwise, a license must be obtained since it will determine the product’s earning models, legal activity, and future scaling. For instance, you will need a license for charging commissions from transactions, subscriptions to premium accounts, and commissions from third-party services.
- Finding a KYC provider
The KYC procedure (deciphered as “know your customer”) obliges all fintech institutions to verify the identity of each client before the person can conduct any financial transactions. This protects companies from the risk of dealing with fraudsters and ensures the safety of customer assets. Once upon a time, this was only the internal policy of each company, but for about 5 years, KYC has been established as a clear legal practice. Thus, it is vitally important to choose a reliable KYC provider. This stage of the product discovery process for a fintech app determines your app’s security from the beginning. The way of client registration depends on this.
- Legal activity clarifications
Many modern fintech apps operate without a banking license, which is why they are not subject to the law. They act like virtual shells that complement offline banks and financial institutions with features that less advanced and flexible competitors do not have. While this has been the main advantage of fintech apps, it is necessary to find out under which regulatory and legal documents the potential application falls. For example, if the application collects users’ personal data and stores it, the startup is subject to GDPR requirements.
Will Skipping Project Discovery for the Fintech App Save You Time and Money?
Even if you have a great idea but don’t have a fintech app target audience or don’t meet their needs, you won’t have a successful business. To avoid this, you need to study the market, find out who your competitors are, analyze their products and determine your target user identity before hopping into development. For a small project, this might take approximately one to two weeks; for a larger one, it will take about two months of work.
The discovery phase and customer research can seem overwhelming in terms of time and resources. Still, they allow the team to determine project timelines and budgets, specify end-product requirements, identify end-user needs, and get feedback from them about the product. The more preliminary preparation is carried out before the start of product development, the more understandable and predictable will be the product strategy.
The product discovery for a fintech app allows the client to:
- more accurately determine the essence of an idea or project based on a real analysis of the market and the pain points of the target audience;
- identify some aspects of the project that were not taken into account initially;
- establish the basis for cross-functional collaboration and clarify the requirements for future team members;
- understand fintech target customer expectations and concerns based on competitor product research and user stories;
- get an expert assessment of the project and information on how to implement it properly;
- consider alternative solutions and technologies that will help make the project a reality;
- minimize and optimize costs;
- draw up clear terms of reference with the definition of the exact deadlines and budget for the project;
- understand how the performer meets the expectations, and make the final decision on the entire process of further cooperation.
As you can see, all of these benefits are worth investing more money and time into the product discovery process. Prepare and study the market instead of mapping your road straight into practice. This approach will save you time in the next stages and prevent the product from failure or unnecessary touch-ups.
When Should You Start the Discovery Project Management?
Having a detailed “estimate” of the product idea, it will be easier for you to take the next steps — for example, find an investor or defend the project in front of the manager, select the necessary specialists, etc. In addition, it is difficult to determine the development timeline and the required team composition without an assessment. Thus, product discovery is a valuable preparatory step before launching any new app, service, or additional features.
New Product Development
The fintech product development process is not something that can go naturally. Stated workflows and scenarios have already been invented. If you want to choose the best development scenario and properly assess the possible risks, you need to carry out the preparation stage before launching any product.
It starts with the team deciding on the format and duration of sprints (meetings) and selecting tools for structuring and reporting on the work done. For example, tasks can be distributed and stored in a cloud-based Trello project management software. Diagrams, graphs, maps, and diagrams can be created in Microsoft Visio Drawing or draw.io. Prototypes and mockups are easy to create in Sketch, NinjaMock, or Axure.
Allow the professional team to evaluate how much your idea matches the market.
Upgrading an Existing Product
Things get easier if you already have a stable team involved in product development. The discovery phase, in this case, will take less time and involve just a slight change in the teamwork routine. However, you should always carry out a discovery before launching new features to your project. Understand that you will practically deal with a new product after an upgrade. New target audiences or market competitors open up after you implement the changes. Thus, you should be able to predict them.
After all, the discovery process for a fintech product helps to prevent the need to make costly additional edits and changes in the course of work. It establishes a balance between the new business goals of the client and the interests of the end users of the upgraded product.
New Business Opportunities
Even when developing a minimum viable product, you must plan product development several years in advance. This allows you to consider all the business goals, requirements, and restrictions and lay a flexible product architecture. In this matter, the discovery phase for a fintech app is not only needed before broadening your product horizons, but any project architecture should already take into account the possibility of scaling the product and increasing the load.
Software Discovery Phase Team: Its Roles and Responsibilities
To ensure the accuracy of calculations and anticipate risks, companies tend to assemble a team of experts from several departments. Often this is an analyst, designer, and experienced developer — involving team members with narrow expertise is great for building high-load solutions. The product discovery process for a fintech app helps you determine which specialists you will need and their responsibilities.
After meeting with the client and clarifying their expectations, the PM assembles a team that will be involved in the project and decides what the fintech product development discovery phase will consist of, and who will play what role in it.
A business analyst and consultant performs user experience analysis and potential customer interviews. Based on the results of the survey, they compile a BPMN diagram detailing the requirements for product development.
Product requirements are formed based on user stories and hypotheses associated with them. BA makes up a map or plan of steps that users and project employees take when performing certain manipulations with the product. All actions are recorded in small and sequential blocks. All participants in future conversations, meetings, or interviews should feel it during the fintech product development.
A UX designer is involved in the work to visualize the look of the future project and get it approved by the client. This specialist creates a clickable prototype to test interaction methods and simulate user experience. All interactions are modeled as close as possible to what the final product will have, helping product teams decide on feature improvement. Professional design thinking is needed for this.
An interactive prototype is also created to conduct product discovery. This helps a client demonstrate a business project to investors, get feedback from end users or a focus group, and test a real user experience before starting development.
The project/product manager finds the best ideas for a company’s business, in line with what a user would expect from the service, and executes them in the best possible way.
The project/product manager leads the discovery phase, so they should possess a business, technical, and design thinking. Product discovery plays a vital role in understanding your product context and building the right strategy for it. This phase is more than essential. The better you know your end users (≠ clients), their needs, and their contexts, the more relevant you will be in the solutions you will build for them.
Tech Lead or a Solution Architect
The solutions architect has the role of designing, explaining, and implementing solutions adapted to the company’s specific problems. This specialist builds complex offers, conducts usability testing, and advises clients on transforming information systems. They must study the technical feasibility and risks before proposing solutions.
In a constantly changing technological context and business space, companies must ensure that their information systems are kept up to date to meet new requirements. This digital transformation requires specific expertise and practices to keep the company at the forefront of quality product delivery:
- Analyze the project environment and its issues. Tech Leads manage the entire project and take care of the cost of the solutions.
- Define a trajectory of solutions adapted to the company. The Solution Architect must then ensure that the system they offer meets the product discovery process expectations of the company.
- Comply with constraints. The Solutions Architect must therefore know how to optimize the budget allocated to the project to provide as many ideas as possible, taking into account technological and managerial constraints.
How We Conduct the Discovery Phase for Fintech at Devlight?
The fintech app product discovery work begins with the collection of requirements for the product. It’s good if the client has terms of reference (TOR), a specification, or at least a brief description of the idea, based on which we can make a list of requirements (UserStory) for the minimum viable product, according to which the development expenses will already be calculated.
However, there are not always formulated requirements and wishes. Thus, a discovery process for a fintech app aims to find out how much the development will cost and last (and whether it is worth developing the product at all). It happens that a client only has an idea for a future business (not a “product,” but a “business”). There are no technical specifications and no clear requirements. There is not even an understanding of where to start — no dedicated MVP exists.
In this case, project/product managers need to conduct analytics before preparing technical specifications or drawing prototypes — the first stages (sprints) of product management. For instance, startups often seek to reduce the time and cost of analytics. Then, our product team helps them visualize, estimate the top-level architecture, and determine which functions can and should be implemented immediately and in the future.
Below we will consider the main qualitative research stages and artifacts that the client and we will receive as a result of these studies. The steps can be mandatory or optional, depending on the level of detail of the concept and the type of project: for example, in B2C, drawing screens of a future application is welcome to evaluate the UX and help to impress future investors with the idea.
Phase 1: Product’s Value Creating
The starting point of the project life cycle is not planning but initiation. At this fintech product discovery stage, the project has not yet been confirmed. The client and the product team should review it in general terms and evaluate the perspective. First of all, you need to understand whether it is worth taking on it. To do this, you need to define the following.
The trend canvas is the new standard when it comes to supporting companies and organizations in dealing with trends systemically. As a tool for innovation teams, managers and economists, the trend canvas creates a holistic perspective of the future — and thus helps to assess trends and their impact.
With the trend canvas, trends are understood holistically and translated for your company context. It is a simple product management framework for dealing with complex relationships and a tool for understanding organizational potential and risks. It helps to answer these central questions:
- How are individual trends changing the reality of people’s lives?
- What effects do trends have on society?
- How are trends changing the economy and your market?
- How do I adjust my organization and processes to remain future-proof?
- What new products do people need based on potential client feedback?
Key business ideas
This stage is similar to the analytics stage but with a lower level of detail. Examples of business ideas: what problems does the business solutions and how does it benefit its users? Business ideas are closely connected with defining the problem space.
For example, ordering online using a shopping cart instead of sending a Viber message. Online payment, not a transfer to a card through a bank application. As a result of this stage, a client receives a summary table of all orders and clear information about their users, admin panel, the number of product, and their management.
Customer journey map
Using available customer feedback or introducing the product idea to focus groups, we collect data that helps us understand how users will get in touch with our product. Of course, it is preferred that this journey consists of as few steps as possible, which will mean our product is within easy functional reach for the customers: it is simple, effective, popular, and deals with their pain points in the most convenient way.
This user research data is arranged in the form of a simple diagram (the so-called “map”) that illustrates the stages of getting acquainted with the product, choosing to use it, getting back to it, or recommending it to others.
Value proposition canvas
A value proposition canvas is a tool that creators and businesses can use to visualize, design, and refine how to create value for their users during product delivery. It ensures that the services offered to meet the concrete needs of customers and users.
After conducting user research, we specify users’ expectations and prevent the client from getting lost on less demanded features/products. Finally, we materialize the value proposition canvas in a dual representation: the profile of the target users on the one hand and the value proposition on the other.
Phase 2: Requirement Gathering & Collecting
This fintech discovery part can be called the research phase. It is the collection of information about the idea, the formalization of product requirements, the verification of business hypotheses, the formalization of the solution, problem space, and then the cost estimate for both the initial version (MVP) and further development.
At this stage, product teams are working on all the requirements for the MVP with the expectation of further product development. As a rule (especially when evaluating large projects), clients prioritize creating a User Story as the main way to divide the development into stages and assess each stage separately. At the same time, MVP is the highest priority.
Job & user stories creating
If we are analyzing a process automation project, then a detailed “as is” User Story (US) helps to identify bottlenecks (for example, steps on which product teams spend a lot of time or make mistakes) and suggest their corrections and automation.
From the point of view of tools, it is very convenient to model the future process in BPMN notation, but it is not always immediately clear to the client, so the model has to be simplified when reviewed with the client. In general, you can use any visual models where the sequence of steps is easily traced. The main thing is that the model fixes the future process and is unambiguously readable by you and the client.
Business tasks describing
During this discovery phase, we discuss the process that needs to be automated or improved. You can learn a lot about your client by discussing the current process. Especially when people begin to contradict each other or get distracted from the course of the discussion, and go into details that only they understand.
PRD (Product Requirements Document) is a description that includes all the requirements for a specific product and reflects how the product will look and how it will work. The requirements in such a document reflect the client’s vision and expectations for the product.
Phase 3: High-Fidelity Prototyping Creating & Testing
Now it’s time to discuss with the team a specific action plan for the visual implementation of the project. Even if the client can’t wait to get started, we don’t recommend rushing without having created a quality prototype. Effective applied and tangible planning can prevent many of the root causes of project failure.
Figma hi-fi prototype creating
If the prototype was explicitly written as an artifact for the product discovery process, then it is prepared by UX specialists in cooperation with a business analyst. In this case, we are talking about well-designed high-fidelity prototypes, often clickable, that help you catch all errors in the scripts before submitting mockups to development.
User flows mapping
To determine how the user will interact with the interface of the new product, a User Flow is created in the form of schematically depicted screens of the software solution and transitions between them. Thus, user behavior scenarios based on proposed solutions are designed through visual prototypes of the interface.
Clickable prototype creating
The wireframe is the blueprint that indicates where the main elements of your app are in the US and the transitions between screens. Wireframe models offer a user’s journey, given user behavior patterns. The approved frames will form the basis of the final design.
Clickable prototype real-time testing
The prototypes undergo several testing rounds, depending on the project’s complexity. Testing prototypes will greatly facilitate the coordination of requirements and the estimation of labor costs for the development phase. The potential customer feedback determines the success of the prototype in this case.
Backlog management, clarification of requirements with the client (remotely), documentation, clarification of requirements for the team, conducting product demonstrations based on the results — all those iterations are continuously accompanying the product prototype. Those are hundreds of testing rounds that allow you to receive validated ideas and implement final improvements.
Phase 4: Product’s Software Integrations Plan Creating
The idea of a proper discovery phase is that the client receives a mini-analytics of the future application in a short time (2-4 weeks to 2-4 months for big projects). Based on these data, it is already possible to make an assessment, make a decision on further development, and if the project starts, these data will form the basis of the TOR.
In its fourth stage, fintech product discovery is about technical specification of the future product’s plan and implementing the data mentioned earlier into a visual representation (diagrams and documentation).
Software architecture diagram
The concept we produce at Devlight necessarily includes a proposal for the top-level architecture of the IT product. This is a diagram of all system components, as well as internal or external services (for example, CRM client), with which we need to interact — here we determine what data we will exchange.
Data flow diagram
The product discovery also includes compiling a preliminary logical data model: how many entities, what parameters, what data, and how much will be stored in the system. This is necessary to develop a viable solution for the product architecture and evaluate additional work, such as example, load testing.
API method specificarion
An API stands for application programming interface and allows two applications to communicate with each other by making data or functionality of an existing application available for other applications to use. Here is what should make the notion of application programming interface clearer.
3d-party services integration model
Assembly design modes require developers to fully understand how to interact with other software and systems. The API is an optimal solution for communication between two systems and the web service facilitates the interactions between two machines. It helps to integrate outside services straight during the product discovery.
Full technical specification creating
The functional specification, together with the prototype, tells what elements the system interface consists of and how it works. It describes what is laborious, impossible, or pointless to show in a prototype. With its help, you can improve the proposed solutions, answer the questions of developers and other project participants, and fix the agreements on paper.
Phase 5: Closing Summary and Preparing Documentation
The result of the discovery phase is horizontal analytics that allows you to cover the entire project to its slightest details. It is an elaborated and detailed scope of tasks to carry out for the first MVP or for the entire product in general. The purpose of the study is to “probe” the hypotheses associated with the product, and its usability risk, and collect requirements to estimate the time and cost of development.
Interested? Eliminate any early-stage uncertainty.
Tips For Conducting Project Discovery Stage for Fintech from Devlight Team
Before establishing the project schedule and diving into development, we recommend that you learn some tips that have been helping us and our clients for years. There is always room for improvement, especially as you gain experience together with Devlight.
Conduct Project Vision Sessions
This product discovery step is quite optional. If you are at the idea stage, we recommend holding sessions on project vision, if you already have a ready-made concept and you have been on the market for a long time, we can move on to functional development.
Form a Separate Brainstorm Team
The ideal option is to allocate a dedicated team from your side that can quickly and qualitatively give feedback (the team that is responsible for making a decision) so that all people who make decisions and are interested in it are involved from the client’s side. Here is how to do it:
- Interview existing employees about the current onboarding process.
- Find out the wishes of managers about what can be included in the process.
- Create an overall onboarding process (90-day plan).
- Record training videos for the employee dashboard to make the process as clear as possible.
- Draw up procedures and checklists for the onboarding process.
It is recommended that a technical person with all the solutions the client already has is involved in consultation from the client’s side. At this point, it’s time to choose the right infrastructure architecture and the right technologies for testing assumptions. In-depth technical consulting will make your product supportable and scalable. Any deviations or changes in the future may result in high costs, so value risk and invest in analytics at any stage.
Mix and Unite Ideas
Keep ideas in your head and think about the architecture for them. Introducing a survey tool to gather customer feedback at any stage of iteration changes is great for validating ideas in continuous learning. Implement new approaches and mix the experience advised by any employee since the same methodology won’t work for all products.
Keep Your Company’s Behavioral Pattern
Finally, keep a behavioral pattern for users when analyzing competitors. Uniqueness should not come from behavioral habits. Of course, users’ problems change. But clients may have gotten used to your way of approaching the solution. Stick to your brand way and develop the new product in the same framework.
How to Start the Discovery Phase of a Project in Software Development?
Quite easy. We’re ready to consult and guide you throughout product discovery. Devlight advises the clients to begin with The product discovery to ensure that the product development and launch will be smooth and fit within the estimated deadlines and budgets.
The life path of a project starts with the discovery phase and moves into the product delivery phase. As part of the discovery, we:
- explore the subject area;
- we study the client’s business processes;
- find out the customer’s expectations from the new product;
- identify bottlenecks;
- we formulate solutions to client’s problems at a high level;
- set priorities and form a backlog;
- compile a roadmap for the project.
There are initial conditions that will allow you to conduct fintech product discovery:
- client confidence;
- their desire to meet you halfway for a good result;
- the relative freedom of timing.
On the last point — everyone should have a shared understanding of approximately when the project should start, when to enter the peak, and when to end.
The main condition for existence and competition in the financial and banking markets today is the ability to change quickly, as well as the use of new technologies that are interesting to the target audience. How do you validate the idea before plunging into the sea of coding and iterating changes? Run a project discovery for a fintech app.
Devlight is a mobile app development company operating since 2016 and creating world-class apps for industry leaders. With more than 35M app installs and 50+ projects under our belt, we are a dedicated team of development enthusiasts and scrupulous analytics that believe in the importance of fintech product discovery.
We kindly invite you to cooperate with us. What should you expect? In our methodology, we have phase 1, which targets creating value for the product by trend canvas, key business ideas, CMJ, and other deliverables. Devlight will share with you the methodology tested and validated dozens of times over six years. See the results by checking the companies we had worked with!