Product Discovery vs Product Delivery: Striking the Perfect Balance

Simon Tratnik
  • 4
    min read
  • Simon Tratnik
    Jun 11, 2023

As a Product builder, you're confronted with two main challenges:

  • Discovering the right product to build.
  • And then delivering that product effectively.

The first issue revolves around defining the customers' needs – this is a multifaceted process, involving extensive research, interviews, and sometimes guesswork.

On the other hand, delivering the product right is about translating these ideas and designs into a tangible, reliable, and usable product. It requires meticulous development, rigorous testing, and a keen eye for quality assurance.

This stage is where your team's technical prowess comes into play. But, more often than not, teams struggle to strike the right balance between discovery and delivery. This struggle stems from a paradox.

The Paradox of Speed vs Quality

Rapid release cycles have become a hallmark of modern product development. Agile practices encourage you to bring your product to market as quickly as possible. The rationale? Rapid releases provide fast feedback loops, helping you iterate and improve.

However, there's a counter-argument – the need for quality. Releasing a product quickly shouldn't mean compromising on the quality of the end product, and that's where the paradox lies.

To overcome this paradox, teams need to understand that discovery and delivery are not mutually exclusive.

Rather, they're two sides of the same coin. When you acknowledge this, you're less likely to fall into the trap of separating these phases into distinct 'teams.'

The Dichotomy of Discovery and Delivery

Sometimes, product teams make the mistake of segregating their operations into a 'discovery team' and a 'delivery team.'

This separation can lead to a significant disconnection between the two essential parts of product development.

For instance, the discovery team may come up with grand ideas without considering the technical limitations. Conversely, the delivery team might find themselves building something they don't fully understand or believe in, leading to a lack of ownership and motivation.

In reality, discovery and delivery are intertwined, just like collaboration and innovation. When one phase is seen as more important or is handed over to a particular group, it often leads to imbalance and failure to achieve the product's desired outcomes.

Unifying Discovery and Delivery

The secret sauce to successful product development is acknowledging that discovery and delivery must coexist within the same team. Embracing the concept of cross-functional product teams is vital.

It means every member of the team is responsible for both discovery and delivery, fostering an environment of innovation and empowerment.

These empowered product teams don't just follow roadmaps. Instead, they use innovative approaches like the Design Sprint to enhance their discovery process. They understand problem, ideate solutions, prototype, and test these solutions all within the sprint's timeframe.

Empowered teams also focus on value, usability, feasibility, and viability during the discovery phase. They don't merely 'hand off' their findings to a separate delivery team.

Instead, they remain engaged throughout the process, actively participating in building, testing, and iterating the product. This involvement boosts their motivation and sense of ownership.

Striking a Balance Between Discovery and Delivery

You may now wonder, "how do we strike a perfect balance between discovery and delivery?"

The first step is to acknowledge the value of both. You can't have a successful product without effective discovery and delivery. Design Sprints and Agile practices can help you combine these two, but remember that every team member needs to be engaged in both.

Also, avoid outsourcing or siloing your engineering team. They're not just 'builders'; they're creators and problem solvers too. They need to be involved in discovery to understand the 'why' behind the product, not just the 'what.' This approach empowers them to contribute to potential solutions, fostering innovation.

Finally, remember that the key to successful product development isn't about rushing to the finish line.

Instead, it's about focusing on delivering value to your users. It's about understanding their needs through effective discovery and addressing those needs through proficient delivery.

Situations where Discovery Phase Might be Skipped or is Crucial

It's important to understand that product discovery is generally an essential process in product development. It's the phase where teams gain insights about their target users, market trends, and competitors. This allowi them to shape a product that meets user needs and stands out in the market.

However, there are some scenarios where a team might go straight to the delivery phase or where discovery is absolutely necessary.

Let's examine these situations.

When Might Discovery Be Skipped?
  1. The Product is Well-Defined: In cases where the product or feature is already well-defined and understood, and user needs are very clear, teams may be able to jump straight into delivery. This might be the case for smaller iterations on existing features.
  2. Repeat Products: If a team is building a similar product to one they've built before, they might be able to leverage the insights from the previous discovery phase and proceed directly to delivery.
  3. Time-Sensitive Situations: When there is an urgent need to deliver a product or feature quickly, such as for a security patch, discovery might be skipped or significantly shortened.
When is Discovery Absolutely Necessary?
  1. New Product Development: When a team is developing a new product, the discovery phase is absolutely crucial to understand user needs, validate the product idea, and define a successful product strategy.
  2. Major Product Updates: When significant changes or additions are being made to a product, a discovery phase can ensure these changes will meet user expectations and needs.
  3. Entering New Markets: If a company is planning to enter a new market or target a new user segment, discovery will help understand this new audience and their unique needs.
  4. Innovative and Disruptive Products: For products that are innovative or disruptive in nature, discovery becomes critical to validate assumptions, mitigate risks, and ensure that the product will be valuable and usable to its intended users.
  5. Unmet Performance Metrics: If a product isn't meeting its performance metrics, conducting a discovery phase can help identify issues and opportunities for improvement.


The path to creating effective, user-focused products involves understanding and integrating the principles of discovery and delivery.

By fostering a culture that values both, your product teams will be empowered to create innovative solutions that truly meet your customers' needs.

So, the next time you embark on a product development journey, remember: It's not discovery versus delivery, but rather discovery and delivery.

If you're not already using discovery in your organization, now is the time to start. Get in touch about running an Discovery Workshop with us.

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