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What is the return on investment of doing nothing versus product planning ahead of development?

I have a passion for product discovery. It’s exhilarating to quickly grasp what a client envisions, build new relationships, and demonstrate value through workshops and stakeholder interviews.

In sales calls, I often emphasize the theoretical value of a discovery phase before diving into development. I liken it to the saying, “You don’t want to build the car while driving it.” Surprisingly, many companies rush into development, believing that having code is more valuable than having a detailed plan and roadmap, or that Agile replaces the need for clear product planning.


The ROI of Research

One common question I encounter is: What is the return on investment (ROI) of product planning and defining requirements? Quantifying this value is challenging.

Imagine a controlled experiment where the same product is built by the same team under two scenarios:

  1. A thorough discovery phase to identify requirements, validate with stakeholders and users, create a functional backlog, and then develop the product
  2. Minimal planning, adopting a 'figure it out as we go' approach

If we could control for everything except for if the product were to include thorough planning at the beginning of the project, it is more likely that the planned project be completed on time and meet stakeholder and user expectations. Having a clear product roadmap and defined backlog to work from helps keep the team on track and gives them the ability to make informed decisions.

Projects started with minimal planning frequently launch late or don’t launch at all. The dev team inches along due to needing to track down information needed to move tickets forward. The result of projects that lack initial planning leads to products that fail to meet stakeholder and user expectations, resulting in poor adoption and negative user feedback.


Increase Confidence and Reduce Ambiguity

Starting any project, whether new or existing, involves many unknowns. Bringing as much information as possible to the forefront at the beginning allows for clarifying what should be built and in what order.

In my experience, the discovery phase often leads to 'ah-ha' moments, typically around the third or fourth week. These pivotal insights result in planning adjustments that wouldn’t have emerged otherwise. Such moments help align the product roadmap with stakeholder priorities and user needs, ensuring a strategic rollout of features over time. By keeping future goals in mind, we can avoid significant refactoring between milestones.

Taking the time to plan and clarify initially chaotic and ambiguous elements results in stakeholder alignment regarding the project’s purpose and direction, ultimately increasing confidence in its success.


What is the value of doing nothing compared to engaging in discovery and planning? While precise numbers are impossible to quantify, it’s evident that planning and preparation lead to more efficient development than sporadically building and pivoting.

Using another analogy, no one would build a house without blueprints, telling plumbers, electricians, and carpenters to start without a plan. Progress isn’t just about seeing more walls—it’s about building the right walls in the right places.

At Callibrity, our “six-week discovery” engagements offer clients a clear timeline and expected outcomes. We practice scrappy, lean Discovery methods, balancing speed with quality. Our approach:

  • Establishes high confidence in our recommendations
  • Defines high-level requirements
  • Conducts sufficient research to mitigate risks
  • Scopes the next contract phase

Contact us today to explore what our six-week discovery can do for your product. Start with discovery to ensure your project’s success.


Callibrity – Know you are building the 'right thing' before you build the thing 'right'

Ryan Wilson
Post by Ryan Wilson
Ryan Wilson, Product Practice Lead at Callibrity, brings over two decades of experience in digital product creation. With a PhD in Human-Computer Interaction and an MFA in Graphic Design, Ryan blends technical expertise with creative insight to solve complex problems. His holistic approach integrates product and UX processes, fosters client relationships, captures user insights, and drives success. Ryan excels at quickly learning and adapting to meet the evolving needs of clients and audiences.