Date adopted: 
June 3, 2019
Last update: 
October 28, 2020

Discovery is the 1st phase of the service and website design and delivery process. The purpose of this phase is to help us understand the problems we're setting out to address. For example:

  • what are people trying to do when they encounter your service? For example, wanting to legally catch a fish, not just get a fishing licence;
  • what the current experience is for users; and
  • what their needs are as they interact with the service.

The discovery phase helps us challenge our preconceived ideas of what the problem and solution may be. We frame our understanding of the problem and solution around the user's experience.

What to do in discovery

During the discovery you want to:

  • develop the vision for why the service or website should exist and what it will do;
  • identify user needs and how you’re meeting and not meeting them;
  • identify what the internal process for the current service looks like and what the proposed service could look like;
  • identify how you might build a technical solution using the government's common platform components given the constraints of your organization’s legacy systems and IT infrastructure;
  • develop a plan to meet accessibility requirements;
  • identify current policies and legislation that relate to your service and how they might impact or prevent you from delivering a good service to your users;
  • identify policy gaps and updates that need to be approved; and
  • identify key performance indicators (KPIs) for the service or website.

How long discovery takes

Project teams can expect to spend about 2 weeks on discovery.

Team roles needed for discovery

Your project team should be consistent through all design and delivery phases. This ensures the successful delivery of your service or website.

Department that owns the service or website

  • Service owner. Responsible for ongoing delivery of the service or website by their department. Will have strategic decision-making authority.
  • Subject matter experts (SMEs) from the department. Familiar with the delivery of the existing service or website.
  • Project manager. Responsible for managing the project schedule, scope, and budget.

Some teams may also need:

  • Business analyst. Responsible for analyzing current business process and aiding the service owner when required.


  • Service delivery manager. Responsible for following the standard, leading service maturity assessments and managing project-related contracts.
  • Service design manager. Responsible for leading discovery and ensuring what gets designed is aligned with the overall eServices strategy and user experience.
  • Web architect. Responsible for the technical architecture and implementation of the service.

How you know discovery is completed

Discovery is complete when:

  • your discovery findings support moving on to the prototype development (alpha) phase;
  • senior stakeholders understand your plans and want to build the service or website;
  • you have a complete project team in place for prototype development (alpha).
  • you know the broad scope of the service or website;
  • you've identified the must have features for your minimum viable product (MVP);
  • user needs and stories are simple, clear, distinct, and prioritized; and
  • you know what a successful service or website looks like and how you’ll measure success;

How to know if you can move on to prototype development (alpha)

eServices will conduct a service maturity assessment at the end of discovery.

You should only move onto the prototype development (alpha) phase if your discovery findings demonstrate:

  • you can build a service that better meets user needs compared to what's currently available;
  • the new service will be better value for money;
  • you have funding and staff resources to required to develop the service or website; and
  • there are no significant policy or technology constraints that mean you won’t be able to build the service.

It’s not a failure to stop developing a service after discovery if your findings indicate it’s the best thing to do.