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De-Risking Software Projects Upfront: A Quick Guide to the VDP Engagement

The software development industry is notorious for running over budget and failing to deliver on time. The 2021 Standish Chaos Report found that 69% of custom software projects experience challenges or fail completely.

If you’re thinking, ‘That’s appalling…’ We agree.

Here at Frogslayer, we’ve committed to doing things differently. Over the years, we’ve managed to provide a 97% success rate across all our engagements. We’re so confident in our work that we provide a “No Excuses” guarantee – if we fail to deliver on our commitments, then we’ll do whatever it takes to make it right at our own expense.

This begs the question, how? How can we be so confident in an industry so ridden with risk? Our answer is simple – the VDP engagement.

What is a VDP Engagement?

VDP stands for validation, design, and planning.

A VDP engagement is one of two possible outcomes of pre-project consulting. If you’re developing a new software product, this is typically the next step in the process before software development begins.

Think of it like building a house. If you hired a firm to build your dream home, you’d be concerned if they immediately started construction before fully understanding your near and long-term wants, needs, budget, and timeline. You’d want to see and approve of the blueprints and understand financial considerations before the foundation is ever poured.

The VDP is where your ideas come to life. We’ll spend time with you to dive deep into your problems, business needs, and budget restrictions. At the end of the engagement, you’ll walk away confident with a blueprint for your project.

Purpose of the VDP Engagement

Before a single line of code is ever written, we work alongside clients to fully flesh out their ideas and vision. By validating ideas, designing workflows and wireframes, and planning timelines and implementation from the start, we minimize guesswork upfront and de-risk the project.

You’ll know exactly what you’ll get before we ever write a line of code. We’ll know we’re building the right thing, the right way.

Some additional benefits of the VDP include: 

  • Helping discover new and better opportunities for your business and software.
  • Increase consensus and buy-in within your organization and other key stakeholders (like customers or investors).
  • Creating excitement and ownership within the target user base.
  • Providing validation before you spend any money developing the software.
  • Helping the development team build better.
  • Helping your internal team increase their own empathy and passion.

What is a Frogslayer VDP?

Process & Deliverables

Every engagement is different and requires different analyses up front. Overall, however, our clients can expect the following as part of the VDP:


The VDP’s validation phase consists of a kickoff workshop, research and discovery, and product hypothesis and validation. During validation, we’re looking to identify users’ actual needs and how to respond to those needs in a way that supports your business goals.

De-risk your software project with Frogslayer's VDP; learn about the validation phase.

We validate by…

  • Conducting a kickoff workshop with stakeholders and the Frogslayer team to align on vision and goals, understand existing workflows, gain an overview of the opportunity, problem, and solutions spaces, and finally to build a battle plan for the rest of the engagement.
  • Reviewing our client’s current systems and products.
  • Interviewing stakeholders, including executives, employees, and customers.
  • Conducting user research through surveys, field studies, or other methods.
  • Mapping out our client’s existing business ecosystem to make sure the end product will drive their desired objectives.
  • Developing user journeys and workflow analysis.
  • Researching the competitive landscape.
  • Prioritizing needs and desired features.


After the VDP’s validation phase, we move into the design phase. Now that we’ve confirmed there’s both a need for your product and a way that can support your business, we figure out what problems to target. And just as importantly, how do we solve them while providing a good experience and sound technical foundation?

When we refer to the design phase, people often think ‘wireframes’ and ‘mockups.’ While they’re correct, there are other vital areas of the design phase: product requirements definition and solutions design.

Again, the point of a VDP is to reduce risks. By equipping our team to begin adding items to the product backlog in the planning phase, we can better estimate the budget and timeline.

Aside from product design, there’s also solution design. The engineering team needs to create designs for the product’s architecture. Sometimes there’s things on the back end of a product that can greatly influence the technical design of a product.

De-risk your software project with Frogslayer's VDP; learn about the design phase.

We design by…

  • Defining project goals and their relationship to our client’s overall organizational goals.
  • Estimating expected product revenue.
  • Mapping technology requirements and dependencies.
  • Designing a technical blueprint.
  • Estimating the score of the project; in terms of effort, personnel, and timeline.
  • Creating a quality assurance test plan.
  • Prioritizing features for the first release.
  • Developing wireframes and mockups.


With Validation and Design behind us, we move into the planning phase of the VDP. It’s time to build a plan to deliver the product we’ve validated and designed together. In this phase, we’re looking to determine costs, timeline, and plan for risks.

During planning, we’ll create a detailed product roadmap and documents outlining your product as well as finalize the budget and timeline.

De-risk your software project with Frogslayer's VDP; learn about the planning phase.

We plan by…

  • Outlining risks and assumptions. 
  • Refining requirements through user stories and populating the product backlog at a high level. 
  • Determining architecture and technology requirements.
  • Developing a product roadmap.
  • Establishing a month-by-month release cadence.
  • Providing a breakdown of development costs.


At the end of the day, it’s simple: the VDP fast-tracks software development projects to success. The output is a blueprint for your project, complete with: 

  • Clickable product mockup/prototype 
  • Detailed software design and technical approach 
  • High-level product backlog and requirements  
  • Detailed development costs and estimated timelines 
  • Business/Operating model overview 
  • Product roadmap

There are no rules regarding what you do with these deliverables. Typically, we see products move into the development phase with us here at Frogslayer, but you are not required to use us as your software development partner.

In some cases, clients have walked away from a VDP with clarity that this is not the right product for their business in its current state. Saving them from the costs of development altogether but leaving them with a long-term plan and blueprint for when the time is right.

We’ve also seen businesses looking to gather funding for their product use these deliverables for fundraising and investment efforts.

The value of the VDP stands on its own.

Investment: Added Value, Not Added Cost

The typical VDP engagement lasts 6-16 weeks and starts at $50,000 depending on the complexity of the project.

Remember, the goal is to de-risk your project before it even starts. In the end, the VDP saves our clients’ money because it ensures things are done correctly the first time.

Although doing business like this requires an upfront cost, it’s far faster and less expensive than having to start over and rebuild. As a firm that specializes in rescuing failed projects, we can say with confidence that this is nearly always the case.

Following the VDP process is how Frogslayer’s project success rate exceeds 97% in an industry that averages 31%. So why doesn’t every custom software development firm use the VDP process?

Honestly, we have no idea. It seems like a no-brainer to us.

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