It all has to do with what you know at the start and what you remember at the end. These are two things that always get negated as time passes, for different reasons.
Any development project that may have SR&ED, is generally not such a simple endeavor where every detail can be broken down at the start, into nice set of work breakdown structures.
The reality is that “You don’t know what you don’t know”.
And in fact, the entire discipline of project management itself has changed where it is simply recognized that surprises are bound to occur along the way, and they will need to be dealt with. Every aspect of the project cannot be accounted for up front. Whether your development approach is SDLC or an agile methodology, all the details, even some important ones, may not be known up front.
And the fact of the matter is that you cannot worry about what you don’t know. The list would be endless. But there is one overriding question that lingers in the back of your mind as you trudge forward.
“Will it work?”
In any stage that it is working, there is no need to care about all the subtleties of why. A full understanding of the why, does not always matter. As long as it works reliably, it is all good.
None-the-less, there are always somethings that could upset the applecart. And no one is really sure what those things are going to be. But when something does not work, you generally have to understand why. Now it matters because you need to ensure that it does not impact any related parts of the development; and of course, it matters because your project needs to advance.
And there you have a key hallmark of uncovering SR&ED:
Things are not working as they were expected to, and you need to understand why it is so.
So it begins a discovery process. Trying to figure out why. Trying to figure out what is wrong with the method, the technique. Trying to understand what is different about this particular application. Searching to devise a technique, a method, an approach that will resolve the situation.
Now you are doing SR&ED. It is clearly visible.
But unfortunately, it is common that no one captures all of that core SR&ED activity because of the focus on resolving the issue. And when the project ends, your attention quickly moves on to the next project or issue which you must deal with. And soon enough, you quickly start to forget all those things that you uncovered. That new knowledge that you created. And you begin to forget that you did not know what you did not know.
And so your SR&ED claim is also at risk of fading away.
It is really like accomplishing any other complex task. Learning how to walk perhaps. Or riding a bike. Once you have accomplished the learning and it is behind you, it is so hard to recollect and imagine the details of the struggles that got you through.
What it comes down to, If you want to establish a successful SR&ED claim, it is important not to let the key SR&ED activity be forgotten and fade from your memory banks. And establishing a case by looking at things retroactively becomes harder, as some things begin to seem like they were obvious, even though they were not at the time.