What is The Elaboration Phase For Startups?

Entrepreneurs seem to always brim with new ideas, and they naturally urge themselves to be proactive towards taking action. However, to bring an idea to life and truly sustain a thriving business today, you need to prioritise strategic planning. In other words, take the time to validate your idea and consider various approaches to achieving your desired outcomes.

Elaboration is the second and perhaps most important of the four stages of software development: inception, elaboration, construction, and transition. Understanding the importance of the elaboration phase in startup planning and the main challenges startups face could help you as you embark on your startup journey.


Common Challenges Faced By Startups


Startups face numerous challenges as they labour to bring their ideas to life, including poor stakeholder engagement, a higher risk of failure, and technical debt.


Poor Stakeholder Engagement


Startups that skip the discovery or elaboration phase often fail to consider stakeholder input and expectations, leading to a lack of support. However, engaging stakeholders early is crucial for understanding their needs and securing their buy-in. As they say, strategic stakeholder engagement can be the catalyst that differentiates a startup stuck in concept mode from a market leader.


Higher Risk of Failure


Startups have the highest chances of failure due to the pressures of raising capital and finding customers.

This risk of failure increases when you skip the elaboration phase. By conducting thorough market research, testing assumptions, and defining the project scope, essentially everything the elaboration phase entails, you can uncover potential issues and address them faster. Skipping this phase leaves your startup vulnerable to unexpected pitfalls later.


Technical Debt


Technical debt refers to the consequences of shortcuts during development, such as using outdated technology, neglecting code quality, or skipping adequate testing.

Unintentional technical debt is the worst because your team is unaware of it. Deliberate TD can be strategically chosen to meet timeframes as long as you understand the implications and plan to resolve it in the future. Unintentional TD, on the other hand, makes it more tedious to maintain your software and meet user requirements.

Potential Benefits of The Elaboration Phase


Do startups benefit from the elaboration phase at all?


Clarifies Vision and Scope


During the elaboration phase, you clarify your project’s vision and its scope. By defining your objectives and specifying any project boundaries, you ensure all team members understand the bigger picture and the steps required to get there. Moreover, with a shared vision, teams can align their efforts to reach their common goal more effectively.


Tests Hypotheses


One of the critical activities that define the elaboration phase is testing hypotheses. During this stage, startups can validate their assumptions and hypotheses through extensive market research, prototyping, and user feedback analysis. This approach helps you tap into insights crucial to improving your offering and identifying potential bottlenecks early on.


Improves Stakeholder Alignment


Considering the expectations and requirements of stakeholders, such as investors, customers, and regulatory bodies, is a mandatory part of the elaboration phase. By doing so, your startup can gather input, address concerns, and build consensus on important decisions, helping you create a service that satisfies all parties involved. Additionally, improved stakeholder engagement also lowers the barrier to accessing resources for your project.


Maximizes Resource Utilisation


Lastly, effective resource allocation is another significant benefit of the elaboration phase.

By thoroughly clarifying all requirements, your startup can utilise resources such as time, talent, and money where they are most needed or impactful. Beyond resource planning, the elaboration phase explores different architectural and design options, helping you make informed decisions about the technical stack and development approaches you want.


5 Stages of Elaboration Phase


We can boil the elaboration phase down to these five main stages:


Idea Validation


The starting point is idea validation. Startups should begin by investigating the feasibility of their concept by making assumptions, testing hypotheses, and collecting user feedback to judge if it resonates with the audience.


Market Research

During market research, the goal of your startup will be to thoroughly research your target audience, the size of your market, and strategies for growth using demographic studies, surveys, and trend analysis.


Competitor Analysis


Competitor analysis is the process of finding competitors in your industry and examining them to understand where the market is going. It is also an opportunity to study your competition’s sales and marketing tactics so you can uncover opportunities to differentiate your startup.


User Feedback


This stage involves interacting directly with end users to collect insights from their feedback and ensure the final product resonates with them. Expect to carry out beta tests, organise focus groups, and conduct one-on-one interviews.


Minimum Viable Product (MVP)


Lastly, armed with market and user data, your startup can move on to MVP development. You can think of an MVP or minimum viable product as an early iteration of your product that enables you to enter the market and validate your concept quickly.

The elaboration phase in software development is crucial for startups as it clarifies your vision and scope, tests hypotheses, fosters stakeholder alignment, and maximises resource allocation. Implementing this phase will significantly enhance your chances of success in today’s business landscape.