Cost and time estimates are one of the most challenging parts of any software development project.
Of course, if you want an app built to solve a specific business problem or achieve a goal, you’ll want to know how much it’s likely to cost and how long it might take.
If estimates are taken as exactly that – estimates – it’s understood that a project can and will evolve as more research is done and deeper complexities are explored.
Problems start to arise though when the very nature of how software development works comes into contact with “estimates” that are perceived as immovable objects that cannot change no matter what is discovered.
One of the key reasons agile software development works so well is that it includes a deep dive into the scope of your problem or path to your goal and how we can work towards solving or achieving it.
This takes work. It also takes time – agile development’s very effectiveness is predicated on the fact that designing software works best if it’s based on actual user data, experience, and feedback.
Taken together, this is the best approach to ensure your software spend is focused and cost-effective.
However, it’s also the kind of expanding information that won’t be available to the person that provides you with an estimate before your product is even on the drawing board.
Picture an engineering company that wants to develop an app that will make their routine maintenance process faster, clearer, and more accurate, creating cost and efficiency savings across the board.
As far as the company is concerned, their existing system – one that, let’s say, relies on Bluetooth technology to let devices communicate – is there to be built on.
During development though, it transpires that part of the reason their existing system is so slow is their initial developer’s decision to use Bluetooth in the first place.
In short, the underlying approach has turned out to be part of the problem. If the company wants an app that’s going to be faster and more reliable, an alternative solution is the only way to go.
It’s an honest, innocent assumption on the company’s part. But it wasn’t included in the initial scope, so it wasn’t included in the initial software development estimate for time or cost.
Even the most experienced developer can’t predict requirements that may be subject to change. Or how the best approach for a given product – a product that actually solves the business problem you need it to or achieves a valuable goal most cost-effectively – will resolve after extensive research.
Unexpected events – things that simply couldn’t be known before a project began – are intrinsically unpredictable.
Any app developer should be clear and open with you about how they reached an estimate. They may also be able to explain how they minimise risk and cost during the development process.
But the best approach to software development cost and time estimates is simply to remember that they are estimates and to treat them accordingly.
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