Budget something every month for system development

By Steven Barer
July 1, 2015

Recently, I came across the following quote from Mike Harris, one of the grandfathers of the FileMaker industry:

I have been trying for 20 years to estimate the cost of projects in various versions of FM. Have never been able to do it. Best guess reasons:

  • The “it” in “how much will it cost” always is indefinite, unknowable and changes; God doesn’t know how much “it” will cost.
  • “It” needs to change – if you don’t change your mind about what and how you are gonna do things every 30 days or so, you aren’t paying attention.
  • If clients get a “fixed” price for a project they relax and act as if they just bought a toaster; the result is that they inevitably (although not necessarily deliberately) shift work from themselves to the consultant; they start missing appointments, don’t do their share of the work, lose a sense of personal urgency and responsibility.
  • Clients like the result so much they want more than they originally thought

Conclusion: fixed price bids (or not to exceed estimates) have to be like costs for other database apps used by the big boys: 10 times what things ought to cost.

My policy: you pay by the hour, it costs what it costs, you can control your rate of expenditure (say, $5K a month) but not the total amount or time to completion.

No business systems project is ever “done”; things change, organizations must change to survive; supporting computer systems must change, too.

Bottom Line: budget something every month for system development, forever.

Mike Harris Cerné Systems. Inc.