How much will “it” cost?

By Steven Barer & Brian Panhuyzen
May 7, 2019

We totally get that your #1 question when discussing custom software development is about price: How much will you spend?

It’s an important question for us both, frankly.

While we do our best to provide an informed and specific ballpark figure, no honest software developer can hand you a single tidy and accurate number at the proposal stage.

Why not? A bunch of reasons…

What’s the “IT” in “How much will IT cost?”

Garden shed of gold or skyscraper of glass? We work on projects of all scales, and obviously the size and complexity of your requirements determines much. Five users or five hundred? Simple CRM, invoicing system, or resource tracker for an ultra-complex operation? Desktops, mobile apps, servers scattered across the country? Web integration, connectivity with accounting software, third-party services? Naturally, our first questions are about the size and complexity of your operation and the software’s potential role in it.

Who is using “IT”—and how?

Custom software allows your organization to leverage existing tools (such as assets, processes and data), making them both easier to use and more powerful. Your business needs and experience determine how we’ll augment or interlink those tools. While we emphasize ease-of-use as a feature of all our custom software, sometimes you need more of that—for example, on parts of your solution built for inexperienced or occasional users. By designing and controlling every aspect of the user experience, we can make it virtually impossible for an employee to make a mistake – but all those safeguards take time to plan and build. Conversely, layouts for experienced users require fewer control gizmos, and we approach those with a lighter touch – which means fewer hours and faster development. If you have complex reports to generate, those also take time to program. The complexity of all these features and controls becomes clear not in the initial proposal stage, but during actual development, making estimating extremely difficult.

The work will change as “IT” develops

While every solution we’ve created is different, we’ve discovered one consistency: projects evolve. As they do, new ideas and requirements emerge. The potential of custom software – the ability to create intelligent business flows that replace significant hours of manual work with push-button functionality – becomes more apparent as a solution development progresses. Once we’ve got hands-on experience with your pain points and successes, we might suggest functions or sequences that take time to build, but that yield tremendous dividends in terms of saved labour and costs. And similarly, seeing what we can do may spur your own imagination. Software development is an incredibly dynamic process, but that potency makes fixed deliverable pricing in advance close to impossible.

You need a number: so what do you do?

When we create a proposal for your solution, we will provide a number, but we cannot guarantee it. There are too many factors. So what can you do? Set yourself a budget, then together, we triage. You don’t need every function you’ve envisioned for your software from day one. With larger projects, we segment the work – break it into phases. Phase 1 begins with your most urgent needs – the foundation functions. We get it into your hands quickly, and it runs alongside your existing business processes. We solve your initial problems, plus you’ve gained confidence in our skills and abilities. Hours and costs become clearer. Phase 2 aggregates more functionality, melding new features with what we built in Phase 1. Further phases, or just a trickle of occasional development, can follow; that’s for you to plan and budget as you decide. We’re here for as long as you need us.

A service that creates a product

Think about engaging custom software development not as purchasing a product outright (like buying a car), but as adding a service that, over time, generates an ever-more useful product. Each month, you budget an amount for software development, and we deliver incremental upgrades to your solution’s functionality and complexity. Budget your development just like the salary you’d pay to an employee, a little or a lot each month depending on how quickly you want to move. You maintain perfect control over your monthly budget, and forge a relationship rooted in support and deep organizational understanding that usually lasts for many years.

Okay, but I still need a starting point. What’s your minimum?

Solutions rarely get off the ground for less than $7,500. If you’re looking for an under-$1,000 solution, custom software isn’t your answer – try an off-the-shelf package. However, if you’re looking for a way to transform your business, to reduce redundancy, mistakes and costs, and to allow you to leap past your competition, custom software is the answer. Contact us to set up a free meeting – it all begins with a conversation.