Once you’ve figured out that your business is ready for some custom software, your planning is likely to turn to budget. How much will the development of custom software cost your business? First, we’d be remiss if we didn’t ask the obvious question: how much will it cost your company NOT to build out a custom solution? Think of efficiencies, cost reductions, reporting, etc. Those need to figure into your overall cost analysis. So, let’s take a look at some other things you need to consider in calculating the costs of your software.
What are the biggest cost components to software development?
Time. It’s that simple. That is why project management is key to keeping your costs under control. What developers like Ping! Development call “Scope Creep”, where a project’s definition and scope expand beyond the original design, can result in budget creep as well. And buyer beware -- this is the reason many shops will come in with a low price. They don’t have the experience and project management skills to keep things on budget.
In developing your custom software, we will spend time on the following aspects of your solution:
- System Architecture: Just like building a house, it needs to be designed from the ground up. Time spent planning is time saved in development.
- The Build: The bulk of time is spent coding the solution and putting together the technology stack (hardware and software components).
- Testing, Debugging, and Changes: We do internal quality testing, but there is also time allocated to debugging and making changes based on user testing.
- Going Live: When we all deem the software ready to go live, we migrate the software onto what we call ‘production’ servers, ready for prime time.
The best way to control your software development costs: Plan! At Ping! Development, we never go over an estimate because we put together a good project plan that accounts for all the elements mentioned above. We use a project management tool (Mavenlink) to capture all the line items necessary to build the application. We use application frameworks with lots of developer-friendly tools to help speed things up. We have even started creating automated tests to streamline the quality control process and catch any issues before things even leave the developer's laptop.
Additional Reading: What Should Be Happening During a Web Project?
What are typical up front (one-time) and ongoing (recurring) costs?
We covered most of the one-time costs above -- the time it takes to design, develop and manage the software development project. Once that is complete, there are ongoing costs you need to consider, including:
- Maintenance and Updates: It’s important to update your software and underlying technology regularly to keep up performance and security. A good maintenance plan can actually save you money in the long run.
- Adding new features and capabilities: One of the main reasons you chose to go with a custom solution over an off-the-shelf package is the ability to grow the software as your business grows. That includes integrations with other software, features, and capacity.
- Ongoing testing as new features are added to ensure the software performs as planned.
A Word of Caution on Low-Cost Options
Now, obviously, we’re biased toward a professional, custom software solution. That said, you do get what you pay for. The risk of ending up with outdated technology leaves you with security and operational vulnerabilities. You also don’t want to be bound to a developer’s own, in-house framework. These are difficult to keep updated and often keep a company held “hostage”. Finally, when it comes to low-cost solutions, there are often surprise bills at the end that end up making them not-so-low-cost after all. Like we mentioned before, it’s a function of experience and project management that keeps costs in line and produces a high-performing piece of software, with no surprises on that final invoice.
Final Thoughts on the Costs of Custom Software Development
Make sure you're getting a detailed proposal that includes creating the software and getting it in front of the people who will ultimately use it. There are so many ancillary tasks in building a piece of software, like designing the database/data structures, creating a repeatable process to launch and update the software, testing everything thoroughly, and making adjustments as we go. At Ping! Development, we also plan for that last 5% that happens once you actually get a chance to see your wishes turn into working software. It’s a fun, detailed process that results in you taking your own business to a new level.