March 16, 2023

How to stay on budget when building software

“I need to stay within budget…”

These are the famous last words of many business owners who have journeyed into the custom software development space.

Let’s face it, the software development space has a horrific reputation for delivering behind time and outside of budget. So how come so many business leaders fall victim to software development quicksand, forking out thousands of dollars for mediocre results?

The reality is, software development is hard. It requires meticulous planning and laser pointer execution to get it right. When developing software, there needs to be both a micro understanding of how each individual technical decision can impact the future of the product and a macro view of the technology goals. Oversight can lead to thousands of dollars in rework or months of delays…

The good news is that there are ways to reduce costs and stay within budget without sacrificing on quality.

In this blog post, we'll explore the top budget tactics for building software, from selecting the right tech team, to optimising your testing process. These tips come from my personal experience, they’ve been tweaked and refined through the process of building hundreds of software products in over 30 different industries across the past decade.

Let’s begin…

Who's accountable?

A lack of accountability is one of the leading factors behind project delays and budget blowouts. If you’ve read any of our other blog posts you’ll notice we’re very vocal about the fact our team at Moonward is 100% in-house. By having our whole team in-house we don’t just improve company culture and collaboration, we share a benchmark and sense of accountability.

Many companies seek offshore developers to execute important work. However, without any clear guidance or extreme levels of accountability, it’s almost guaranteed that your project will face both budget and timeframe strain. I’ll be frank, offshore developers and freelance teams just don’t care. A lot of the time they don’t have systems, they are just motivated to build any old thing and get paid. A rickety foundation is guaranteed to fall over when any level of pressure is applied. And again, I am saying this from personal experience.

When selecting an app development partner, it’s crucial that you look beyond the hourly rate and further into the delivery expectations. For example, many offshore developers flaunt their low hourly rate but they forget to mention that all the project management, sprint management, work allocation, testing, bug reports and deployment to the app stores will need to be done by you… So the question is, how much is your hourly rate?

I spoke with a successful business owner earlier this week, he spent three months last year staying up till 2 am in the morning communicating his requirements to an offshore development company. How did those 3 months of lack of sleep and increased stress impact his personal life, and family life, not to mention his business performance?

App development is difficult and on every single project, there will be roadblocks and hurdles. But a key metric to measure is how quickly can your software development team pivot, find solutions and continue delivering an outstanding product.

Don’t look at an hourly rate as a metric for software development success. Look for accountability. Who is going to be there to project manage, pivot, test, bug report and bug fix?

Moonward's 100% in house design and development team

Build a plan!

Visualise this….

You’ve just bought a block of land, and the builder turns up and says; “Right should I start building?”

The builder has no plans, visions or expectations and you just say “Yep!”

Inevitably, 6 months later, you’re left with a house that isn’t complete and is nothing like you envisioned. The reality is, this is how most software developers and business owners run their projects.

Before any fingers hit the keys there needs to be a clear plan in place. The initial planning phase saves weeks, if not months of future back and forth with developers.

It’s for this reason, we have what we call our ‘App Blueprint’ process. It’s a 6-8 week process that comprehensively plans out exactly what your product is going to look like, how it’s going to function and what features will be included. It’s a step-by-step guide for developers to follow. A clear blueprint not only makes it easier for developers to estimate work but also makes it 10x easier for them to complete the work by starting with the end in mind.

Plans are easy to tweak and change but code isn’t. We’ve seen a number of projects come our way that are riddled with limitations due to a lack of planning and foresight. It sounds cliche but plan, plan and plan. It might feel like a waste of time but it’ll inevitably save you weeks of time further down the line.

Start at the core!

Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor should your app be.

When building an app, it’s tempting to include every possible feature and functionality under the sun. However, there is a common misconception that more features equals more success. Just think back to the first versions of Facebook, Instagram and Uber. They were all great at doing one thing.

Scope bloat is a real problem and something that business owners need to acknowledge. You see, software development isn’t linear. One extra feature doesn’t equal one extra week of development. One extra feature can lead to weeks of additional testing and a raft of new possible bugs. This is why it's important to start with the core features of your app and avoid scope bloat. Remain focused on the essential functions of your app that will have the maximum impact on the market.

I’ve seen it first-hand when a business owner is adamant that a feature needs to be included in their first version. They invest heavily into development and 2 weeks before launch they scrap the whole feature because it adds too much complexity.

Software is a living breathing thing. It can always be tweaked, adjusted and added to. Don’t feel like it needs all of the bells and whistles from day one.

Moonward having a shared client benchmark

Don’t wait to test!

“The app is almost ready to go live we just need to test”

Testing your app shouldn’t be an afterthought or a last-minute process. The great thing about app development is the fact that software can be previewed and tested from day one.

If your developers aren’t prompting you to test your app within the first few weeks of development, red flags should be raised. It’s super important to get early access to your product ensuring that it is high-quality, reliable, and meets the needs of your users. Testing helps you catch bugs and issues early in the development process, which can save you time, money, and headaches down the road.

Developers are constantly reviewing, adding and improving your code. It’s so much easier for a developer to fix a small bug while they are working on that feature rather than trying to fix it six months after it was originally developed. Early testing doesn’t only provide you with true insight into where your product is at but it actually speeds up the overall development cycle.

In summary, app development is a very complex process. Thousands of lines of code are being written in order to bring your product to life. But each one of those lines needs to be carefully planned and considered before they hit the code base. As a business owner it’s your responsibility to find a development team that will take responsibility for every single line of code, will plan your product to the nth degree and collaborate on early, frequent testing!

If you have any questions about the steps I’ve outlined above, I’ll be happy to jump on a call. Feel free to click here to reach out and we can chat more!

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