How to Estimate a Software Project Easily?
Costs of developing software vary and it’s absolutely logical – each project has peculiar features, the scope of work, timeframes and so on. That’s why during project management cost estimation is crucial on the initial stage to plan a budget properly and achieve successful results eventually.
Want to build an application for your business project but don’t know how much money you need to pay for high-quality development? If we take the average hourly rate of $40 for a developer while estimating project budgets, we’ll see the following numbers:
- Basic software with simple features will cost around $10,000;
- Moderate apps will cost between $40,000 and $70,000;
- The cost of complex apps will go beyond $80,000.
You can orient yourself with these examples of a project budget, but nobody cancels cost breakdown – elements that comprise the total cost. What are these factors that may affect the final software costs?
In this article, we’ll share all the detailed information on how to estimate the cost of a software project. Finally, you’ll be able to calculate project costs based on a project estimation sample.
3 Key Factors Affecting Cost
To make the correct project cost estimation, it is worth taking into account such factors as software types, levels of complexity and location of a development team. So, let’s examine them step by step.
Factor #1. Types of Software
Software is comprised of the set of program instructions or data specified for a computer to perform a task or operation. In general, software types are categorized according to what program product is designed to accomplish. There are two main types of software: systems and applications. System programs are designed to help hardware function and interact with other systems and applications. Some common system examples are operating systems, drivers, file management tools, service programs. Applications are designed for an end-user to help them complete specific tasks such as doing an online search, sending emails, designing graphics, etc. The software suite of applications includes web browsers, word processors, translators, audio/video players, and others.
Each type of software requires different functional features, technologies, and tools to develop a project. Technical requirements vary from project to project that also influences the cost and estimate. In the table below, we’ve prepared approximate costs for the development so that you could get oriented in numbers before ordering development services on the market. Certainly, these numbers aren’t precise as every single case is unique and requires a more detailed analysis and IT cost estimation.
Factor #2. The Complexity of Projects
Features and functionality of software measure the degree of complexity and determine the following main categories – simple, moderate, and complex. There is software that requires no specific expertise or little time to be developed. It can be built quickly because of simple functionality. Different planners, reminders, productivity apps belong to this category. If more advanced features are required such as complex architectures and infrastructures, safety and security arrangements, multiple integrations, be ready to pay more accordingly.
Considering an hourly rate for app development services in the market, software project estimation examples are displayed in the table below.
Examples: productivity apps, booking software, messengers, etc.
Examples: location-tracking apps, online stores, newsletters, social media networks, etc.
Examples: payment apps, games, streaming, business apps
Generally, software costs depend on the business goals and what you want to get as a result – whether it’s an app with complex features and functionalities to process payments or a simple one that is created for personal use.
The degree of complexity defines many other points that affect the final cost:
- What technologies are used?
- What is the size of a development team?
- How urgent is the project?
- What other extra services are needed?
Using powerful programming languages, frameworks, databases, architectures, and hiring top professionals is half of the battle in development to produce high-quality software. It is vital to carefully choose the necessary tech stack for each project to provide clients with the best digital solutions that are perfectly tailored to their businesses. These outcomes are possible only when the development process is in control of real experts – business analysts, project managers, developers, web designers, QA specialists, DevOps engineers, etc.
The number of team members and their qualifications also determine the final cost. Well, it seems logical: the more employees work on the project, the more money is spent. For instance, a basic team of 4 members might cost nearly $160+ per hour on average, whilst a pricing rate of the extended team that has 7 professionals starts from $280+ per hour. As a rule, to build a good piece of software, you must have a team of at least 6-10 people on board.
Factor #3. Location of a Software Development Team
How much does it cost to develop a software program in Ukraine or the USA? Mind the fact that the salary level in developing countries is much lower than in developed countries. This means that the cost of developing software in America will differ from the development costs in Ukraine and other regions. So, geographic distribution affects the budget estimation for a project. Just make sure in it with the help of the visual information about salaries of software developers in different countries, which are given from PayScale:
Low costs are usually synonymous with outsourcing, especially in the IT world. However, you aren’t limited to only this option. freelancing and in-house employment are also available for you to cooperate with developers. Precisely due to outsourcing, many companies find the right talent pool for different projects. Indeed, it is hard to staff dev departments solely with local people, particularly when specific expertise is needed. For example, Alibaba, GitHub, Google and many other top companies wildly outsourced various development tasks to remote workers or offshore developers in times of need.
This way, they reduce overhead and after all, reduce operational costs. You can get cost savings because of wage differentials not only within countries but also in different cities. Where is it better to outsource today?
Central and Eastern Europe is a great IT outsourcing location for companies in the U.S., the UK, Canada, etc. These regions offer lower costs than those that are available in their native land.
Even when costs are cut when outsourcing, the product quality doesn’t suffer – at least, it rarely happens. However, the first point that should be taken into consideration when outsourcing is the skillset, experience, and reputation of the company or developers themselves. If you neglect these points, you’ll set yourself up to fail.
The positive and negative impact of various factors on the cost
Even when all factors are pointed and presented in detail, it’s not correct to be restricted to only them. Apart from factors, there are unforeseen costs like resource allocation, senior management involvement, integration with extra services and so on. Although it’s impossible to foresee every possible expense on software development, most unexpected costs are common across projects. That’s why it is vitally important to plan the development process and budget thoroughly and have the resources to fund the project adequately.
On a positive note, it is likely to make the cost of the project less than expected. You can follow the growing today’s trend of simplicity. For example, you can make a simple web design for your app saving some money. But double-check if this decision won’t affect final results negatively – weigh an argument against another in this case! You can even decrease the cost of development deliberately selecting outsourcing service providers based on rates. For example, in Ukraine, there are many top outsourcing companies offering development services no worse than in many other countries in Europe or the USA.
Classical Methods of Estimation
Software development estimation is one of the important steps before making any strategic business decision – be it a startup, business development or other activities. So, how to estimate the cost of a software project correctly? A top-down estimate is highly appreciated among most specialists. This approach allows analyzing the whole project in detail after the general study of the business problems, needs, and requirements. A bottom-up estimate is opposite to a top-down analysis, but also it is beneficial when little information is known about the whole project – only some details are presented. In both cases, it is better to rely on expert judgment to come up with an exact cost and estimate of the time required for the development.
Due to relevant experience, a software specialist or a project manager is able to compare up-to-the-minute info with similar projects completed in the past. This is a case when all the factors are considered not only to estimate software development costs but also to define man-hours and team structures required. If needed, teams of developers get into the act to provide some specifications based on quantitative research with analytical and empirical materials to meet particular business challenges.
Software project management includes all the processes related to development – planning, budgeting, monitoring, delivering. Hence, a good sample of cost estimation of a project is considered to have effective methodologies like Agile, Waterfall, Kanban, or Scrum. A project manager puts such 5 project constraints as:
- Scope: How much work is to be done?
- Schedule: How quickly must it be completed?
- Budget: What is the budget required to deliver the product?
- Resources: Who will work on software development?
- Risks: What are the possible consequences that may impact the project?
Agile methodology is often used in software development settings to accurately estimate the project and turn it into reality. This method allows developers and PMs to be a collaborative, self-organizing and cross-functional team working on a new product meeting all the requirements from a customer.
A ‘what-if’ analysis helps PMs measure all possible risks and avoid them in the future while dealing directly with stakeholders of the project. Outside of a common way of estimating the scope of work, it is crucial to identify the possible risks and provide assumptions on how to solve potential problems without failure in delivering an end product of high quality.
Best Practices in Mangosoft
With vast experience in software development, our team manages to estimate projects properly. However, it often occurs that during the initial stages of estimation, the requirements are feebly-marked and less information is available to estimate the product to the fullest extent.
In a real-case scenario, we adhere to a ballpark estimate when similar situations arise to have a baseline for further discussion with a customer. This approach is based merely on assumptions after knowing the scope of work. For that reason, our software development cost calculator was developed and widely used by our project managers – it provides immediate results about the rates of each specialist needed for the successful completion of a project.