This question is one of the primary ones to answer for any project or endeavor. Your budget is a crucial constraint and a guide to building the perfect solution for you. Of course, we all want a good deal and are happy to have our needs met for a lower cost than we expect. However, we also go into a project with an idea of what the solution is worth. That means we would be better off spending our budget on a complete solution than less money on a sub-par solution.
Your Budget Provides a Target
Think about any large project. For our purposes, we can use building a house. The budget is a critical part of the limitations to design. The architect cannot properly design your home without having the budget in mind. You might only be able to afford a small one-bedroom with one bath, or maybe, you want dozens of those and high-end interior design. Whether they undershoot or overshoot your budget by a lot, you are likely to be disappointed at the very least.
Match Vision To Reality
The challenge in matching your budget and vision is knowing what various features will cost. For example, you might want an extra bathroom for your house but need to know the cost of that over another closet. Software is the same in that fashion. Your project will be more likely to match your vision when you clearly understand the features available and their respective costs. That includes time as well as money. The maintenance costs may also be a factor in your decision, so a long-term budget is helpful.
Factors To Consider
Yes, we brought up the “M” word. There are costs for your solution that go beyond the initial costs. Those can include items we easily miss.
- Recurring license fees
- Hosting and Backups
- Updates and Security
- User Support and Administration
- Data and Integration Updates
- Bug Fixes Beyond the Initial Contract
If any of these are confusing to you, make sure they are part of the discussions with your provider. You can also reach out to us for more details on what these recurring costs can look like. On the other hand, we have many similar areas where we need to be aware of options that can dramatically impact a solution. Those are a longer and more granular list.
- Support for multiple users
- Security considerations (external attacks)
- Compliance requirements (HIPPA, Sarbanes-Oxley, GDPR, etc.)
- Administration screens and tools
- Training and Documentation
- Online Help
- Internal Security and Permissions
- Data backups and Disaster Recovery
- Platforms supported (web application, mobile support, desktop application, etc.)
- Multi-lingual support
- Remote Access
- Functionality While Disconnected (i.e., no Internet)
- The list goes on…
Many factors can impact the cost and, thus, your budget. While you do not need to understand all of the above cost factors, you need to know how flexible your budget and vision are. There will be trade-offs. Thus, the more you have a general idea about the available features, the more you can adjust your vision. Of course, if you have an unlimited budget, it simplifies some of these questions.
Making the Trade-Offs
The other questions we have to answer for our project to be successful will help us adjust or conform to our budget. Decisions require us to eliminate paths or options. Therefore, we must be sure of our objectives to avoid choosing an approach that makes a goal impossible. There is also a cost associated with refactoring and change requests that we can avoid when we do a better job of scoping things out from the start. Finally, when our budget is tight, we need to aim for a more straightforward or less complete solution to avoid spending too much on one feature at the cost of another. The simple solution may be the only one we can afford. All of this again points to finding a partner who understands software development, your business, and your vision and can give you the details needed to make informed decisions.
Signing Off On This Question
You can think of this question as a box you are filling up. The objective is to decide on the size of the box. Then, you get to start filling it with features and determine if you want breathing space or are ok with a box about to burst. The important part about this is to realize that what you can fit in the box will vary, and you want to know the size and shape of the box when you start. When you decide to go with a different box somewhere down the road, you will need to unpack the one and then repack it to fit the new package. Do not be afraid to share your budget with your vendors or partners, as it gives them a lot of insight into what is possible for you.
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