Cost estimation is the practice of forecasting the cost of completing a project with a defined scope.
In software design and development, however, rarely does a client come in with a clearly defined scope. There’s an idea. There’s a goal. Sometimes, there’s experience. But the true scope of what needs to be done is an enigma.
People don’t know exactly what they’re asking for, but they want a price.
This is not a client’s shortcoming. Someone not skilled in every aspect of development, design and product management can’t be expected to come in with a clear definition of everything a project will require.
Nonetheless, those crucial intangibles must be outlined. And it’s here that we enter the discovery process, initiating an honest conversation with the client. We talk, we ask, we explain. Gradually, we unpack the details and information without which a fair, realistic cost estimate cannot be provided.
STRV has worked with over 200 clients. We’ve learned that doing an estimate is like a mini-project. To move forward quickly and effectively requires:
- Gathering the right people
- Being honest & collaborative
- Asking rather than assuming
Let’s get into what you, a potential client, can expect from us, what our team expects from you—and why this process relies on being fluid and transparent.
GATHERING THE RIGHT PEOPLE
In everything STRV does, we rely on a collaborative approach that leverages the collective intelligence of our entire team.
It’s impossible for one person to have all of the answers. Add to that the inherent distrust between buyer and seller, and first discussions of a cost estimate can create doubt and anxiety. This is why the discovery phase is extremely important.
To have an open discussion—which is the foundation of the discovery phase—everyone present must feel comfortable. And each person must offer unique value either by providing answers, or by asking relevant questions.
To ensure we’re looking at every individual case from all sides, we bring the following STRV experts into the discovery process.
- Strategic Partnership Manager. This is the person who is with you from the start and who ensures that conversations remain on track.
- Delivery Manager. Either a project or product manager, the DM has years of valuable experience and knows what needs to be discussed not just for the sake of cost estimation, but for the entirety of the project. Additionally, he/she coordinates all of the internal stakeholders on STRV’s side, and has been chosen as the “best fit” for the project (is passionate about the project and/or industry, can predict potential roadblocks, etc.)
- Platform Lead(s) or Platform Lead Representative(s). Also called Department Leads or Team Leads (i.e. iOS Lead), these highly experienced developers are looped into the conversation to ensure all relevant technical questions are covered. Depending on availability, the Lead may appoint someone from his/her team as a representative. However, that person must still get approval on all decisions and estimations from the Lead.
BEING HONEST & COLLABORATIVE
We guarantee absolute transparency. We guarantee a premium service, and a partnership that brings tremendous value.
Which is why, if you’re looking for a cheap team that can get things done in the quickest, dirtiest way possible, we guarantee we aren’t the right fit.
You can always find a company that shows you a smaller number. But as we discuss in our article about asking the right questions when hiring an external team, the question of cost alone should never be a defining factor. It’s just one part of a complex puzzle. A cheap solution doesn’t equate to a cost-effective one.
It’s tempting to show lower numbers during initial meetings and pile it on later. It’s easy to give you the cheapest version of what you want, and let you deal with redesigning and rebuilding a broken or lackluster product later on.
That’s not what we do. STRV started off as an honest, enthusiastic start-up 14 years ago, and we certainly refuse to resort to bullsh** now.
Instead, we make the client a part of the process. Even during the discovery phase. As we work to understand your individual needs, it’s also important that you understand us: What we bring to the table, how elaborate the production will be and how imperative it is to remember that these projects are constantly evolving,
In the words of our Head of Sales Operations, Jeremy Stephan: "What we know today will be different tomorrow.”
It’s only through complete transparency and open communication that a client can fully comprehend this concept, and subsequently accept that an estimate will always be just that—an estimate.
Having a detailed, itemized estimate in-hand before a project commences simply isn’t feasible. What we offer is a range, and our goal is to make the client feel comfortable within that range. It’s the closest any software company can get to a number while remaining realistic, and avoiding empty promises.
ASKING RATHER THAN ASSUMING
Information can be misleading. Which is why it’s not about asking all of the questions. It’s about asking the right ones.
Clients often come in saying they want X, but as we dig deeper, it becomes apparent that they actually want, or need, Y. How can this happen? To give just a few examples:
- The difference between X and Y might not be apparent to anyone but developers or those with experience in the industry.
- The client may not have known that Y exists.
- Reasons for choosing X may have incorrectly seemed to outweigh reasons for choosing Y.
- The client incorrectly assumed that to get a certain outcome, X is the only option.
- X is a necessary step towards Y (or vice versa).
This is why it’s essential to discuss not just the product, but the value it is meant to bring and the problem it’s meant to solve. We do this by asking questions like:
- What do you want to achieve?
- Are you hoping to meet specific needs?
- Do you have a set timeline? Is the timing arbitrary?
- How many stakeholders are we working with?
- Are we dealing with a fixed budget, or time and materials?
Additionally, we need to understand who we are speaking with and how familiar you are with the industry. Do you have experience with a similar endeavor? Are you a startup, or a corporation with a new product that has to ultimately scale to hundreds of thousands of users? Can you provide an elaborate product specification? If not, will our discovery phase suffice, or could you benefit from our strategy services? (Our strategy phase help clients define a product, includes a cost estimate and is offered for a fixed budget and amount of time.)
We aim to understand as much detail as we can, so we’re able to make informed decisions and predictions based on your individual needs. That’s how we estimate the level of effort and the amount of time that a project will require. And, ultimately, it’s how we arrive at a solution and the cost estimate that allows us to develop it for you.
IT COMES DOWN TO TRUST
Our team has earned the reputation of a trusted partner. Working with companies big and small, carefully building our portfolio of over 400 successful projects, finding top professionals across the world and welcoming them to our international team.
Get to know us. Visit our office. Meet the team. And if you decide you want to work together…
Trust that we’re asking the right questions. And trust us enough to answer them honestly. We’ll get you an estimate and a solution tailored to your needs.
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