You have probably heard that software development estimates given by programmers are rarely accurate. Sadly, it’s true. In most cases, they tend to overlook the time needed for communication and bug fixing, focusing on the development time itself. That is why a common belief is that you should double the estimate given by your software developers to know the actual number of hours and how much the project will cost.
However, if you address a software development company, you should expect to get a final estimate that covers all the risks and allows you to plan for the project budget.
To offer an accurate estimate, the company needs to have an established process of project evaluation. This requires a thorough analysis and significant effort from the development team. Moreover, you should be ready to invest your time as well to get a proposal you can trust.
In this article, we will point out some things you should take into account when validating a software development proposal. But, before we move to the checklist, let’s first of all figure out how to get a proposal.
A typical vetting process for software development might seem pretty straightforward: You share your project requirements with a pre-selected list of vendors, wait for the estimates, and watch as the offers come rushing in.
In reality, however, your role in the software estimation process is far more important than you can imagine. Namely, there are two ways to get an adequate software development offer:
- to craft a detailed request for proposal (RFP), or
- to invest in creating proper specifications for your product.
Both steps are often overlooked or misinterpreted by business owners due to the lack of understanding of the software development process.
While a request for a proposal helps the company see the bigger picture, including the business purpose and expected outcomes of the project, product specifications prove to be essential for a successful estimation process.
To be able to give an adequate estimate of the project scope and time frame, any professional development company will need a clear understanding of your project requirements, which are usually described in detail in the functional specification.
A good app development specification should include the following information:
- A general description of the product and its purpose.
- The main user stories that will describe the desired functionality for each type of app user.
- A detailed overview of the main app screens (wireframes).
- High-level app design should convey the internal product architecture, database schema, technology stack, and required third-party integrations.
Read more about how to create a mobile app specification here.
If your specification lacks at least one of the listed pieces of information, there is a good chance that the proposal which it is based on won’t be accurate.
Sadly, many specifications tend to only see the tip of the iceberg, which may lead to wrong estimates and an overall poor understanding of the project. That is why we always recommend revisiting the project requirements together with the development team at the beginning of your cooperation.
Assuming that you have provided all the necessary information about the project, the software development company should, in turn, come up with a proposal. But how do you distinguish between a good proposal and a bad one?
Here are some points you should pay attention to when choosing a software development vendor for your next project and how to validate a proposal.
1. The process
A good software development company will go above and beyond to make sure their proposal meets your business needs and actual requirements. That is why multiple discussions and conference calls are required to make everything clear before the proposal is given.
The fact that the company is proactive and offers various solutions or approaches to your requirements is a good sign. This speaks for the company’s level of professionalism and commitment to your project.
2. The estimate
Let’s face the truth, the estimate is the first item in the proposal that most of us are interested in reviewing. It provides an understanding of the project time frame and budget. However, there will always be different estimates, and you should not focus solely on the numbers. The quality of the estimate is a crucial, yet often overlooked, aspect of a winning proposal.
- The estimate should provide a detailed assessment of the development process, based on features, not just the final price. This is important for understanding the scope and accuracy of the proposal.
- Make sure the estimate includes the Project Manager’s work (usually +15-25% to the estimated time) and quality assurance (+20-30% to the estimated time). Don’t trust the companies that are offering project management services as a free bonus. Professional work should be paid for, that is why there is no such thing as a free PM.
- If certain features are not clear enough, the development time frame can be listed as a minimum/maximum estimate. The functionality that needs further investigation to make the estimate more accurate is usually represented by a wider range.
A proposal should list the technology stack, including various third-party tools and solutions that the company would use. Thus, you can consult with independent experts to make sure the chosen technologies are applicable to your project. If there are paid tools or third-party integrations you will need to use, you should be aware of them in order to able to include them into the project budget.
A good provider will always offer several options to cut the project scope and development cost, or will optimize the process by re-prioritizing certain features. It is great to have the vendor provide ideas on MVP development – a list of core features, implementation options, etc.
5. The next step
A good company won’t rush to jump right into the development. The product definition stage is usually required to set the groundwork for the development of a successful project. It is highly recommended to start with functional specification development and UI/UX design.
The choice of a reliable technology partner is half the battle when it comes to software development. That is why it is important to pay attention to details. The way a company approaches your project at the very beginning of your cooperation (even before the contract is signed) can speak volumes for the future success of your project.
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