Industry Review 2014: How much should a custom software development project cost?

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When prospective clients call our firm for help in accomplishing their software project, the conversation usually starts with their vision and then quickly shifts to budget – how much will it cost to develop the software and realize their goals.

In order to assist in budgeting, we provide a general-purpose breakdown of costs associated with software projects.

First, the simple answer:  The cost of most software development projects range from $5,000 to $300,000.

Although every project is unique, there are several overriding themes that will influence cost; these can loosely be grouped by Audience / Reach, Software Complexity, Reproducibility, and Reliability / Regulation.  The broadness of vision in any of these categories can impact the project scope by a significant magnitude.

Audience / Reach ($1,000 to $100,000)
  • Desktop and Mobile Platforms & Devices
  • Needs assessment between intra-company departments
  • Target User Base
  • Consumer Demographics
  • Internationalization  & Localization
  • User Interface Design Process & Usability Testing
Software Complexity ($3,000 to $30,000)
  • Embedded Device Development
  • Integration with Existing Systems
  • New Algorithm Development
  • Interpreter / Compiler Integration
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • 3D Graphics and Image Processing
Reproducibility ($3,000 to $30,000)
  • Deployment Scenario
  • Packaging & Installer
  • Scalability
  • Testing Procedures
  • Documentation Requirements
  • Versioning, Maintenance & Support
Reliability / Regulation ($5,000 to $100,000)
  • High Availability Uptime Requirements
  • Backup Systems & Procedures
  • Legal Review
  • Regulatory Review
  • Multi-stage Change Control & Revision Process

Depending on client requirements, it may well be best to start with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and grow from there.  The MVP will allow stakeholders to interact with a working prototype and provide input early in the process.  This may significantly improve course of development when it is still easy to make these changes.

Although every company assesses their development time and client needs differently, this framework provides a general overview of market rates for various projects by scope.  Often, variance in quotes may be attributed to a difference in understanding the clients’ current and future needs.

In addition to cost, perhaps the most important variables when choosing a development partner are trust and understanding.  Does the team understand your project, and will they go the extra mile to see that client goals are met?  Difficult projects often meet significant roadblocks in development, and without a committed partner, the project can fall apart.

Be sure to analyze both cost and the intangibles when choosing your software development team, so that you will be confident in the successful completion and deployment of your project.

Written by Andrew Palczewski

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If you have any questions about a software development project, please feel free to give us a call at 630-855-7522 and we will be happy to provide an innovative solution to your business needs.

About the Author
Andrew Palczewski is CEO of apHarmony, a Chicago software development company.  He holds a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has over ten years’ experience in managing development of software projects.

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2 thoughts on “Industry Review 2014: How much should a custom software development project cost?”

  1. Thanks for an additional informative post. Exactly where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a straightforward to realize way of presentation.

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