Estimating project costs is a crucial consideration in any project, with software development being no exception. Custom software development can be a significant financial investment, especially when dealing with complex software solutions. However, there are many ways for cost reduction and avoiding unexpected expenses.
And this is exactly what this article will explore. We will provide some smart strategies and good practices we gathered over the years working on custom software projects. In our experience, it is possible to reduce costs without sacrificing the quality and functionality of the software.
Software development can be expensive
Software development projects are complex and often incur substantial costs. To produce reliable and functional software, you require highly skilled professionals, including software architects, engineers, quality assurance, and domain experts. Additionally, you will need a skilled project manager to ensure tasks are organized, deadlines are met, and resources are allocated efficiently.
Creating software involves much more than just coding; it encompasses a comprehensive process of understanding user needs and requirements, conceptualizing and designing to craft a blueprint (specifications) for the software, and testing to ensure quality and functionality. The process doesn’t end here! After deployment, you will need to maintain the software, meaning invest a lot to improve and update software, provide support, and promote the finished product for end-user adoption.
Now, let’s delve directly into how you can reduce the costs of software development projects.
How to reduce the costs of software development projects?
There are many practices to reduce the overall costs of software development, especially to prevent the buildup of unnecessary costs that can emerge in the later stages of the project and after deployment.
Let’s look at some measures and good practices we implemented at Biosistemika that might provide some good insight for cost reduction on your software projects.
Strategy and Vision
Having a clear and well-structured business strategy and vision ahead of the development process can significantly reduce software development project costs. This approach ensures that development activities align closely with your overarching business objectives. When the client’s wishes and preferences are clearly articulated, we can define software specifications and design that align with their needs and eventually tailor the product to fulfill all the requirements, achieving optimal cost most efficiently.
Furthermore, clear strategy and vision enable us to advise and provide insights on software architecture and requirements in these early stages, making the project not only the most cost-efficient but also assuring optimal end-product performance.
The complex and multi-dependent nature of software development makes managing software projects a challenging task. In the current competitive software market, effective project management means are essential to meet customer’s expectations. Inadequate planning, insufficient communication between the team and stakeholders, absence of risk management measures, and other such factors can rapidly increase costs. In some cases, they can also result in significant delays or even project failure.
Software development approach
Choosing the appropriate approach for running a project is also important. Based on BioSistemika’s extensive experience, a hybrid approach that combines elements of both Agile and Waterfall methodologies consistently produces the most favorable outcomes. We use the Waterfall approach to divide the project into multiple phases, each phase with specific well-defined deliverables. Within each phase, we seamlessly integrate the Agile methodology, allowing us to maintain flexibility, efficiency, and rapid adaptability to any modifications. The outcome is a high-quality product that is delivered fast and cost-efficiently.
Research and requirements definition
Years of experience have taught us the importance of dedicating a significant amount of time to research and requirements definition before embarking on the actual coding phase. Why?
It ensures a clear understanding of requirements, including both functional (features and behaviors) and non-functional requirements (performance and quality attributes). This, in turn, facilitates the effective implementation of the right methodology and project management, enables the selection of an appropriate team, allows for thorough risk assessment, and facilitates the preparation of detailed estimates. Additionally, this upfront effort improves the overall design and architecture of the software and reduces the likelihood of rework, delays, and cost overruns by identifying and resolving ambiguities and misunderstandings. It also reduces overhead, leading to decreased overall costs and superior results.
In our best practices, we often commence with creating proof-of-concept (PoC) or clickable prototypes. This step allows us to test and validate the feasibility of a concept or idea before investing time and resources in a full-fledged development effort. Another important part of this phase is risk management.
As with most custom software development, every project has unique requirements and thus needs a unique solution to solve the problem. The most “boring” tools are usually the best choice to ensure cost-effective software. By most “boring,” we mean widely adopted and mature tools. It makes it easier to onboard developers as there are numerous examples and tutorials. It is also easier to find a person with knowledge of a widely used tool or programming language than to find someone who knows a niche tool. Of course, we do not limit ourselves to a toolset if the tool is not appropriate for the problem.
Life science software has a few of those challenges and specifics. In those cases, here at Biosistemika, we’ve developed internal libraries and helpers that are just not available as an off-the-shelf solution.
A well-designed software architecture also has an important impact on the overall software cost. A well-thought architecture, built upon information gathered during the research and requirements phase of product development, significantly decreases complexity and more effectively supports potential integrability and scalability. Such software can seamlessly integrate with external systems and adapt to varying workloads, avoiding unnecessary expenses. Moreover, a well-thought-out architecture supports flexibility, allowing for cost-effective updates and modifications as the project evolves. Considering these factors, the architecture contributes to streamlined development processes, lower maintenance costs, and overall resource optimization. This makes it a strategic asset for achieving long-term cost-efficiency in software development.
For more insights on building effective software architecture, especially in a life science environment with specific regulatory requirements, you can find valuable information in our webinar How to Build Future-Proof Architecture for Laboratory Software.
Early identification, assessment, prioritization, and mitigation of risks in the development process can significantly reduce the potential for unforeseen issues and limit their impact on the project’s timeline, budget, and overall success. BioSistemika’s experience shows it is worth investing considerable effort in research and preparation of detailed software specifications, complemented by robust project management and an interdisciplinary and experienced team equipped with knowledge and skills. We also ensure adequate testing throughout the development process. Moreover, we have implemented a quality management system (QMS) along with best practices to prevent any unnecessary risks.
You can read more about Risk management in software development in this article.
Experienced and multi-disciplinary team
It is strongly advised to have an experienced and multi-disciplinary team in-house. This will improve communication and collaboration across different areas of the project, ensuring comprehensive consideration of all aspects of the project. Incorporating diverse expertise and perspectives fosters a more holistic approach to problem-solving, effectively bridging potential communication gaps between technical and non-technical domains. In addition to developers, it’s essential to enlist skilled professionals who deeply understand the domain in which the software will be developed. They serve as key liaisons with customers, comprehending their needs and facilitating effective communication. Work will also become more efficient, as team members can effectively identify and resolve issues by leveraging their respective areas of expertise to address problems across multiple domains, reducing overall project costs.
You can read more about why the interdisciplinary team is crucial for great results in this article.
If you possess an in-house team and anticipate challenges in implementing the previously discussed measurements, or if you believe your team lacks the necessary experience, it’s advisable to explore the option of outsourcing the project. Here’s why:
The team will be fully committed, motivated, and reliable. They will have an entire team in-house to deliver a quality product on time and within the budget, as they are contractually obligated to. Third-party vendors typically operate with established workflows, often utilizing agile methodologies with a dedicated project manager who will manage the project effectively. These teams are also interdisciplinary, fostering comprehensive, innovative, and efficient problem-solving approaches. The hourly rate might be higher, but the overall costs are significantly reduced, making outsourcing an economically advantageous option.
In conclusion, software development projects can present a significant financial investment, but there are many measures and good practices you can implement to reduce costs. It is important to have a clear strategy and vision, good project management, invest in gathering and defining requirements, manage risks, and have an experienced and multidisciplinary team.
The decision to outsource a project can be a strategic one, leading to substantial cost savings and successful project outcomes. By carefully weighing the advantages and considering the specific needs of your project, you can make a well-informed choice that aligns with your objectives and ensures a path to success.