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The secret to buying custom software for less

Cash It is true: custom software can be expensive. The problem isn’t overpriced programmers (usually). The problem is that custom software takes time to build. And effort, lots of effort. (And no one knows what they want, and keep changing their mind, but that’s a separate story.)

Still, it is possible to get custom software for less money than you were quoted. The answer is simple: cut features.

My smartest customers know this. If I provide a bid that is outside their budget, they’ll ask this brilliant question:

“Here’s what we are trying to achieve. Is there a way we can accomplish this for less?”

That gives me the opportunity to provide suggestions for alternate approaches. I’ll also provide a recommendation as to which approach is best. Sometimes cutting out a feature may hurt the value in other ways (like it is more confusing for end users, so it takes more effort for you to support). We don’t want to be penny-wise and pound foolish.

Other ways you might be able to cut costs:

  • Offer to prepay. Some vendors will give you a discount if you pay for everything in advance.
  • Slow down the schedule. I charge more if a project has a tight deadline. I might also consider a discount if I could fit a customer’s work between other tasks. (I recommend that you don’t combine this option with prepaying though. Otherwise your project might always be delayed and never get completed!)

Of course, you can also shop around and get quotes from other vendors. Just remember that all vendors are not created equal, and what seems to be cheaper may not end up that way. Make sure you trust the vendor that you select to build your custom software. But don’t give up if the quote is outside your budget.

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Comments  1

  1. Peter Edstrom 02 Aug

    Or, to say it another way: work closely with your developers, treat them as part of the team, and do NOT consider them to be a fungible "resource".
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