Costing coding work – and the value of experienced intuition

OK, I’ve come to an impasse with what I’m doing at the moment – banging my head against a particular wall for a few hours too long.

Time to move on to another topic; pull out the mental list of all the things that need to be at least thought about in order to move our startup forward.

IP, MVP, business model, data protection, regulatory environment, legal structure, read more about Scrum/Agile, marketing strategy, logo design, data structures, UX prototyping …  …  … …  (…:::!!!!)

OK, here’s one: how much money are we going to need to spend on coding to get to a scalable MVP launched?

Big question! Cost estimation is a big deal in traditional bricks-and-mortar architecture, too, so I’m aware that this is not a subject to be taken lightly or fudged. A frequent and serious pain point in construction projects is when project estimate costs rise significantly AFTER the client is committed. Whatever else happens when this occurs, confidence and morale are dented, usually badly.

Construction clients want to spend as little as possible while statutory consents are at risk, and one way to spend less up-front is to do lightweight cost estimation (on the back of lightweight specification) and hope for the best. Of course, even if they have misgivings about these estimates, consultants are often unwilling to rock the boat at an early stage, not wanting to be the messenger that gets shot. Less scrupulous players have even been known to downplay cost risk until the client is committed, and then milk the situation (‘Oh, you wanted us to do the roof? Oh no, we never included for that. Yeah, yeah, I know you need a roof – rainin’ innit? Let me see what I can do for ya. Not gonna be cheap though – you wouldn’t want to skimp on a roof, wouldja?’).

So my approach to construction projects is almost always to convince clients of the value of making a larger-than-typical effort at the early stages to address all the likely risks – I’d rather have a client cancel early than go into something that is going to turn into hell for everyone. If they come up with another project in a few years perhaps they’ll remember me as that honest chap who saved them from getting burned.

So, can I do this with software?

It seems not. In fact, it seems not, big-style. Continue reading “Costing coding work – and the value of experienced intuition”