When a business is small or starting up, it is especially critical to control the cost of software development. Projects often do not follow the original plan and when changes occur in the development cycle this can lead to spending uncomfortable amounts, with the potential for software bringing a return on investment which is too low.

So how can this be prevented? The answer is making cost consideration a fundamental part of the planning process, evaluating decisions at every stage of the development cycle. To break this down, here are 10 methods for small businesses to save money in software development.

1. Form A Clear Vision

It is common to encounter issues on the path to completing a project; however, these are amplified when a clear vision has not been defined. On top of this, project essentials can be obscured further when more people get involved. Your goal can be straightforward, such as creating a mobile app containing information needed by sales representatives. A sure way to avoid issues is by focusing on your vision at each stage of development. This helps you decide which actions help you reach your goal, and which may slow you down or take you in the wrong direction. If you are considering a feature which ultimately doesn’t help achieve your vision, you can reduce costs by removing it from development.

2. An Effective Technical Leader

To maintain your vision and minimise delays or other issues within the project, your technical leader(s) must be competent, open, and knowledgeable. When any issues arise during development, your technical leader should either provide a solution which adheres to the original plan or they should adapt, working with developers so a new route can be taken to achieve the same vision. This position isn’t about having the most experience in developing, it’s about effectively managing the developers working with you, the leadership above you, and the customer. An effective technical leader must be able to handle pressure, know their team, share their knowledge, and admit they don’t know everything whilst still being able to make informed decisions to meet deadlines.

3. Tool Selection

Before beginning development, you need to think carefully about which software tools will be used. In order to achieve best results in the long-term, you need to find the balance between price and quality. A large number of free tools are available which can be an excellent way to reduce developing costs, however, as part of your plan you need to consider what your developers need to produce their best work. Do not be too quick to select free tools because when they do not include necessary functions this can lead to project delays, bringing extra costs you aimed to avoid. Always check: can the software tools allow you to implement key features of your project?

4. Keep Meetings Focused

Planning isn’t just vital for knowing what to work on throughout the project, you also need an agenda for every meeting otherwise you could end up wasting time and money! When there are too many people or there is no structure to the discussion, meetings can take longer and end up accomplishing less. To keep meetings efficient, they need a focus and key points for discussion. Once talking points have been decided, it’s much easier to select which team members are required for the meeting. This leads to reducing cost because you won’t be wasting the time of staff who have little to contribute on the project area the meeting is dealing with.

5. Waterfall or Agile Methodology?

Choosing the most appropriate methodology is crucial to ensure development is as efficient as possible. Two methodologies most often applied are Waterfall and Agile. Waterfall is a sequential design process with development divided into distinct phases, whilst Agile follows an incremental approach which helps continuous iteration of development and testing in the software process. Waterfall is the easiest model to manage and allows for fast delivery of the project. However, it is not well-suited to large projects and it can be difficult to make changes in previous phases. Agile makes sure the client is involved at every stage and it is known for its flexibility, minimizing bugs due to testing regularly being carried out. However, it is not a useful method for smaller projects and the project can go off track if the project manager is not clear on what outcome they want. The methodology you choose must fit with the priorities of your project, but it is worth noting that Agile is often chosen due to it being easier to make changes during a project and maintain software quality.

6. Build a Channel for Your Product

It is also helpful to test the appetite in the market, gaining a better understanding of what is in demand and how you can address this opportunity. Building a channel for your product prior to beginning software development can make sure your project moves forward in the right direction. Based on value propositions you have constructed; you can interview potential users and providers whose answers can ensure your product idea is viable. All this improves your long-term success since you bear in mind what users actually want.

7. Stay on Track

Projects are prone to delays as new ideas or features are added along the way and it is frightening to consider the number of projects which failed from not sticking to deadlines. Try and stay true to the core of your project and consider that new additions or changes will be detrimental to your timescales. Breaking down your large goals into specific objectives with clear steps to achieve them is an effective way to meet deadlines. Both planning to deadlines along with holding regular progress update meetings mean you are far more likely to stay on track when building software.

8. Always Test Software Quality

Without adequate quality testing, your costs will likely be high due to fixing bugs in your software. Not only should your product be bug-free, but it should also be slick with regards to flow and user experience. To achieve this, you need effective planning, a test-oriented quality management approach, and a dedicated quality assurance team. Testing should be factored into the build and can also be automated to a certain degree. There may be a higher initial investment that comes with good quality testing, but overall this is a small drawback when considering the mark on your reputation and cost of fixing bugs if you launch your product with software that isn’t up to scratch.

9. Offshore Development

While a steady British office-based team may offer mental comfort and to a large degree; control, UK software companies have taken retrograde steps with regards to using offshore software developers. While Indian outsourcing companies have enjoyed overwhelming success in the top tier, the same cannot be said with the smaller providers. This has been generally been the case due to numerous factors such as poor project management & tools. In the last 5 years, there are certain countries that are now able to offer you a credible and cost-effective alternative. This includes remote onshore, Remote Nearshore such as Ukraine, Poland or Russia, Remote Offshore such as India, Pakistan, Philippines and the new Silicone Valley of South East Asia; Vietnam. Prices and quality vary between all these options but finding a reputable partner could save you up to 50-60%.

10. Shared Workspace or Virtual Office?

In an ideal world, a decent serviced office with all your employees working onsite between 9-6pm is considered desirable by many founders and business owners. The amount of money wasted on accommodation for a project or MVP is generally quite considerable, so adding to your core costs simply makes development costs higher and, in the end, will impact the overall sales price. Whilst everyone is competing for the same scarce staff, pool tables, free coffee, table tennis, and food are all now part of the scene in a bid to stay on a level playing field. With the emergence of cloud computing, professional PBX and project development tools such as jeera, do we have to subscribe to the above?

Plan to Save

The key is that careful planning and preparation must take place before beginning development on your software project. Have a clear vision, a plan that sticks to that vision, and vendors mindfully selected from the start.

By staying true to the core functionality of your project and ensuring effective quality testing is in place, you will save a lot of money in the long-term.