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By: Jennifer Devitt on August 18th, 2015

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Tips on how to get the most accurate quote for your software development project.

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So, you're embarking on a new software development project. Or, perhaps you need to find a new vendor to pick up a project left in limbo. Finding the right service provider can prove to be a daunting experience sometimes. This should not be a task taken lightly or done too quickly.

Choosing a service provider can be helpful if you have a direct referral from someone whom you trust. But that should not be the only qualification when choosing a provider. There are many factors that should go into choosing who to go with and they can vary depending on what you need to be accomplished. Today, I would like to focus on a question we get often during the initial consultation phase. The most frequent and most important we field is "how much will it cost?". On the flip side, a question on our minds is always, is this in the prospective companies budget? Money, it's the center of the conversation and often times the deciding factor. Let's take a minute to discuss some key ways to get an accurate estimate when embarking on a web or software development project.

1. Specifications. Prior to having initial consultations, it will be beneficial to you and the developer if you can provide very specific specifications for the project. Have a clear, conscience goal. Provide as many examples as you can to better explain the basis for your project.

2. Documentation. While you and your team are collaborating on the software you would like developed, document as much as possible. Create itemized lists, flow charts, graphs, content, images and more. If calculations are required or variables due to different user answers, provide clear paths and answers.

3. Timelines. Provide clear starting points and descriptions on the path from start to finish. If you need reports, be specific on at what point you would like them generated and what fields you would like included as well as the frequency you would like the report generated. Be specific in your time frame requirements.

4. Access. Provide access to necessary data and supporting systems that software may interact with. It is imperative to see and understand all existing components so that the developer has a clear understanding of what they are working with.

5. Communication. Have clear and regular communication with the project manager. Do not assume that the developer will immediately know what you want or need every step of the way. If you are having custom software developed, it's developed to your specifications, not what the developer thinks should be included. Account for everything up front, do not try to add in extra features not included in the quote without expecting the price to increase. We know that we are all humans and sometimes there are issues that creep up that neither of us thought of or expected. When this happens, take a deep breath and understand that quotes may fluctuate due to unforeseen circumstances.

If you are looking for clear and specific estimates without surprises throughout it is imperative you provide as much information as possible. In our experience, it is best to take caution when considering going with a developer who can offer a quote on loose specifics, without proper documentation. The best way to get your project started on the right foot is to come into initial consults prepared. If the developer comes up with questions you had not anticipated, provide the answers in a timely manner so that you can obtain a proper quote.