A common affliction amongst small and medium size enterprises, and sadly even some larger ones, is a tendency to try and cut costs to get web and software projects done cheaply.

Knowing what the current world economic climate is you might be inclined to agree with this approach since being frugal is what is required of us when we’re in a tough economy. However, as always there is another side to the coin, which is to consider the cost of mistakes, or risk factors.

Consider the Cost of Failed Web Development Projects

  1. What will the cost be if your project runs well over the estimated time? Who is your target market and what are their expectations?
  2. What will the impact be if by the end of your project the cost has doubled or tripled?
  3. What will the cost be if by the end of the project you have a product that is sub-par? In the case of products with financial implications such as financial calculations or transactions, what would the cost be to you if those calculations are wrong?

About five years ago we were approached by a South African based weapons manufacturer who was two months away from hosting an international event which required participants to register their intention to attend who then needed to be vetted in order for them to get security clearance.

The company had contracted the services of a web development company months in advance and had eagerly been awaiting the web application that was due at a critical date. When the date came and went they contacted the supplier and this is where things went south very quickly. It was clear to them that the project was not on track and that what had been delivered to date was neither complete nor did it measure up in terms of quality.

Consider the costs of rectifying this situation. Consider that this was a multi-million dollar event and what it would mean if potential attendees could not register and be vetted? The event itself had been planned and managed to near perfection for over two years, but without attendees?

It’s simply not logical to avoid the risk discussion when executing any type of project and here’s the crux of the matter: If the project manager or members of the team have no experience in dealing with this type of project, what do you do?

Over a number of years I’ve enjoyed watching the television documentary called Grand Designs in which the show follows the journey of folks building their dream homes. What stood out for me time and again was when Kevin McCloud would raise his eyebrows upon hearing the statement “We’re going to manage the project ourselves to save costs”!

In almost 99% of the cases the project ran over budget, over time and was plagued by a plethora of logistical and costly headaches.

The simple point here is this: The right tool for the right job, especially when it can save you money and time. In other words, sometimes it’s better to spend the little bit extra to save a lot in the long run.

Last year we were approached by another local company asking us to step in where an eight week project had reached the seven month mark and was still not complete. In discussions with the CEO about the expected outcomes, the relationship with the existing suppliers and what had been delivered to date he and the project manager were candid enough to admit that they lacked the expertise to manage the project effectively. I have to add that these guys did not lack project management skills per se, because they run some highly successful local TV productions which have stringent budgets and timelines.

So what should you do?

It’s simple, either you contract in the skills needed to manage the project or you approach a much more established development company with a reputation for delivering on their promises.

In either case you should have the expectation of dealing with a client executive who is either the project manager or who is part of a team where a project manager is involved. Expect updates and deliverables on a regular basis.

Software development has changed from the old waterfall style of project management to what is now referred to as Agile and the basic premise is that you have more frequent delivery dates, 4 to 6 weeks for bigger projects and weekly for smaller projects.

Approaching a project with this methodology means you are far more likely to notice mistakes, misunderstandings or at worst a lack of commitment or resources in the very early stages of the project.

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