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How to Do Time Estimations for Building Custom Software?

When going through the custom software development articles online, you would come across some interesting analogies. Some would compare it to getting a house constructed, while others would describe the process as equivalent to getting a suit tailored for an upcoming event. In reality, developing custom software is much bigger of a mission, especially when you evaluate it in terms of development time estimation. In one of its reports published way back in 2011, Harvard Business Review claimed that one out of every six of the 1,471 IT projects they examined suffered a schedule overrun of 70%.

The things have not changed much after so many years as every second custom software development company is found struggling to meet the delivery deadlines. And, there are many reasons cited behind it.

So, Is Time Estimation for Custom Software Development Wrong?

No, and Yes!

First of all, lets understand why delivery time estimation is sacrosanct for customers:

  1. Customers need faster time to market and probable date for their stakeholders, customers or teams
  2. Budget allocation is an important part of the process. Without knowing how long would it take to build the software, there would be uncertainty about the possible cost overrun
  3. Plan to earn revenue with the timely launch of the software, and a delay may cause revenue loss

And it’s not just in favour of the customers to know time estimates. Even the companies offering custom software development services must do these assessments to:

  1. Set right priorities for different projects
  2. Allocate the resources according to the set deadlines
  3. And obviously, to win customer loyalty

If estimating software development time is an important requirement to keep the process well-organized and productive for all, what’s could be wrong about it?

What Could Probably Go Wrong?

A lot! According to a survey, bad estimation is among the top 3 reasons that the custom software development company managers and developers give for experiencing the final product delivery issues. But that’s not all! We have listed most cited reasons for overrun of estimates:

  • The ever-changing business and client requirements may cause hindrances at various stages of software development. If the client is not able to convey the needs clearly or the development team fails to understand them precisely, there are possibilities of delays.
  • Team turnover or unavailability of one or more team members (could be designer, developer, tester, etc.) can also make the estimation go wrong.
  • The team might be lacking necessary skills or experience.

But Don’t Be Disappointed!

You can, and you should have an idea of how long it would take your custom software to develop. The only thing is that you should be careful while selecting the right kind of development team, acknowledge the factors on which the development time would depend and be ready to be flexible in terms of expectations.
Let’s save a small section about this for the conclusion. Right now, let’s have a look at the time estimation of custom software development that an experienced company would elaborate on using different development stages.

Stage 1: Requirement Gathering and Analysis

At the very first stage, the team you select for custom software development services would gather and understand the important requirements of the software you wish to get developed. It would be done by interviewing you and other key members of your company, researching the markets and audiences the software would be catering to, and evaluating the existing similar software tools, especially those used by your direct competitors.

Once the team gathers and analysis the needs, they will approach you to confirm that there is no gap in your expectations and their understanding. If everything goes fine, they would switch to the next stage. If not, the process may be repeated until you, the client, approve the draft.

Usually, this phase ends in 2 to 4 weeks.

Stage 2: Design Planning, Architecture Development, and Coding

The phase begins with the roles being assigned to different members of the development team. It is followed by setting up the priorities, deciding the order in which various tasks would be performed, and the allocation of resources. In short, everything gets planned for a systematic development process.

Post planning, architecture is developed, which involves deciding and arranging the technologies that would be used in developing the software. During this part, the team must align the architecture development with the expected functioning and operations of the software.

Finally, the coding part begins, which usually is considered as the longest part of the overall process of software development. The custom software development company would involve the client regularly to participate in the process, provide inputs, and confirm whether he or she is happy with the progress or not.

The length of this stage may vary depending on the complexity of the software.

Stage 3: Testing and Integration

The third stage may be full of surprises. When software has been built and is ready for implementation, a series of tests are performed to evaluate its performance and usability in the environment it has been developed for. Software testing involves user acceptance testing, load testing, performance testing, and many other forms of tests to confirm that the developed software is ready for production.

Another important part of this phase is the integration of the new software with the existing software systems already being used at the client’s place. It should be a seamless integration to ensure that the information flow and business operations would be smooth and without any hiccups. Talking about the surprises, you may come across issues that were not identified when the software was being developed and working fine in a standalone setup. Fixing and re-fixing the surfacing problems may make it difficult to estimate the length of this phase.

Still, experienced companies offering custom software development services acknowledge that the phase may take up to 6 weeks to get over with positive outcomes.

Adding Value to Time Estimations

Rather than setting rigid expectations for custom software development time estimations, you should develop an understanding of a number of things that may influence the process. Here is a list of factors on which the overall development time may depend:

Software Size:A lot would depend on whether it is a small application or a full-fledged business software with multiple screens. Remember the simple fact that the complexities are bound to increase with every different feature addition.

Software Usability: Do you want to add an extensive admin portal to the software? Will it have an integrated user application? Do you wish to run the software concurrently at different locations? With high usability demands, the development time also shoots up.

Software Compatibility: It is indeed the requirement of the hour to develop custom software which runs not just on desktop machines but also on mobile devices. For the software to be compatible with different devices as well as platforms, you may have to wait longer.

Software Architecture: Depending on various development technologies that are involved in meeting the operational requirements of the software, the custom software development company may take time in hiring experts in various technologies, thereby adding a few days or weeks to the estimated time.

In addition, there can be situations that are unpredictable and uncontrollable but can leave an impact on the development time. Some examples include:

  • The need to hire one or more development team members if the existing ones go unavailable for an unexpected period of time.
  • The change in the business requirements and demands as brought forward by one or the other stakeholder of the client’s company.
  • Delay in fully migrating from old and existing software that the client has been using for years and wishes to retain some of its features and functions.

Remember that schedule overrun has been and would always be part and parcel of the game. According to a report by McKinsey Digital, the software-related IT projects experienced an average schedule overrun of 33 percent as well as an average cost overrun of 66 percent. What you can do the best is to hire and trust the right people with an impressive portfolio in custom software development

The business world is getting more competitive with every passing day and you must do whatever it takes to achieve your goals. The team at Radixweb can play a vital role in building a successful custom software for your clients. Wave us a Hi!

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