“They asked for a ballpark figure. You’ll never guess what they got!”

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Written by dermdaly on March 8th, 2016

Possibly the most common question we get before anyone gets into detail

can I get a ball-park figure?

But we need to really question.

Will this bring any value?

Usually, at this point in the conversation we’ve had a very broad discussion about your idea. And you’re about to go for funding or grant assistance, so you need something to put into the business plan.

Here’s the problem: Estimating software development is hard. It requires skill and time to do so. We’ll need to go much further than a conversation to appreciate the detail of your idea. And because it takes time and skill, we’re going to charge for that.

But you don’t have the money to do that; the grant/funding will supply that.  You’re essentially saying “I’d rather put a fictional value into my business plan than commit a small spend to finding out a more reliable value”

If you’re not willing to make that initial spend, how committed are you to your idea? If you’re willing to put a fictional figure into your business plan, how much do you care about that plan?

Worse, if you go to more than one supplier you are comparing one fictional figure with another fictional figure.

Now consider ball-park figures from a supplier’s side.  I’m asked for a ball-park figure. I can:

  1. Point the customer at this blog post, and be thought of as unhelpful, so I’ll never land this business or
  2. Put in a low-estimate in the hope of winning the business, with the understanding that when we all agree the estimate was too low, there’s a really awkward conversation waiting in the wings or
  3. Pad the estimate – there’s too much risk, so I need to ensure we don’t lose on the project. Less chance of an awkward conversation, but a high chance of you saying “HOW MUCH?”, and not coming back to us.

All of these are a losing position for us.

Losing position for customer, losing position for the supplier.

If you want a figure, I suggest reading this, and picking your own.

So here it is:

Ball-park figures are pointless. Get over it.

Still reading? Great. If you promise you don’t ask for a ballpark figure 😉 , we’d love to help you with your next app. Do get in touch.

Image Credit: Florian Christoph on Flickr

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