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How to Get an Accurate Quote for a Project
A lot of times we get phone calls or emails from a company looking for a program to help them run their business more efficiently. Upon speaking with them they tell me over the phone all the things that they want this program to do.

They want it to enter customers information, run invoices, create po's, print reports, check this... check that ... so on and so forth. They want it to work with their existing business model and of course we will make it very proficient and easy to use! After several minutes of discussion, they then proceed to ask how much this is going to cost to do this.

Now this is a very fair question but it is also a very difficult one to answer after only speaking for a short period of time. It could take many months of work or only a few weeks. It may be simple to them in their business but until we fully understand it the full scope, we will not know how long something like this could take.

But the reality is, after a phone conversation, it is almost impossible to come out with an accurate price for a project. (maybe a general ballpark but that can also be difficult as well without working in the specific industry). There are so many variables that are not taken into consideration.

What companies sometimes don't realize is that in order to create that awsome software solution for their business, we must first fully understand what it is you are looking for. Unfortunately, we do not know the science behind every single business model and this is something that will require a lot of clarification. Also, there are a lot of businesses that are similar but people run them in very different ways. So even if we have worked with similar software or an industry, it is still done differently in their specific business. What we try to do is better understanding on what you want to do.

Here are some basic steps and tips in order to get a proper quote when approaching a company:

#1. Detail out an outline exactly what you are looking to do: How is the program going to flow? You may say that it needs to create invoices for example. Explain how you want it to create invoices. Is there extra information in these invoices that will be needed? Is there tax on the total? Additional features like gift cards. A detailed outline of each screen is the best way to start. Now even after this has been done and submitted for a quote, there may be things that we see that need to be done in order to get what you want working correctly. This will then need to be discussed. It is much, much easier to look over an outline than to initially figure it out by phone.

#2. Explain whether you want it to be a website/internet based program or a desktop program: Having an online website program can cost more than a windows desktop application in certain instances or vis-versa. It can also depend on the size of the application. Is it going to do thousands of daily transactions or only a few per day? This can be a big factor in the cost.

#3. Most programs will require printed reports: Explain in detail what the reports are and how they will work. Are there any specific formulas that will be used in the report? Do you need the report to export out to an excel file? Each thing that you need is part of the quoted project.

#4. Software Use: Are you going to be the only one using the software or are you going to have other people log online and use it. Even though once a program is finished and working properly, there are a lot of variables outside of one's control that can cause the software to have problems down the road. Remember software will only work as good as the computer it is working on. If you have a bad network the software may run poorly if it is a network application. Another example is that the web hosting company change something on their hosting computers. This can cause your online application to have adverse problems due to the hosting company having problems.

#5. Expect a lot of questions: Once you give the software company an outline on what you want, there should be a lot of questions (and back and forth conversation) that goes into further developing the quote more accurately. They should be able to point out things that were missed in the quote. Not everybody initially thinks of how a program will flow nicely until it is thoroughly thought out. A lot of times you will want something done one way based on experience but a suggested better way may be proposed. Also, a lot of times detail that isn't brought up in the initial conversation, will be necessary down the road.

Please note on very, very large projects, some software company may charge a fee to develop your outline/quote because of the sheer time that will be involved. This is a fair thing to do because the outline/quote is actually the beginning point of creating a solid software application.

In summary, if you have it written out what you are looking to do, then it will be easier to get software developed for your business needs. This way you have already explained what you want and you will get a much accurate quote then simply generalizing what you are looking for. Being specific is the best way to accomplish the desired goal at a fair price for both the customer and the software company.
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