Budgets are often the beginning and end of a project. They’ve got to start off as a good estimate, stay healthy over the course of many checkpoints, and if you’ve played your cards right -- hopefully your estimate is not too far off from the final cost.
This can drive any startup crazy. Shifting around pennies is not the most exciting thing about developing a good product but it’s important enough that you still have to dedicate time to it. It can be tempting to just say “I have plenty” and start spending.
But that’s the problem. No one sets aside twice the money necessary for a project. We’re all about efficiency here. We’re happy if we end the project under budget but we don’t want to plan an unambitious project either. If you have $10,000, you don’t want to make something that’ll take $2,000. Get that bang for your buck.
So when you consider that, you have to remember that your best-case scenario is coming in slightly under budget. Which means optimization should be a key virtue in your project planning, building, and deployment.
There are a few ways we can do this.
Knowing where you start
This sounds easy. But it requires some self-reflection from you and even your team. You need to know where you stand, what you’re willing to face, and how willing you are to see this through. That all sounds like it belongs on a motivational poster but it will help you define a few things:
This knowledge is not just useful, it’s necessary to start off on the right foot.
Knowing where you end
One of the greatest tragedies in the web development world is a project that you happily stress about for months, put in hours of work on, spend oodles of money on, just to finally drop the ball on launch. You want a date to launch -- that’s a good checkpoint. But more importantly you’re going to want to have an idea of what your project looks like at the end. Write that down. When you get excited about new features it will be the lighthouse reference you need to make sure that revision is necessary or peripheral.
Make sure you’re using all parts of the animal
This requires knowing what you have in your budget. Down to the last penny if you can manage. You’ll also need to know how much time you have, your team, and the like. Get the anatomy of your project in writing. And start cutting it up like one of those pork diagrams you see in butcher shops. How much money goes to meetings? How much to the first checkpoint and the next? Be willing to invest a few manhours into collaborating with your team to help you with the numbers. They have a good eye for estimating digital build times. Take that estimate...and inflate that a bit. Again, be sure to be under budget but not unambitious.
Work out any kinks on paper first
Nothing will murder your budget quite like a late-game revision that shatters your previous work. Do your own brainstorming. Really get into Chicken Little’s shoes and think about the worst things that could happen. Talk with your team about your concerns and ask them if they have any. This sort of collaboration before you break cyberground will help iron out any conceptual or abstract kinks that might sink your project.
Understand life after launch
This is another important point that many clients forget about. We all want to make the next viral product. But once you’ve made it, what comes next? That’s a hard question -- probably one of the hardest -- but it needs to be answered at the starting line. Will you be satisfied/able to coast? Work on bugs and maintenance but otherwise leave it at that? Or are you looking for future growth when your capital gets a little higher? Know this and you can prepare for it.
Remember that your budget might be enough. It can be easy to think that you’ve got more money than you have project but trust me, life can complicate things in the strangest ways. Using these tips will help contain project-based conundrums from rising up. That way you can use your spare budget on real hiccups or future features.
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