Blank Check or Set a Budget? How to Fund Agile Software Projects

Are you interested in exploring the agile methodology for developing software at your company, but you’re worried that it feels like writing a blank check to the developer? …

Are you interested in exploring the agile methodology for developing software at your company, but you’re worried that it feels like writing a blank check to the developer? It’s a commonly held belief among companies looking for outsourced software development that agile could potentially cost more than traditional methodologies. However, the nature of how agile development works, combined with a well-defined structure for funding it, ensures that you can produce a great piece of software without breaking the bank.

Two approaches to funding Agile – Fixed Budgeting Approach

The first step to ensuring that your company’s agile development meets your budget requirements is deciding upon whether to go with a fixed budget or continuous funding. A fixed budget is exactly what it sounds like–your company sets the maximum amount that they’re willing to spend for the software, and the development team works on the project until they hit the budget ceiling. Fixed budgeting is a good funding approach for companies that are not entirely familiar with the agile development process, and they want to make sure that there is a distinct budget cap.

Because the agile development process insures that you have a finished piece of software at the end of every sprint, you’re saving time and money with either continuous funding or fixed budgeting.

A fixed budget doesn’t mean you end up with an unfinished project. Instead, agile development works hand-in-hand with fixed budgeting because stages of the project (or sprints) are each completed within a set amount of time; at the end of every sprint you have a complete piece of software as well as an update on how much of the budget is left.

The development team covers the most important and critical features in the first sprint, shows you the result, and you give the  green light for the second sprint to add more features, work out bugs, or even take the software in a different direction if that’s what market conditions require. Though it may not be as comprehensive and feature-rich as you might want in the future, it’s still a solid version 1.0 that you can beta-test since the most critical features are already developed.

Funding Agile – Continuous Funding Approach

Continuous funding is typically used by more experienced companies that know how agile works and are confident in the development team. The company outlines what they need, the team figures out how long it will take, and they create a detailed prioritization of the product backlog of features, separating those features into a smaller backlog for each sprint. If they reach the end of the sprint without fully completing all the features, they take it out and move on with what works instead of dragging out the deadline for who knows how long trying to figure out just one bug. The difference between continuous funding and a fixed budget is that continuous funding allows the development team to work on critical and non-critical features at the same time because the budget allows for more time to continue working on various features rather than focusing only on the mission-critical ones.

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The Best Part About Agile? You Save Money Either Way

Because the agile development process insures that you have a finished piece of software at the end of every sprint, you’re saving time and money with either continuous funding or fixed budgeting. Instead of waiting for months or years to see the end result, you get a real, workable update within a specific period of time, giving your company the opportunity to evaluate and decide whether the project is moving in the right direction. Having these mini releases also allows you to gather more funding because you can release the software, get feedback from your users (or the market), then see if it’s worth getting additional funding for an improved version, or determine whether it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Either way, the agile development process helps you make sure that your company doesn’t sink too much money into software development. The agile methodology does quite the opposite, in fact.

Steve Mezak is founder and CEO of Accelerance, Inc., which helps customers engage the right development team to create high-quality software. Read more and watch videos about using the agile methodology for nearshore software development on the Accelerance blog.

 

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