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Why Does an Application Cost so Much to Build?

This topic comes up frequently when proposing solutions to our customers. Naturally, the customer wants to understand what they are getting for the price they are paying. This is a straight forward conversation when you talk about the number of Web pages or other items that are simply quantified. It becomes more difficult to gage project cost when you must speak to the less visible features that impact the overall quality and value of the solution.

The Truth of the Matter

These days it seems that everyone builds apps, but you should expect your vendor to have the necessary professional skills, customer service, and years of experience that ensure the application you invest in will provide the business functionality that you require. Your application should be designed in a way that provides the most return for your investment, it should be delivered in a way that meets budgets and timelines, and considers your company’s future goals in its design. Sadly, this doesn’t always happen, and many businesses are losing money because they didn’t vet their vendor well enough during their search.

There is saying that I have heard that I subscribe to wholeheartedly: "So you think it's expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an Amateur."

Always insist on the following when choosing a software development firm:

  • A proven track record of professional software delivery utilizing highly skilled workers that are certified experts in their field with the many specific skills required to deliver a comprehensive software solution. 
  • Industry certifications and affiliations for the technologies being leveraged.
  • A mature software engineering staff that work within structured processes that they have developed, honed, and perfected over years to warrant dependable delivery times and quality software. 
  • The ability to provide consulting services that can help you navigate current technology approaches and choose the right options.
  • A history of success delivering projects and verification that they stand by their work.

A qualified software consulting company can help you avoid costly, erroneous investments and can also provide in-depth analysis of the pros and cons of each of your options. They will also have a verifiable history of success delivering projects like yours.

Be Cautious of Potential Pit-Falls 

There are always options to consider avoiding. You might be considering some of the following options for your next project… you might want to think again.

Independent Contractors

Whether sourced through a staffing agency or direct contact, there is always a risk in augmenting your teams with independent contractors. While this may at first seem like a good option, it is very difficult to find good candidates that can provide the caliber of technical and project delivery experience that you find within an experienced custom software development company. While many IT staffing firms trumpet their candidate screening processes, very rarely do you get a perfect match for your needs. Having worked within positions in senior management and corporate settings, I have personal experience with the impact that choosing the wrong candidates can have. My teams have spent countless hours interviewing and vetting candidates trying to assemble right contractors not to mention the hours dedicated later to onboarding activities for getting candidates integrated. For staffing larger projects, this often unrecognized investment in time can have a tangible impact to the overall project.

In many cases, it makes more sense to outsource the development and project management to a trusted company that not only provides proven expertise, but also contractually shares in the risk for the project’s success and guarantees their work. Often, choosing this option provides an overall cost benefit over the life of the project through efficient software delivery and by allowing your resources to stay focused on current needs for the company.


Companies that weigh the benefit of leveraging offshore options should factor in the cost for the following:
  • Additional time spent selecting a vendor
  • Overseas travel as part of either the selection or inspection process
  • Increased due diligence on issues from security for employees and data
  • More stringent documentation requirements
  • Oversight burden required of internal resources to manage risks and perform project management.

Likely, infrastructure may be required to handle data storage and access, security of data and bandwidth requirements to communicate efficiently due to the location of your offshore developers. You should also factor in the lower overall productivity rate and higher risk associated with using offshore resources. Having been involved in several off-shore projects, my experience has been that the allure of low rates does not guarantee overall low project cost and high quality.

The Bottom Line

Do you really want to hand over what is likely a substantial investment for your company to the lowest bidder? Making a choice at the beginning of the project plan based solely on price will lead to unforeseen challenges down the road.

To avoid other application planning and purchasing pitfalls, check out my related blog: Why Do Applications Cost So Much to Maintain?


Wiz E. Wig, Mascot & Director of Magic
Wiz E. Wig

Director of Magic