I come across this question quite often, but it came up most recently when working with one particular startup founder.

He started by sharing his very promising idea with one developer, the one who created the first version of his app. As his business took off, he began to work with several developers. And that’s where he noticed the discrepancies between the timelines and prices they each offered.

This is not rare, so today we’re going to break down how to make sure you are charged a fair price by your developer.

Figure out your to-do list

Let’s get right down to it: the first step to getting a fair and realistic price on your company’s development, is translating your idea into a to-do list. I know this can be intimidating, especially if you don’t have a technical background; but don’t worry, it’s totally doable.

Make sure you and your developer sit down and go through your idea thoroughly. They should be able to confirm what’s necessary to go on the to-do list. It’s essential you do your own prep work to communicate better what you want and need. For some guidance in this process, make sure you check our course in Startup Roadmap Definition.

Time is of the essence

Once you have your to-do list, the next step is to assign each task an estimated time of completion. A good way of doing this if you have several developers is to have them play Planning poker, also called Scrum poker. Each one gives a time estimate on each task, and then they discuss the discrepancies between their “bets,” and why they decided on that number of hours. Pay attention to who defends their position better, and who provides perspectives the other developers hadn’t considered before like pre-existing solutions that might save time. Make sure they are factoring in time for testing, debugging, and support.

It’s go or no-go time

Now it’s time for you to make a decision as a founder. You have in your possession a list of tasks and their respective estimated times. It’s up to you what you want to focus on next. If there are certain actions that the developers deem 100% necessary, but you don’t understand why, ask them to break it down for you briefly.

Great developers should be able to explain their work in a way that’s easy for you to understand. After determining which tasks are a go and which ones are a no-go, you should have a real to-do list on your hands. You’re ready to start developing.

Stay on top of things

I couldn’t emphasize this more. You need to know what’s going on in the development process and how your developer is spending—or wasting—your paid time. There are a lot of tools that can help you do this: Trello, Asana or Jira, for instance, are ideal to keep track of tasks pending. Time, again, plays a major factor. Don’t let developers charge you 100 hours if they only report 50 on tasks. Use a time-tracking tool to keep your developers accountable. Keep in mind that project management shouldn’t go over 15% of the global cost.

Retrospective is your friend

Looking back on what you’ve done and your initial expectations is an effective and necessary road to identifying where your planning failed and where it succeeded. For each task, present estimated time versus real time, much like a burndown chart from Agile Scrum Methodology. This will give a visual of where you’ve been off, so that you can adjust your future planning accordingly. On top of that, this will also be incredibly useful when identifying your top developer, since their estimated times will be closest to the real time, and you can give more weight to that judgement in the next stages.

If you liked this article and want to learn more on this topic, check out our courses on startup tech management on myCTOfriend.co.



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