Estimating a development project: 5 common mistakes

Lukasz Karwacki - Co-Founder & CEO at Sunscrapers

Lukasz Karwacki

23 November 2017, 4 min read

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What's inside

  1. Lack of sufficient preparation
  2. Insisting on a fixed fee
  3. Comparing hourly rates
  4. Treating estimates and as if they weren't estimates
  5. Not leaving any resources for future changes

Anyone who has ever been part of a software development project knows that they are notorious for overrunning. Delivering a piece of software on time and budget is tough, and problems may appear already in the initial phase: estimating a development project.

Building software is a complicated process that involves many variables. Moreover, a software product can be developed using different methodologies, languages, and practices. All these factors make development projects bad candidates for accurate estimation.

So how do you protect your project from estimation mistakes? Here are 5 common errors in development project estimation you should avoid.

Lack of sufficient preparation

Many founders forget how essential are estimations to the success of their project and never take time to prepare for them. They often approach many software houses at the same time with a short description of their product. Sometimes, they might not even offer developers a description but just say: 'I want to build the next Uber, how much would that cost?'.

Naturally, they will find developer shops that will estimate the project even if critical information is missing. But you can bet that this kind of estimate isn't accurate and so shouldn't serve as the foundation for realizing the project.

At Sunscrapers, we believe project estimation should be preceded by a series of meetings where the founder and developers talk about the primary objectives of the app, the assumptions about the target audience, the project's context, the available resources, and other relevant factors. That's how we provide our clients with accurate project estimates and avoid unpleasant surprises later on.

Insisting on a fixed fee

Some founders don't want to hear about alternative pricing models, believing that fixed fee is the safest option for their budget. But that model doesn't work for startup projects where many changes may occur while it's being developed.

That's why our team implements the Agile approach and works on the basis of the time&material model. We use a set of tools that enable us to measure progress and provide frequent reporting to have full control over the project's budget.

Comparing hourly rates

Another serious mistake founders make when estimating the development project is focusing on the hourly rates without considering the process and value that stand behind the pricing model. It's not worth to concentrate on the price. Instead, it pays to look at the relation between the price and quality.

At sunscrapers, we do our best to write quality code that is maintainable, scalable, and extendable. We strive to avoid technical debt and make strategic decisions to make projects economical – for example, by omitting the features that present a low value for end-users.

Treating estimates and as if they weren't estimates

Estimates are just estimates and should be treated as such. Interpreting the project estimate as the final and reliable part of the project cost is a mistake. That's because during the estimation process we rarely have full knowledge about what the final product will look like.

That's why reasonable estimates take into account unforeseen circumstances, risk, and application of changes within a previously set scope. At sunscrapers, we rely on our experience and statistics to provide estimations that include potential variations in the final pricing of the product.

Not leaving any resources for future changes

Finally, another severe mistake founders make is forgetting about the budget for future changes and project development. Spending all your resources at once on the initial project development phase is a mistake that might cost you a lot in the long run.

Avoid these mistakes in estimating development projects, and you'll seriously boost your chances at getting a realistic view of the resources it will take to realize your project.

Would you like to talk with us about your idea? Drop us a line at; we're always happy to provide founders with guidance for turning their project into reality.

Lukasz Karwacki - Co-Founder & CEO at Sunscrapers

Lukasz Karwacki

Co-Founder & CEO

Luke is a co-founder and CEO of Sunscrapers. He has got his background in computer graphics (graduate of Kingston University London) and has started his career as a web designer in a creative agency. He currently manages Sunscrapers, takes care of business development and looks after clients. Throughout the last 10 years, Lukasz managed, supervised and consulted projects for startups, SMBs and enterprises across different industries and locations. He has a passionate dad, speaker and writer.


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