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What are the important things to consider when leveraging software development? How to set the right expectations and make good decisions? What are some helpful tips for drawing an accurate software development cost estimation? Let’s address these and other related questions to find the best approach for estimating software development costs.

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In terms of business perspectives, the idea of introducing new software to the market is always worth the effort. Companies have received innovative approaches to address various needs, deliver services and increase customer engagement. Feature-rich products can change how a business runs and open better opportunities for future growth.

At the same time, everyone realizes that software development is quite expensive and involves some effort. It becomes vital to start with software development cost estimation before the actual development process. The business has to define the product idea as well as calculate the required expenses. Software development can be turned into a great investment only when properly approached.

Therefore, cost estimation is one of the essential steps in the entire process. Teams have to draw special attention to making accurate calculations. Besides knowing actual needs, it’s helpful for strategic planning and imposing the right requirements. What’s more, it refers to teams with limited resources and ones that don’t impose limitations on the budget.

reasons to make software development cost estimatation

This practice covers not only cost-saving opportunities but involves much more practical purposes. We suggest taking some of the common reasons why estimating software development costs is important.

  • Reasonable expenses – Regardless of the available resources, all teams are interested in allocating them reasonably. Software development cost estimation isn’t just a list of expenses; it involves various calculations, assumptions, exclusions, etc. It helps to improve accuracy and make the right investment decisions.
  • Careful planning – Predicting project expenses is impossible without defining the scope of work. All cost estimates rely upon accurately predicting required tasks, processes, and timeframes to complete them. Along with software development cost estimation, the team receives a careful implementation guide and detailed task description.
  • Enhanced resource management – By gaining valuable insights, the team has better chances to identify resource gaps, complete set deliverables, and find required specialists. Software development cost estimation helps to provide details for better decision-making and broader perspectives.
  • Risk management – Managing project expectations isn’t as easy as it might seem at first sight. It’s hard to reflect on all the possible risks during the development project. However, the budget risks are tightly related to other risks like schedule, technical or operational ones. Therefore, accurate cost estimation involves predicting unexpected situations and setting realistic project goals.
  • Higher profit margin – It’s obvious that everyone wants to make their business more profitable by introducing software solutions. Estimating software development cost also works towards the goal of completing the project within budget. Reliable estimates prevent unexpected expenses; thus, it guarantees larger profit margins.

Software development cost estimation is an inevitable part of implementing successful products. Teams have to be ready to spend time and effort on estimates to receive better results in the end. This process step remains at the core of any development process and helps to define required expenses along with the scope of work.


There are many techniques how to provide software development cost estimation. Teams have the choice to vary practices and methodologies from project to project. The main thing is that all of them focus on the same purpose. Estimating software development costs embraces predicting the quantity, expenses, and cost of resources required for project completion. Also, it helps to embrace business perspectives and careful budget planning. If the team introduces high-quality cost estimates, it allows them to meet the budget requirements.

Even though software development cost estimation is one of the stages in the entire process, it is often referred to as a separate process. It is explained by the great importance attached to it. Regardless of the project specification, every team has to undergo the following steps:

software development cost estimation process

  • Define the purpose 

Like any other process, the team has to set specific estimation details. Having a clear project vision and outlining the required resources to fulfill the needs is essential. Also, they need to identify the overall budget and confirm details to form an estimated basis. From the beginning, the involved parties should cover numerous factors like development approaches, applied methodology, labor productivity, development rates, etc. 

  • Impose the requirements

Breaking down the total scope of work into smaller parts allows for setting proper requirements upon which cost estimates considerably rely. If the team needs well-outlined requirements, they have a chance of determining accurate cost estimations. Moreover, all the related details should be appropriately documented while adding timelines, resources, and costs for future reference.

  • Make the estimate

Based on the defined scope and documented requirements, the team can estimate the project’s direct cost. It covers expenses on materials, labor resources, and equipment. Cost calculations should also embrace indirect costs like office space, utilities, insurance, etc.

How to estimate software development costs in man-hours?

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  • Finalize the estimation

Revision control always remains critical as the team has the chance to finalize the details. It’s a common practice to include a contingency plan to manage risks against unforeseen additional costs. The contingency budget could help to cover the monetary impacts of some uncertainties or project risks. It could definitely minimize the harm and prevent potential risks.

  • Approve the estimate

As a rule, the software development cost estimate is made by several estimators. It’s explained by the fact that they can share professional expertise and look at the project from different perspectives. It requires both business and technical experience to give accurate estimates. And the final thing is that the provided estimation has to be approved by all the involved parties, especially when third-party providers deliver development services.

Following these basic steps helps to streamline the estimation process and achieve the primary purposes. At the same time, it is essential to remember that the work scope could change or some things get updated during the project. So the team has to use flexible approaches and get ready to handle the continuous process for better efficiency.


Have you realized that producing accurate estimates is key to successful project implementation? It is not only essential for determining project expenses but also for setting timelines and managing resources. It doesn’t make a difference whether the business involves the internal or external teams to give an estimate; they need to apply balanced approaches to checking software development cost estimation.

There is some additional advice to take into consideration when validating project costs. It goes without saying that every business would like to start the project with realistic expectations and correct estimates. So let’s check a few more aspects here.

  • The first thing is that the team has to think of the software development costs estimation with a specific schedule for all the project’s factors. Missing detailed job breakdowns is the main warning sign. It’s vital not to neglect such aspects, as it finally leads to receiving unclear estimates, extending the project duration, and of course, increasing final expenses. There are too many variables to include when predicting estimations accurately. Typical unaccounted-for variables include code assessments, debugging, final tests, time off, meetings, etc. It is obvious that proper estimates require an understanding of how critical every development stage is.
  • The following tip relates to selecting suitable estimation techniques to address project needs. However, it isn’t just about making a choice but more about focusing on its explicit adoption. Considering common types of estimating techniques, teams can choose among bottom-up estimates, top-down estimates, parametric estimations, analogous estimations, expert judgment, and three-point estimating. Many teams find it efficient to complement these techniques by using additional estimation tools. They are really helpful for monitoring costs in real time, keeping track of scope, and assessing project progress. Therefore, the professional team can provide any specific explanation during the entire development process.
  • Businesses also have to focus on the team’s skill sets and project familiarity. It’s obvious that the team with extensive expertise in the specific domain will be more productive and work faster towards efficient project adoption. At the same time, their first-hand experience is valuable in drawing accurate software development cost estimates and setting the right project expectations. It’s common practice when development service providers decide to specialize in a specific domain as they can deliver better results and smooth the entire development process.

Combining this simple advice, companies open up the possibility of finding more efficient ways to estimate project costs. It’s a necessity to avoid rough calculations as it often ends in failure. In order to reach desired results, teams have to be attentive to project-related details from the very beginning. They can look through successful market practices and learn from the experience gained by others.

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One of the most common questions is, “How much does software development cost?” The answer, unfortunately, is complex, as the cost of software development can vary widely depending on various factors. Let’s explore the various stages of the software development cycle and the associated costs.

software development cost estimation

  • Discovery – 10%

The discovery stage of the software development cycle is the first step in the process and involves defining the project’s scope and requirements. This stage is typically the least costly, representing around 10% of the overall development cost.

During the discovery stage, project managers will work with stakeholders to define the goals and objectives of the project, as well as the features and functionality that the software should include. That involves market research, gathering user feedback, and creating a detailed project plan.

  • UI/UX Design – 10%

The next stage in the software development cycle is UI/UX design, which involves creating the look and feel of the software. This stage represents around 10% of the overall cost of software development.

During the UI/UX design stage, designers will work to create a user interface that is intuitive, visually appealing, and easy to navigate. That covers creating wireframes and prototypes and designing user flows and interaction patterns.

  • Back-end Development – 35%

Back-end development is the process of building the underlying functionality and architecture of the software. This stage is typically the most time-consuming and costly, representing around 35% of software development cost.

During the back-end development stage, developers will work to build the software’s core functionality, including creating the database, integrating third-party systems, and building APIs.

  • Front-end Development – 25%

Front-end development involves creating the user-facing aspects of the software, including the user interface and user experience. This stage typically represents around 25% of software development costs.

During the front-end development stage, developers will work to create the visual elements of the software, including the layout, design, and user interaction. It uses HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create the user interface.

  • Testing – 20%

Testing is an essential step in the development process, as it helps ensure that the software is high quality and free of defects. This stage represents around 20% of the cost for software development.

During the testing stage, testers will work to identify and fix software defects and ensure that the software meets all specified requirements. It is conducted through manual testing, automated testing, or a combination of both.

  • Maintenance – 15% of the overall development cost

Once the software has been developed and tested, it is important to provide ongoing maintenance and support to ensure it continues functioning as intended. This stage typically represents around 15% of cost expenses.

During the maintenance stage, developers will work to fix any discovered defects and make updates and improvements to the software as needed.

Would you like to check more examples with cost estimates for mobile, web, or other software solutions?

We suggest checking out Existek’s case studies with detailed project descriptions, including the budget estimates.

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Accurate cost estimation is crucial for the success of any software development project. However, it is not uncommon for teams to make mistakes when estimating the cost of a project, which could lead to delays, budget overruns, and, ultimately, project failure. At the same time, it’s crucial to discuss some common mistakes made when estimating software development costs and provide tips on how to avoid them.

mistakes when estimating project expenses

Inaccurate cost estimation

One of the most common mistakes when estimating software development costs is simply getting the numbers wrong. That can be due to a lack of experience or expertise, insufficient data, or simply not taking the time to thoroughly analyze and break down the project requirements.

To avoid this mistake, the team has to take a structured and systematic approach to cost estimation. It includes gathering as much information as possible about the project, including the scope, features, and technical requirements. 

Unclear requirements

Another common mistake in estimating software development costs is unclear or incomplete requirements. It can be due to a lack of communication between the development team and the client or simply not taking the time to fully understand and document the project requirements.

Establishing clear and concise requirements from the outset of the project is vital. That includes having a detailed and up-to-date project plan and effective communication channels between the development team and the client. It is also important to regularly review and revise the requirements as the project progresses to ensure that the development team clearly understands what needs to be built.

No risk assessment

Risks are inherent in any software development project, and failure to properly assess and mitigate them can lead to cost overruns and project failure. One common mistake when estimating software development costs is not correctly identifying and evaluating risks and not including contingency plans in the cost estimate.

The team has to regularly review and assess the risks associated with the project and include contingency plans in the cost estimate to account for potential risks. It may include building additional time or budget for unexpected issues or identifying and implementing measures to mitigate identified risks.

Unrealistic expectations

Another mistake is about having unrealistic expectations about the project. That can be due to a lack of understanding of the complexity and effort involved in building software or simply setting unrealistic deadlines or budgets.

It remains essential to set realistic expectations from the outset of the project. It includes a clear understanding of the project’s scope and requirements, as well as the time and resources needed to complete it. It involves the development team in planning to ensure that the estimates are based on realistic assumptions.

Overlooking some additional expenses

Finally, the mistake is overlooking some additional expenses that may be incurred during the project. These may include testing, deployment, training, and ongoing maintenance and support costs.

The team needs to include all known expenses in the cost estimate and to periodically review and revise the estimate as the project progresses to ensure that all costs are accounted for. 

Even though the estimation process might seem complex initially, many trusted approaches and techniques exist to address it properly.


Cost estimation is an important aspect of software development because it helps project managers and stakeholders understand the potential costs and resources required to complete the project. It also helps them plan their budget and allocate resources effectively. There are many methods and techniques, though the best one to use depends on the specific characteristics of the project and the level of detail and accuracy required.

Have additional questions on how to estimate software development cost?

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Frequently asked questions

What is software development cost estimation?

Software development cost estimation is the process of predicting the time and resources required to develop a software application. This involves determining the scope of the project, identifying the resources needed, and estimating the time required to complete each task. The total cost of the project is then calculated by multiplying the time required for each task by the hourly rate of each resource.

How to estimate software development cost?

The estimation process consists of several steps:

  • Define the purpose

  • Impose the requirements

  • Make the estimate

  • Finalize the estimation

  • Approve the estimate

What are typical mistakes when estimating software development costs?

There are several common mistakes when estimating the cost of a software development project. These include

  • Inaccurate cost estimation

  • Unclear requirements

  • No risk assessment

  • Unrealistic expectations

  • Overlooking some additional expenses

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