Budget Control

A few tips on managing the dreaded B-word.

If you work on tech projects in any capacity then I’m pretty sure that one of your least favorite topics is “the budget”. You are not alone. There are many complex reasons that sticking to “the budget” is challenging to say the least. As someone who manages complex Drupal builds every day, I can attest that we could all use a little bit more time to wrap up our tasks and test one more time. Why do so many projects leave us feeling like this?

It’s a common scenario. We’re getting closer and closer to the deadline. The site is built and starting to look right. All content types are in place. The migration ran successfully. Views and blocks are being themed. Everything is perfectly on track. Then comes the evil cross browser testing phase, followed by those pesky regression bugs and yet another round of QA from the client. No end in sight.

Sound familiar? Here’s some tips for staying on budget and finding success in the unfortunate event that you don’t.

1. Educate your client. This has to start as soon as the lead reaches the doorstep. Teach them about their platform. A good understanding of how the pieces come together is necessary to create a successful outcome. Help them understand the benefits of agile-style development and how to find that delicate balance between budget, timelines and features.

2. Have patience. Nothing kills productivity more than rushing the developers on the team. Sometimes they will get things right on the first try and sometimes they won’t. It’s part of the process. Stick to a schedule and revise the schedule if need be. Bottom line, you’ll see the highest quality work when your team is happy and inspired.

3. Anticipate areas of risk. Learn from past experiences and use them to help you in the future. If you have a feeling something might cause scope or budget increase then it probably will. Address it, document it, discuss it at the beginning of the project rather than at the end.

4. Know that overages are part of the industry. Most complex engineering projects go over budget. Just to name a few - The Sydney Opera House, The Montreal Olympic Stadium, and The Channel Tunnel construction projects all went way over. Estimating a budget on a big project is tough and getting it wrong doesn’t necessarily indicate failure.

5. Communicate and Compromise. Good communication is the key to building a solid relationship with your client. If they feel that they are receiving quality service from you then they will be more willing to compromise. Work closely with them and involve them in critical decisions about their site so that when the time comes to have that god-awful budget conversation, they are already on your side.

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