People hate paying more for something than they expected or can afford, and yet that is often what happens with IT projects. While the best defense against unexpected surprises with your systems is a good relationship with a good provider, here are a few things businesses can do to control the cost of their projects:
When possible, buy refurbished equipment
Many reputable resellers sell completely functional refurbished items at 20% or more off. A Galaxy S8 phone, for instance, can be purchased now for $490 new, but for only $390 manufacture refurbished. The refurbished phone might have some nearly invisible scratch that your new phone would have a week after you unboxed it, but is perfectly functional. Bargains can also be found on desktop computers, servers, TVs and most other equipment.
Know what you need
An HP computer with a high end I7 processor can be bought on Amazon for $1,000. It also comes with only 4GB of RAM which is insufficient and will make the computer nearly unusable for most business users. A Dell with a more mainstream I5 processor and 16GB or RAM can be bought for $550. The second computer will be a better fit than the first for almost all users. For software development, knowing what you need is even more important. An incorrect design can lead to thousands of dollars spent on developing the wrong thing. Which leads to…
Think twice before developing software
There are many good off the shelf packages out there. If you are going to reinvent the wheel, you should have a compelling reason for doing so. Many software development projects come in late and over budget. This is not primarily the fault of shady operators. Software development is hard and is also hard to make accurate estimates about. If there is something out there that can handle most of your needs, it is worth asking whether you can live with the parts it can’t rather than go through the pain of customized software.
Get a fixed price quote
If you are doing project work that you have set budget for, you can shop it around or negotiate with your current MSP (managed service provider) to set a fixed price for a given scope of work. It is important when doing so that the scope of work is well defined (see 2), or you will be fighting with your vendor before the project is finished. Given the healthy margins in technical work, the vendor should be willing to accept some of the risk in a large project.
If you keep these four things in mind, you can save yourself money and frustration. Combining 1 and 2, for instance, I was able to buy a very functional computer for $254. If all else fails, get a second opinion. IT service providers want your business, and will often give you free advice to prove that they know their stuff. This can lead you to a better provider or at least intelligent questions to ask your current provider.