Introducing: Budgeting in Tasman

Sometimes, the progress of software development projects can seem like a bit of a mystery.

We’ve all heard stories about projects that take many months of gestation with no visible progress, then suddenly the cry goes up that the budget is all spent and the project is still well short of being finished.

At Custom D we work hard to avoid that sort of result, reviewing progress with you frequently, keeping you in the loop on how things are going, and working with you to make changes and course corrections along the way.

It’s essential that you have confidence that things are tracking well against your budget, and the key to achieving that is to give you total transparency on the progress of the project.

Our project management system — Tasman — has always shown time spent and expected time remaining on every task. We recently added visibility of time spent right down to the level of individual time entries. And today we’re adding the ability to see how your project is tracking against an agreed budget.

For a long time Tasman has included ‘tracker’ charts that show you how much time we’ve spent so far, and how much more time we’re expecting to spend.

For some projects it’s enough to keep a close eye on both those numbers as the project moves forward, reviewing them frequently to make sure that things are staying on a sensible course. Many projects however, particularly new developments, lend themselves to having a more formal line in the sand: The Budget.

The Agile development stye that we use at Custom D recognises that the old fixed-price quote-up-front model of development never delivers the best outcome for the client. But it’s still important to have some idea of the size of a project, and that’s what the budget figure provides: it’s a number that we’re constantly measuring against. Ideally we won’t use all of it, and we may mutually agree to change it to accommodate new plans that crop up along the way, but it’s good to have it in place as a guide to what we’re working towards.

We’ve been working on building budgeting into , and in fact it’s been present in our own view for some time. Today we’re bringing that feature forward into your view of the projects we’re working on together. If your project has a budget figure on it, you’ll now see tracker charts that look something like this:

There’s a couple of new figures on that chart. The budget number is the obvious one: that’s the figure that we’ve agreed on together as a suitable budget for the project as a whole. ’Contingency’ is a number that derives from that: it’s the difference between that budget and the amount of work that we’re currently estimating for the project.

Contingency is there to cover the unexpected factors that occur in any project. In a healthy project it will start at roughly 15% to 20% of the time that we’re expecting to spend, and ideally it will continue to track at around that level throughout the project, as compared to the time left ‘To Do’.

As part of our regular communication with you, we’ll be looking together at how contingency is tracking for your project. If it starts to shrink, then we’ll be talking about how to deal with that: perhaps you need to re-evaluate your plans for the project, or maybe there’s a case for adjusting the budget figure. Either way, the end goal is simple: no surprises! Budget/contingency is a great way of keeping tabs on the progress of your project, and making sure that everything is smooth sailing.

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