Cost Performance Index in software projects – what’s the relevance?

The cost of software development, upgrade and maintenance projects can be a sore point because they don’t come cheap. Whether you take-on the projects in-house or outsource them, there are technology and resourcing costs that can spiral when unmanaged, causing them to go over-budget.

As with any project, a quick return on investment is wanted from software projects. When your business is reliant on technology to run and be profitable, extended tech projects that don’t perform or deliver value fast are a thorn in the side of business continuity as well as the bottom line.

Here’s an idea of software project costs

In Dubai, the cost of the average app development project ranges from $5 000 to $10 000. For complications and multi-feature app, prices shoot to between $267 000 and $360 000. 

Need a website? For a small and simple business website, expect to pay in the region of $15 000.  For a conversion or lead-focused website, the cost will be about $30 000, and $50 000 upwards for a complex, feature-rich website. 

The average cost of a business software upgrade, from Enterprise Resource Planning and Customer Relationship Management systems to IT security, can range from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the size and the type of business you are in.

Don’t underestimate the time and financial resources needed to build quality, functional software applications. There is a lot that goes into it and costs begin to stack-up when the project doesn’t perform or goes over-budget. 

Use the Cost Performance Index to measure project cost efficiency

The Cost Performance Index is a measure of the financial effectiveness and efficiency of a project, and represents the amount of work completed for every monetary unit spent. Project managers can use CPI to measure the cost efficiency of software projects against the work actually completed for an early flag that budget or scope adjustments need to be made. Simply put, it is a way of demonstrating whether or not your project is on budget and performing.

Using the CPI will give you an honest view of the cost efficiency of budgeted resources as a ratio of earned value to actual costs. 

The power of one

You can calculate the Cost Performance Index by dividing the Earned Value (EV) by Actual Cost (AC). When we talk about Earned Value (EV), we are talking about the amount of the task that is actually completed compared to what was planned to be done by a particular stage. It is expressed in terms of the budget set for the project. For instance, if the budget is $10,000 but only 20% of the work has been completed halfway through the six month project timeframe, then the EV is $2,000. The Actual Cost (AC) is the amount of money that has been spent on the task.

So, CPI = EV / AC 

For example, if a project has an EV of $30 000 but the AC is $15 000, the CPI is 2. 

But what does that mean?

CPI < 1a CPI that is less than one means the earning is less than the amount spent. You can say the project is over budget. 

CPI > 1a CPI that greater than one means the earning is more than the amount spent. This is when you can happily say that the project is under budget. 

CPI = 1a CPI equal to one means the earning and spending are equal. Everything is going according to plan and the project is performing well. 

The upside and downside of technology

In this digital age, you know that technology not only enables your business but powers it. There is a downside though. Software needs constant maintenance and frequent upgrades. Don’t consider maintenance or upgrade projects as a nuisance. Instead, see upgrades as an investment into better efficiencies, seamless continuity, improved productivity, more features, greater functionality, happier employees, more engaged customers, tighter IT security and reduced risks. The list of rewards from optimised software goes on, and they translate into business growth. Maintaining your software systems will ensure that they are up-to-date, bug-free, cyber-secure and working as they should. 

Hand it over

Budget, skills and resourcing constraints will impact the progress and ultimate success of your software projects, whether it’s a new app development or a website upgrade. Poor planning leads to slow progress and failing to reach the goals you want to achieve. You want a CPI equal to one or more if you want the most bang for your buck.

Not your forte? Hand it over. At Digital Grind we eat, sleep and drink this stuff. We have an established team of tech experts who understand the software development, maintenance and user experience design landscape. We also know that getting ROI on software projects is important to our clients. So planning and sticking to budget and project timelines is non-negotiable. We aim for a CPI of one or more on every project we undertake. Have a look at what we did for Moro Hub

Got a goal or a project in mind? Start it now with Digital Grind.


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