An Unreasonable Cost Estimate for a Simple Change

Client shocked by the high cost estimatesMy client’s organization underwent a name change. Not a big deal, but the new name needed to be reflected on approximately 300 public-facing reports that were provided to government entities, libraries and college research departments.

I prepared the change request for the IT provider, and also relayed the high priority of the change as it related to other changes that IT was currently working on. To my surprise, and to my client’s frustration, the cost estimate and duration to code and test the change came back with astronomical figures.

In my mind, changing “X” to “Y,” updating the user manual, testing to ensure that all 300 reports were updated, then promoting the change to production was at most a few days’ effort for a couple of junior staff. There was no training component to the estimate. So, why the incredibly high estimate?

The IT provider stated that the estimate was so high because they had to change over 300 reports. Now I was becoming frustrated on my client’s behalf.

“Do you mean to say that in your reports design a simple change such as this must be applied repeatedly and individually for each and every report?”

“That’s right.” It was their matter-of-fact tone that really ticked me off.

I opened their proposal and pointed to their promise of employing solid design practices. Even though this was early in the development of COTS (Commercial-Off-the-Shelf) reporting packages, basic design concepts using older technology still applied.

I challenged the IT provider. “I’m not sure what exactly you had intended when you said you would ‘employ solid design practices,’ but hard-coding the name of the organization on 300 reports is anything but!”

Cost estimation is not merely the calculation of units of work multiplied by rate. As IT professionals, we have a responsibility to our clients to provide cost estimates that are reasonable, and that accommodate their business needs.

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