There are few times in a company’s lifecycle where cutting costs and making sure to stay within budgets (ideally well below them) are not a major part of decision making. Project managers around the world and in every industry understand this better than most other positions - as when we cut our budgets, that means sacrificing tools that directly relate to productivity. It’s a tightrope walk between cutting too much and sinking total profits, and not cutting enough and being ruled inefficient by upper management.
For software, we’re hit with an extra challenge - our industry is still a bit mysterious to many, which means justifying project management tools and timelines is more difficult than in older industries. However, while there are hurdles to overcome, cutting costs and still getting your software product released on time is possible. Here’s how to do it:
Open Negotiations With Vendors
The first step towards getting the same amount done for less should always be talking to your vendors about what you’re paying versus what you’re using. This will take on two forms: reducing waste and bargaining.
Reducing Wasted Product
If you go through the tools and vendors you use, there are likely resources that you’re paying for but are underutilizing - or not using at all. These usually appear as add-ons that are inexpensive enough that nobody notices them much on the regular invoices, but never really caught on with the team, and could therefore be cut.
Take time to go through each aspect of your software as a line item, and poll your team to see how useful each piece is. Aside from finding tools you aren’t using, you’ll also likely find tools that you don’t really need - like the fancy Gantt chart software that you’ve been using for your small, centralized team, that could just as easily use a regular whiteboard and sticky notes.
Bargain For A Better Contract
Whether or not you found pieces of your product that you can cut, you always have the option of renegotiating your contract. I’ll come right out and say it - no, your vendor will not be excited to have this conversation. However, keep in mind that their option is to either give you a slight discount, or risk losing your company as a client in general.
It’s important to enter this negotiation knowing what you could get from their competitors - what level of service and quality of product for the same price. Even if you have no intention of switching, knowing your options is an important bargaining chip.
The core of this tactic really comes down to a life principle we’ve all heard: you’ll never know what the possibilities are until you ask. Let the vendor know what your struggles are, and they will be open to working something out. That may mean signing a longer contract or, potentially, doing some kind of trade of service - so walk into the conversation with a plan, but also an open mind.
Rethink Your Process - And Methodology
A big part of the cost of project management comes down to what kind of methodology you’re using - and what tools you require to carry out the steps. For example, there’s a reason that Agile with Scrum is popular, and it’s not just because it has snappy sounding names; for many teams, it’s the least fuss with the fastest return.
That’s not to say that Agile with (or without) Scrum is necessarily the right fit. Call a meeting with your team, or have your managers call meetings with each of their teams, and discuss all together how project management can be improved. You’d be surprised just how eager your employees will be to offer suggestions.
It’s important that you, and anyone superior to you, keep in mind that when you cut your budget, if you also cut productivity, you have made no gains. While it may take some time and creativity to figure out how to work with a small amount of capital and produce the same quality and quantity, it can often be done. However, in order to succeed, managers and executives must be realistic about what can be expected.