Fixed and unflexible: an argument for do and charge in custom development

When you’re charged for something per hour, it’s likely you’ll want to see it done in front of you. 

The time it takes for your car to be repaired, your taxes to be looked at, and your child to be tutored, all make sense to be billed for the hours in which they take to be completed. But what about long-spanning jobs that you can’t be entirely present for? When undertaking such projects, the realities of time and place constrain your involvement. 

Anyone who wishes to have their dream home come to life will understand this dilemma well. New home-buyers will also be familiar with the method in which building contractors charge for their expertise - hint: it involves a lump of money upfront. 

Let’s set aside the fact that a lot of contingency costs emerge after you’ve made the first of a number of financial commitments to the project. Typically, when you want something built for you, the physical stuff is what you as a customer are focusing on. Naturally, this perception of project pricing isn’t just reserved for the products built from brick and mortar. Cutting edge technology development, like a designer home project, is also commonly viewed entirely as the physical outcome with the design behind it overlooked. 

For customers ready to invest in electronic development for their product, the fixed price project model is familiar and provides the customer with a general peace-of-mind that everything will look and act the way they envisioned from the get-go. Although you mightn’t have the insight into where your costs are assigned like you would with your hourly accountant, in theory, a fixed price is the ideal way for you, your savings, and your product’s concept to be put to correct use, right? 

Perhaps. It depends on the product that you’re envisioning, and more importantly, the time you’re willing to wait in having your product idea become a commercial reality. How long can this period of time take within the product development waiting room? For some customers who get there via the fixed price model, far too long for far too little product outcome. 

Don’t let your product be the best thing since sliced bread. Why? Unbeknownst to many, bread slicers only began to be manufactured and put into  public use during the late 1920’s . Some of the greatest innovations come to us later than they should.

Don’t let your product be the best thing since sliced bread. Why? Unbeknownst to many, bread slicers only began to be manufactured and put into public use during the late 1920’s. Some of the greatest innovations come to us later than they should.

Although you’d think entering your project with the bank on the table and a series of lengthy agreement forms signed and sealed would ensure everything runs on time and on budget, more often than not, this is not true to the realities of product development. No matter how much money is committed to a project, the omnipresent tendency for scope creep (or the changes and uncontrolled growth in a project’s scope) is an impact upon a project’s lifecycle that must be carefully managed. 

So how can a customer have their product idea not only realised within budget but developed in a way to innovate within the market? 

It’s a loaded question with a bit of a loaded answer really. 

What we suggest for our customers is to not tie themselves too tightly to too broad a project scope. In our introductory consultations, we are often endeavouring to reduce our clients’ scope where appropriate in order to cultivate a more fit for purpose result. It’s all about addressing the key tasks that need to be tackled first and foremost whilst factoring in some wriggle room for when the project requires some necessary tweaking. Sometimes, this tweaking involves a quick response to the unforeseen things that can go wrong across a development project. More commonly however, adjustments need to be made when things are going right for the project at hand. 

Time and time again, history has shown us that some of the greatest moments in innovation often emerge from the unexpected. The microwaves, pacemakers, superglues and wifis of the world were all experiments initially perceived as failures. It took the right creative outlook to reinterpret those experimentations as unforeseen future solutions. This is one of the many qualities of engineering that keep us so passionate about what we do. Opportunities to alter features in a client’s original product design can open new doors for the project; doors that can often serve as informed short-cuts towards a more nimble development for the project overall. 

Who knows where certain projects could go with a little bit of professional guidance and the necessary tweaking across the development process?

Who knows where certain projects could go with a little bit of professional guidance and the necessary tweaking across the development process?

When we commence work on a client’s project, we keep this wiggle-room approach at the back of our minds.

Known in the business of consultancy as the ‘do and charge’ approach, by billing per day rather than per project, our customers are empowered to more closely involve themselves in their product’s development process. Risk is shared and trust is crucial. To foster this relationship of trust, we prioritise consistent and transparent communication. One unique measure we take to further ensure this is by offering to open our billing books to a selection of our trusted project clients. Not only does this give our clients the confidence that we’re not over-charging, this also invites the client to view what is available to them, and if and when change needs to be made within the project.

Trust, communicate, wiggle, and innovate. These are the four features that are central in keeping the hearts healthily beating in our clients’ project lifecycles. 

From our years of experience in consultancy, we perceive a model of billing per project to be putting the majority of power in the consultant's hands. Through this model, the consultant is incentivised to either find short-cuts that benefit them or work towards long-cuts that force variation. 

Rather than racing to the product finish line, we care about getting things done the right way and to the pace of what the customer see’s fit for the project. 

In our eyes, to allow people to turn their ideas into products, we need to have them at the centre of the development process. Although this might be an unsustainable business model for many - smart, calculated risks are what puts the fire in our bellies. For us, the great - often unknown - is a road worth travelling in order to achieve an exceptional service experience for our customers. 

Where engineers are more than the sum of their parts, customers are more than the money in their pockets.

They’re the problem-providers for our custom technology solutions. Marrying the two is how real innovation can come into being. 

Do you want to make a real contribution to your product’s development? Are you interested in investing in a development service that’s more than just the sum of its parts? 

Our engineering and technology specialists want to hear from you.

Drop us a line today.