Is Estimating the Cost of a Mobile Application Development

really so Easy?



By Shuchi Sethi

SKEMA Business School

Paris, France



The traditional information systems are undergoing a rapid transformation as per the environmental needs, and undergoing an adaptation process. But many mobile application development projects are failing because of inaccurate cost estimation. The paper addresses the problems of the different methods of cost estimation that can be used for mobile application development as well as which method gives the most efficient and accurate cost estimate. Different methods give different results basis the attributes and the method which abides by the maximum attributes gives the most accurate cost estimation. The following methods were used in the research namely Expert Judgement (Delphi technique), COCOMO II, Estimation by Analogy, Top-Down Approach and Bottom-Up Approach. However, a single method isn’t sufficient to solve the purpose, hence, the best method to follow is by combining two or more alternatives which would give us a HYBRID method, which has also been proven with the help of the Additive Weightage MADM Technique.

Cost estimation is a tedious task and each method has its own pros and cons, and satisfies a different criterion depending on the requirement of the mobile application which is being worked on. Therefore, we finally can conclude that no one single method can satisfy all the project’s requirements and give an accurate cost estimation.

Keywords: Cost Estimation, Mobile application development, Software cost Estimation, time estimation, Delphi technique, IT project, Project success, COCOMO II model, MADM methodology


Ever wondered the overshooting costs of projects in the world of today, especially in the field of IT. As per an article in Harvard Business Review, “it was revealed that, one in six IT projects has a cost overrun of 200%,” which is a quite high rate of failure for estimation.

Cost estimate is quantitative assessment of forecasting cost and analysis of the work required by the design documents. Cost estimation is used for evaluating individual component values and thereby estimates the total value of the project. It is a continuous process which is carried out throughout the project’s life starting from planning stage.

The cost estimation of a mobile application development starts with the reviewing of concepts with designers and developers, and identifying the size of the app. Then the time schedule is forecasted which is needed for design, development and QA. These steps are bifurcated as Design Estimate, Development Estimate and QA, Testing and Debugging Estimate. On the basis of these steps, Project Cost is estimated.

The cost of developing a mobile application is based on many factors like complexity, features and the platform. Of this, the most important factor which contributes to accurate cost estimation is the complexity of the app. As a general thumb rule, the cost of building a mobile app usually moves up the scale the more robust and complex it is. Another factor which contributes to the cost estimation is the platform, for which the mobile application is being developed for. The Android version of the app usually costs more than the iOS version. Also, the features added to the app, adds more cost.

  1. Problem Definition

Cost estimation is considered to be one of the most challenging tasks in project management. It depends on accurate effort estimation and time estimation for development of mobile application development projects. The development of a mobile application process includes size of the mobile app, effort estimation, project schedule, and overall cost estimation of the project.

There are many methods for estimating the cost of a mobile app project, but only few gives the accurate results. Inaccurate cost estimation is one of the major reasons of a project’s failure.

There are adverse consequences of inaccurate Cost Estimation techniques:

  1. Profitability- Inaccurate cost estimation will impact the profitability of the project. If cost is overestimated or underestimated, profit will be understated or overstated respectively.
  2. Inefficient Distribution of Resources- An inaccurate allocation of resources also results in inaccurate estimation of cost which results in over or under utilization of resources affecting the productivity of the project.
  3. Poor Decision Making- Inaccuracy in cost estimation causes inaccurate financial information which also effects in making poor decision-making processes which affects the projects. These incorrect figures may result in unnecessary or detrimental effects on the project and the organization, ultimately affecting the profitability.

In this context, it can be summarized that the research is addressing the problem of:

  1. What different methods can be used to do mobile app development cost estimation?
  2. Which method gives the most efficient and accurate cost estimate?


To read entire paper, click here


Editor’s note: Student papers are authored by graduate or undergraduate students based on coursework at accredited universities or training programs.  This paper was prepared as a deliverable for the course “International Contract Management” facilitated by Dr Paul D. Giammalvo of PT Mitratata Citragraha, Jakarta, Indonesia as an Adjunct Professor under contract to SKEMA Business School for the program Master of Science in Project and Programme Management and Business Development.  http://www.skema.edu/programmes/masters-of-science. For more information on this global program (Lille and Paris in France; Belo Horizonte in Brazil), contact Dr Paul Gardiner, Global Programme Director [email protected].

How to cite this paper: Sethi, S. (2018). Is Estimating the Cost of a Mobile Application Development really so Easy?, PM World Journal, Vol. VII, Issue XII (December).  Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/pmwj77-Dec2018-Sethi-estimating-the-cost-of-mobile-app-development.pdf

About the Author

Shuchi Sethi

Delhi, India



Shuchi Sethi, student of SKEMA Business School, France is pursuing “Masters in Project and Programme Management and Business Development”. She is certified in AGILEPM Foundation, PRINCE2 Foundation, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, CAPM and ISTQB- Foundation Level. She originates from Delhi, India where she studied B. Tech (Electronics and Communication) from Banasthali University. She has an experience of over 5 years working as Sr. Test Engineer at HCL Technologies. You can contact her on her email at [email protected], and also on LinkedIn at 60a32430.