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In an agile organization, how much (if at all) should developers be concerned about the budget allocated to a project?

My opinion is that they should not be particularly concerned, because:

  • a developer will cost X for a whole year regardless of the budget

  • features are chosen and prioritized by the business correctly (it is an assumption)

  • there will be normal issues (underestimated stories, dependencies not foreseen, etc.), but as long as the features were chosen and prioritized correctly, the most valuable of them will be delivered all the same

What do you think? Is it a realistic scenario or developers should actually care and be involved around budget issues?

4 Answers 4

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Your examples - things like the cost for a developer and ordering of the work - aren't necessarily things that the average developer should be concerned with while working on an effort. However, there are things that a developer needs to be aware of or choices that a developer makes that has influence on the budget.

A few counter-examples:

  • how architectural or design decisions impact the required resources or hardware/infrastructure to build, test, and deploy the software
  • the cost of infrastructure, especially in cases where the developer is developing custom in-house software or where the organization is a SaaS provider and needs to fund their own infrastructure
  • the cost of tools and licenses or the choice of vendors for tools and services

Developers may not have much control over the budget or the final say, but they do need to consider the impacts of their decisions on the budget or cost of an effort.

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    @PampaNello, this is your answer. Developers don't plan the budget, but technical decisions do cost money. This can affect the overall scope that can be afforded given a certain budget. This implies some coordination between development, project management, and the product owner. May 3, 2022 at 12:10
  • @GregBurghardt I agree, it make sense. I will wait to see if any other perspective arises May 3, 2022 at 12:18
  • in addition to Thoma's answer, note that "budget" is not solely measured in terms of money but in efforts. Efforts have one vector "time" which is translated into money. Developers must be aware of the context and the situation of the project. In times of "overrun", developers must understand that some sacrifices are required to make this overrun as small as possible. Also in the opposite scenario. In a recently started green field project, MVPs are more valuable than hyper-concreted and sophisticated implementations.
    – Laiv
    Jun 13, 2022 at 13:48
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a developer will cost X for a whole year regardless of the budget

Somewhat brutally, this isn't true. If there isn't productive work for a developer to do (in economic terms, something which makes at least normal profit), I make them redundant and they don't cost X any more.

In a larger company, there may well be another project the developer can move to.

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The level of awareness a developer has around budget depends on the size of the company and the company budget.

Larger companies with more money can afford to hire well-trained Agile project managers and technical architects, who work with stakeholders and take budget into consideration when defining project requirements/sprint goals and making architectural/design/project planning decisions. This is all with the aim that developers focus on development and nothing else.

However, in smaller companies with less money to spend and less people, developers may also do a bit of project management and architectural design and there may be more freedom for them to make decisions around architecture/design/project planning. Therefore, budget is a bigger consideration here.

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  • It's also worth mentioning that: 'A full two-thirds of enterprise IT projects run over budget by as much as 100 percent. Only a quarter manage to reach release within 25 percent of their original budget' Source so SWEs don't seem particular adept at budget planning but this is just a sidenote.
    – 629060311
    Jun 13, 2022 at 13:40
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The more funded time a programmer devotes to financial planning, the less funded time he or she may devote to programming. If there is a team leader or supervisor above you, it's his or her responsibility. Don't worry about it. The more you produce the results you were hired to produce, the more likely you will be seen as a good investment. So ignore everyone else's responsibilities and excel at your own.

If work dries up (there are no current requirements outstanding), your employer needs to factor into the equation the potential time and dollars lost to a recruitment process if they fire you. Also they need to factor into it the corporate knowledge lost, if you're the guy who knows how everything works. It may be a saving of money to keep you on the payroll even if you're not currently doing any work. We don't pay firefighters to be fighting fires 24/7. We pay them 24/7 just in case a fire happens.

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