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Time-and-Materials vs Fixed Price: Which is the best option for your project?

With the evolution of the global economy, new requirements emerge, as do new conceptions to explain those needs. Initially, outsourcing agreements were formed on a fixed fee basis, but there is now another widely utilized business model: time-and-material. Choosing the proper price contract can be a difficult task since it must meet your company's operational procedures, contracted objectives, and goals, as well as general vendor expenditures.

These are the most prevalent and time-tested software development pricing models; nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that today's businesses also use hybrids and combinations. In this post, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of time and materials contracts versus fixed price contracts, as well as their practical use for software projects.

The fundamentals of fixed pricing and time and materials

Fixed Pricing

A fixed-price agreement is a one-time payment contract in which a service provider is responsible for executing the project within the agreed-upon budget. It can be a good option when the needs, specifications, and rates are very predictable; otherwise, the cost will be anything but consistent. To secure suitable end outcomes, a customer should be able to convey their clear vision of the product to engineers.

When to use a fixed price contract:

- Specific criteria and timelines;

- Limited or fixed budget;

- MVPs;

- Small tasks have a limited scope of work.

Time And Material (T&M)

A time and material (T&M) contract are entirely different. It assumes invoicing clients for real job scope based on hourly labor rates. Customers are charged for the number of hours worked on a certain job, plus material expenses. The key advantage of the T&M model is its flexibility and ability to change criteria, alter directions, substitute features, and involve users in order to acquire the exact result. 

Because of the flexibility of the time and materials pricing model, companies have a vital influence on the success of software development. In other words, organizations may modify their needs and partners can fulfill those activities in response to those changes. This enables clients to keep track of the progress and product quality at each completed step of their requirements.

When to use the T&M price contract:

- Long-term initiatives with changing needs;

- The project scope is not yet wholly defined; 

- You want the freedom to change the scope or the workload.

Advantages and drawbacks of a time and material contract vs a fixed pricing agreement:

Time And Material benefits:

- Following project completion, unit-price contracts allow firms to adjust the volume of work, update materials or designs, move the focus, or change features.

- One of the most important aspects of bigger projects is the dynamic work scope. There may be a basic purpose that should be attained, but understanding how it will be accomplished is not critical. For startups and mid-sized businesses, it is often preferable to make decisions while developing a strategy and constructing specialized software. The Agile technique is based on this idea.

- By avoiding the fixed-price bidding procedure, you may save time and get started right away. Furthermore, blended rates enable you to observe how much time the team devotes to each feature and commit to it, motivating it to work more effectively.


- The biggest downside of a T&M contract is the lack of budgetary control. The overall cost may exceed the budgeted amount.

- Deep participation from you is essential to ensure that the team delivers on the authorized scope and within the appropriate number of hours.

A Fixed Price benefits:

- Predictability is the primary goal of each entrepreneur in the company. Company strategy often necessitates the transfer of precise timelines and statistics to the budget. Exact statistics may be obtained by planning spending for 1-3 months in advance. 

- There will be no surprises with established criteria, a clear budget, and pre-arranged timeframes. Interaction between project managers and contractors on a regular basis assures scope compliance and maintains margins.

- Payments to service providers are often dependent on a percentage of work completed. Because expectations are obvious and predictable, such a process needs little input.


- The main disadvantage of a fixed-fee agreement is its lack of flexibility. As a client, you are accountable for any emergent modifications that you initiated or that exceed the vendor's competence.

- Less responsibility has both advantages and disadvantages, depending on the circumstances. Regular reporting and discussions between the client and the team are not part of such a strategy. Because all of the management is done by team members, you don't need to set aside time for serious project engagement. However, this does not imply that you will be unaware of the workflow.

To Sum Up

Time & Material: This approach is suited for clients with short-term requirements or a limited area of activity. Even though it is best suited for long-term projects, customers that want agile project execution and the ability to react to changing processes can use it to bring their product or service up to market speed. At the same time, the product owner must grasp the different procedures and stages of the project in order to effectively manage and assure optimum performance. Market changes have both good and bad effects on how to make decisions and estimate productivity. As a result, companies should monitor and maintain track of work and the market in order to contribute to the project's success.

Fixed Price: The fixed pricing model is characterized as a method for organizations to reduce the risks associated with fluctuating costs. Instead, this approach allows businesses to focus on long-term projects independent of time or cost, while their partner may advise and deliver the finest end-to-end service and accurate budget. The fixed pricing model, on the other hand, has some unique criteria for both sides. As a result, both parties must speak and negotiate before signing the contract in order to estimate all that is required.

Both of the aforementioned models offer benefits and disadvantages that will suit the requirements and aspirations of any unique firm. Choose your business's direction, goals, and vision intelligently. Always consider the target and the project before deciding on a technique and signing a contract. More price models may be found in our blog post "The four popular outsourcing pricing models that businesses need to know".

P/s: any confusion about the pricing models, please contact us here or via email at for more information.

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