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TSA's $1.4 Million Boondoggle to Choose Left or Right

May 24, 2016 9:00:00 AM

TSAs process improvementNobody is arguing that there isn't room for improvement in TSA's processes. Anyone who's waited in line for hours upon endless, wasteful, boring, frustrating hours to pass through security and make it to a flight on time knows that there has to be a better way. But the 'cure' the TSA blundered upon is inarguably not that better way.

News recently broke that the TSA had spent no less (okay, potentially a little less, but still way, way more than necessary) than $1.4 million on an app that, according to the Globally Nerdy website, is the kind of app that would "make a good 'iPad programming 101' assignment; a newbie developer should be able to complete it in a day, and someone with even a couple of months of experience should be able to complete it in an hour." One. Point. Four. Million. Dollars.

Radically More Affordable Alternatives to the $1.4 Million App

Yes, that's all it does. Go left. Go right. Go left ...

The app simply instructs TSA agents on how to wave a passenger to the left or to the right in a random fashion. Yes, that is all it does. It does not make flights safer, help TSA agents identify potential threats, or even help shorten those endless, infuriating, god-forsaken lines. What the app does could easily be done by even the most inexperienced, untrained agents.

Even if they really needed "an app for that," it could have been written by a class of community college computer science students, giving them an easy A and perhaps some street cred, and giving the TSA a totally free app that works as well as the one that costs, yep, $1.4 million. Think about that next April when you're signing over your hard-earned cash to the wasteful Uncle Samuel S. Spendypants.

People Don't Understand the Costs of Custom Software Development

The problem here really isn't just government waste, although that's an issue we all ought to spend a bit of time pondering between now and November. The issue is that few procurement agents really understand software and application development well enough to determine what's a reasonable price for custom software development. Is your problem already addressed by any number of applications available off the shelf? Is it something a single developer can crank out in a week? Or, is it something a team of developers could produce in a few months, delivered with a price tag containing three to four zeros, tops?

Even the most extravagant software development projects should come in at half a million or less. The same project should be deliverable for about $15,000 by the average development company. You can expect to pay $400 to $800 per hour for the highest priced custom software development company to undertake your assignment, or the average developers for $100 to $200 per hour.

Before accepting any offer or contract for development, shop around! If one developer tries to sell you a hand-shaking app for a million bucks, your next estimate will let you know they're off their rocker. Your would get at least three estimates to get your roof fixed for a couple of grand or to get your car repaired for a few hundred dollars. Put at least that much effort into spending tens of thousands on a custom software development project. Be advised: Unless you're asking them to program a space ship to fly you to Mars and back for your anniversary celebration dinner, no project should cost $1.4 million. You're welcome.

Needing some trusty software development of your own? Don't pay government prices for a business answer. After all, these are the jokers spending $25,000 on a hammer and $50,000 on a toilet bowl. Contact us at AndPlus for a fair, honest price and a bang-up job for your bucks.


Brian Geary

Written by Brian Geary

Brian is a true believer in the Agile process. He often assists the development process by performing the product owner role. In addition to his technical background, he is an experienced account manager with a background in design and marketing.

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