4 Reasons You’re Missing Product Deadlines
Even with solid planning at project kick-off, experienced project teams with the necessary talent, and seemingly reasonable launch goals, many products still miss delivery deadlines. While this is a reality that’s more common than teams and stakeholders would like, there are steps that can effectively mitigate time risk in product development and delivery.
This post will identify common reasons for missed deadlines and the measures that can be implemented to minimize the risk of going over time.
1. Scope Creep
Scope creep is pervasive in software development and difficult to manage because as the name suggests, it creeps up on you. Additional requests and added features strain resources and can affect the focus of the product vision, and without the proper controls can severely affect project success.
In some cases, scope creep can be curtailed by strong project management and product ownership. Do new feature requests align with the product vision? Do the proposed changes add value to the end user? Are they critical or nice to have? Clearly defining product goals and identifying success factors can help ensure that change requests and added features that aren’t aligned to objectives don’t threaten timelines.
That said, the most effective way to manage scope creep consistently (at least at it applies to meeting deadlines) is to follow a process that assumes and allows for change, which brings us to the next major time risk.
2. Poor Process
We talk a lot about the importance of process, and for good reason; poor process results in a myriad of project issues, including missed deadlines. Process shortcomings manifest in different ways, but the results are consistent – increased risk of project failure. Failing to follow agile principles and not allowing flexibility in your process means your team can’t adapt quickly. If you can’t adapt quickly, you lose project velocity, and target deadlines are missed.
Agile expert Kevin Aguanno touches on this, stating that for many projects, requirements do (and probably should) change; the key to managing changes is how you react to them. In agile, changes are assessed throughout the project, with a natural break built-in before each iteration. Practices like rolling wave planning allow you to remain flexible and adaptable, meaning changes don’t interrupt project velocity.
3. The “Perfection Complex”
Venture capitalist Mark Suster sums it up best:
“We live in an era of more product-dominant companies where a perfection complex for features and design delay business realities of shipping products.”
His point is not that you should ship inferior products; rather, he is pointing out that an obsession with total perfection eliminates the ability to ship early and deliver often. The perfection complex results in unnecessary delays that affect the ability to ship within deadlines.
It’s much more valuable to go to market quickly with a minimum viable product, gather user feedback, and deliver iteratively to continually improve your product and provide a better experience for your users. This means clearly defining the requirements for an MVP and prioritizing features and functionality accordingly.
4. Improper Capacity Planning
Capacity planning is a central component of project management. If you don’t have a consistent and accurate method to plan team capacity, you can’t properly predict what your team is able to accomplish within a given timeframe; therefore, it’s near impossible to meet deadlines.
There are a variety of ways to plan capacity. At Clearbridge, we employ an agile squad model which allows us to identify project velocity. Each squad has a maximum capacity that is measured in story points, and each sprint is broken down by the amount of story points necessary to achieve the end-of-sprint deliverable. As a result, we are able to predict velocity with a high degree of accuracy and mitigate time risks.
“If you don’t have a consistent and accurate method to plan team capacity, you can’t properly predict what your team is able to accomplish within a given timeframe”
The Common Denominator = Process
Assuming that a) the project didn’t begin with unreasonable deadlines and b) the project team has the adequate talent in place to deliver, blockers to shipping on time can be greatly reduced – if not eliminated – by having the right development process. In particular, a process that encompasses:
- Rapid and frequent delivery
- Change management controls
- Formalized capacity planning
This allows for adaptability to changing needs and requirements without interrupting progress or harming project velocity.