Blog Culture

Business Perspective: Getting Serious About Deadlines

Joe Ryan

  • Reading Time  Min Read
  • Publish Date March 8, 2016

We are in the business of deadlines

As a custom software development firm, our business model and culture relies entirely on the efficient use and outcome of time – and meeting deadlines. Billable hours, profitability, productivity, quality, employee morale — and most importantly customer satisfaction are all inextricably tied to and how we as an organization manage time.

We are constantly seeking ways to speed up our ability to turn around and ship products and enhancements. We’ve found that tightening of deadlines allows us to ship more frequently, which in turn enables the team to learn through validated customer feedback. And while setting shorter deadlines is valuable for productivity here are some additional things to consider:

Process matters:

It’s not just about shortening deadlines. It’s about having a clear process around deadlines. Making them meaningful for both our development/design team – and the client. Clarity of purpose and what is expected at each mandatory deadline delivery milestone “sprint”. For example, we set aggressive, hard-dates for a client product demo. Our team understand exactly what is expected. It’s part of their routine. Deadlines force the development teams to push aside “fluff” and focus on value: the most important/impressive feature-set. It must stand-up to meet (and ideally exceed) client expectations.

Avoiding a culture of “fake deadlines”:

The practice of setting soft-deadlines is commonplace in our industry, yet an approach that we adamantly disagree with. Setting "fake deadlines" as a tactic to trick teams into faster turnarounds is disingenuous and smart employees will eventually lose trust in their deadline setting management – And so, unfortunately will the client. Instead, creating and adhering to a strict process that is clear from day one to all team members is mission critical and helps us to operate with tight deadlines and accountability.

Knowing when to flex:

We believe that there will be scenarios or circumstances where some unforeseen variable presents itself. These situations are a reality in the software development world – and in life. Our philosophy is to manage these situations as exceptions to the rule. We make every attempt to keep the deadline and look at alternatives such as adjusting the scope or deliverable, provided it doesn’t impact the end product quality.

Co-creation of deadlines is critical:

The team and stakeholders (in our case the client) benefit from being on-board and aware of the timeline, milestones and expectations at each stage of the product development process. Forcing a tight deadline on employees with no input is demotivating, (can be perceived as an unrealistic work demand). Further no shared buy-in can confuse clients, and negatively impact the quality of product/deliverable. It’s worth the time and effort in getting everyone invested in the deadlines upfront.

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