When is it Okay to Miss an IT Project Deadline?

Deadlines are an important aspect of project management. But what happens when a project remains incomplete by the deadline? Will the world end? Worse, will you lose your job?

Not to worry, says Shay Chandel, founder and CEO of Softsolutions, an Agile software training and development company. He points out that under certain circumstances it is perfectly acceptable to miss a project deadline. “IT projects are notorious for having strict timelines,” Chandel explains. “Besides the complexity of modern IT projects, this means slippage is a common occurrence.”

Guillermo Perez, CEO of custom software development company Octobot, believes it’s important to prioritize product-market fit rather than trying to meet a deadline. “[Do] Cautions not to sacrifice product quality to meet deadline.

Another justifiable reason for missing a deadline is when project requirements change drastically during development, resulting in a complete redesign of the product. “That could mean eliminating huge pieces of code altogether,” says John Lee, chief technology officer at lending firm Fig Lance. “Sometimes new work takes much longer than initially anticipated, but getting the job done right is much more important than getting the wrong job done on time,” he says.

Chandel agrees. “For me, it is not a matter of the deadline per se, [but] What is at stake,” he says. “Although we in IT are not traditionally considered great communicators, we should not let that stop us from understanding the context in depth and talking to stakeholders about deadlines that could be delayed and by how much.”

Breaking the bad news

When the deadline is about to be missed, the reason for the delay must be fully explained to key stakeholders, Lee says. “Explain what the outcome of the changes will be, how they will directly affect revenue, and a clear view of the new schedule.”

Project management is the art of managing trade-offs. “The primary and most obvious trade-offs are scope, schedule, and cost, with quality and risks close at hand,” says Alan Zucker, founding president of business and IT consulting firm Project Management Essentials. “Delivering the project on time, but with unacceptable quality or risk, does not work.”

Chandel states that honesty is really the best policy. We hide behind acronyms and rhetoric to hide the reality of the real problem that is causing [the] The deadline is delayed,” he says. “This means doing the work when it comes…in consultation with stakeholders, and keeping them abreast of gains and losses, big or small, so that there is no surprise when things become unbearable.”

Project risk reporting should be an ongoing and regular process. “When concerns are raised early on, there is time to discuss options and contingency plans,” Zucker notes. “Bad news is not like good wine: It doesn’t get better with age.”

When a project deadline seems unavoidable, the project manager must inform management and key stakeholders immediately. “The problem should be clearly articulated, and options should be presented,” Zucker says. “Even unpopular options, such as abandoning the project, should be considered.”

Unfortunately, there are many examples of products that were quickly launched into the market and contain known risks and defects that have resulted in unnecessary injury or death. “Often, executives and project managers focused on time rather than quality constraints,” Zucker notes.

move forward

When evaluating an overdue project and calculating a new deadline, Zucker says, it’s important to step back and review the project’s goals. The goal should describe the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the project.

If a late project requires a major overhaul, redevelopment is recommended before a new schedule is set. Lee advises “Build a list of necessary tasks, a time estimate for each, and from there you can find the total expected time required to complete the work”. “Project timeline software can help you keep your estimates organized for a more accurate projection on time.”

Chandel notes that there are three dimensions to project success: time, scope, and resources. Often, the IT department is presented with a deadline, scope, and resource with minimal, or no, consultation with IT leaders on whether the desired goals are reasonable. Shandil believes that this practice is a response to the mistrust that exists between IT and many co-workers resulting from the failure of previous commitments. “Today’s business leaders continue to view information technology as a financial hole,” he says.

Perez recommends making full use of agile development methodologies. “The current world context creates rapid changes in every project environment, and it is important to take advantage of Agile methodologies to quickly adapt to these changes.” Perez recommends using 1-2 weeks of sprints to reduce the gap between current development and any necessary changes, “Get frequent communication with stakeholders [to] Reduce project implementation risks,” he adds.

What to read next:

The Art of Credit Sharing for a Successful IT Project

When to pull the plug on a failed IT project

Ways to prevent IT projects from sinking


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