We all know when we’re finished with the product development cycle; it’s printed in a little box on the project schedule Gantt chart. The end of July… right there on the schedule, and it’s been there since the project inception. So what happens when you reach 31-July and your product still isn’t ready? Do you start changing the calendar to read 32-July, 33-July, and so on? That might work if you only need a few more days of wringing out the functional testing, or finish the user manual. But if you reach the 254th day of July, you’ve got a big problem.
In my project experience, there is always an end date. Some project stakeholder inevitably has picked an end date during early project discussions. Savvy project managers know that this date is not etched in stone at the beginning of the project. There are simply too many unknowns. There may be a window of opportunity for product release to get maximum market impact. But the initial end date begins as an estimate, and it can only be refined by good people who understand the customers, the product requirements, the product design techniques and a compliant safety lifecycle. The best that can be done is to set reasonable short term goals that are closely monitored. These first project goals are to define the project and see if it is truly feasible to complete the development within that window of opportunity. This needs to be a collaborative effort of marketing and engineering folks to determine the features needed to make a product saleable, with enough safety features to meet the required SIL, and how and when those features can be incorporated into a producible product.
After this is complete, a set of tradeoffs and priorities can be created to determine just what to make and when it can be done. There are always tradeoffs, because all the requirements can never be fulfilled with limited resources within the initial timeframe. But when project initiation is handled correctly, the team will know a lot more about the customer, the requirements, and the product composition options. The list of unknowns is reduced, or at least becomes more manageable. Upper management can then determine the best path forward for the business. Sometimes this means scrapping the project in lieu of others with higher benefits. But an informed decision is made that all the company resources can support. Once this pattern of project refinement and review is in place, you’ll have a better chance of meeting reasonable end dates.
Tagged as: John Yozallinas