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Defining Date Commitments

"How exactly do you build the duration of the project initiative and the placement of the milestone events? This can be a source of intense arguments on a project team, and the perspective can vary depending on who is involved in the negotiations."

"Consider these perspective. The business sponsor and the business owners want the solution right away (because yesterday is impossible) or no later than a specific date. The intermediate details will not be as important."

"The development teams on the other hand will be reluctant to provide a final answer without understanding all the details and will want to work bottom up in producing their timeline. The ultimate deadline will be dependent on these parts. Project managers will take a view somewhere in between, recognizing the need for speed, while being sensitive to the details."

"This leads to several high-level approaches for building dates into the project or rescue plan: a date-driven approach, a resource-driven approach, or a combined approach."

Date-Driven Approach

"Date-driven approaches tend to be favored by business users and sponsors. This approach assumes that the delivery date of the project is the key driver and cannot be moved. The team needs to ask the question, 'What needs to be done to meet this date?' This could, for example, require an increase in resources, more funding, or a reduction in functionality."

"With a pre-established end date, you can begin to work backward using a methodology as a guide. As this is a project rescue, you presumably have completed most of the planning and requirements gathering. How much more time is required for the architecture and design development? Who needs to be involved? How tight can you make this timeframe?"

"Now move to the next set of activities and lay them out as well - at a high level. Leave three weeks to test and accept, four weeks if a lot of financial transactions are involved. You should now have a sense of how the overall plan is unfolding. If the times are too tight, you need to get the project sponsor's support in reducing the requirements or getting more resources."

"The manager's expertise needs to be used to ensure that the remedy does not create additional problems on the project. Adding an unskilled developer in an offshore location is not going to help, and may be more problematic. Perhaps a higher cost local resource is a better answer?"

"Something will need to give to meet tight, nonmovable deadlines. We examine this in further detail when we talk about consensus building in the next part."

Resource-Driven Approach

"This approach is generally favored by development teams because it appears to be more reasonable from a detailed perspective. Because it takes so much time to do something well, the idea is to build the detailed activity and task list and consult with the people doing the work to determine how long the project is going to take to complete."

"The project completion date is based on a bottom-up approach that is a sum of all the individual pieces. Unfortunately, this may not correspond to a date that the business requires or needs. What happens if the client is launching a product in two months with a multimillion dollar marketing campaign. This bottom-up approach is not going to be acceptable to those paying the bills."

"To make the dates more acceptable, you could try and affect the very same variables that are available to the date-driven approach. This could involve adding resources in some places, while removing functionality in others. The improvement may be useful, but at some point, the plan that the current resources dictate may not be sufficient to meet the business objectives. At this point, the rescue manager needs to drive the following questions:
  • What do we need to do to satisfy the prioritized business requirements?
  • What other investments do we need?
  • What can be taken off the table?
  • What can be done after the initial delivery?
Only the answers and support for these questions will determine what will ultimately be delivered."

Combined Approach

"The combined approach is perhaps the most reasonable. Begin by placing the major goalposts in place and then use a bottom-up approach to fill in the details. Attention can be focused in the areas that are not fitting together properly."