Delivery date is another source of conflict between business and tech

Why we need a delivery date

  • Some events don’t change and if the product or feature we are working on is supposed to be used prior to this event, it is very important it is up and running by then. For instance, if we are working on some new features that will improve user e-commerce shopping experience, it is important that it is available a few weeks prior to the Christmas shopping season and, ideally, prior to the Black Friday shopping season.
  • There are some regulatory dates that also don’t change. Some examples are IRS tax filing deadline, new invoice layout determined by the government, etc.
  • Company events. For instance, suppose your company has an annual conference for its customers every October which is a perfect date for announcing new releases and new features. Ideally, the product development team should work to deliver the product or feature prior to this date.
  • Marketing campaigns also have set dates to start. If this is a campaign to announce a product or a feature, we definitely need this product or feature ready prior to the campaign launch date.

Why it is so difficult to set a delivery date

  • The product development team is new or has new members so the product development capacity is still unclear. The team needs to work together for some time in order to better understand its pace. It’s the Tuckman’s stages of team evolution that I mentioned in the article on team structure. And there can be changes in the team also, like people leaving to join other teams or people changing functions. This can also impact the ability to set a delivery date, since the team does not know its product development capacity, and this capacity will change over time as people on the team get to know each other and how to work together.
  • The bigger the product or feature to be delivered, the more difficult it is to estimate a delivery date. The team may be able to break down the feature or product into many small chunks that can be easier to estimate a delivery date, which could be a few days or weeks. The smaller the thing that needs to be developed, the easier it is to be more accurate in estimating its delivery date. The issue here is that by breaking down the product or feature into smaller chunks we can better predict what’s closer to be delivered, but things that are more distant are harder to predict a delivery date.
  • Changes in scope are another source of delay and uncertainty on delivery dates. If the scope is increased or, even worse, unrelated work gets higher priority, the original delivery will need to be changed.
  • Technical debt can be another source of delays, especially if it's unknown or undocumented technical debt. When we encounter a technical debt that prevents us to deliver a feature or a product, we may need to spend extra time to fix that specific technical debt, which will certainly generate delays in the delivery date.

So, what should we do?

Summing up

  • The delivery date is another source of conflict between business people and the product development team. On one side, business people are constantly asking for a delivery date for a product or a feature and there are very good reasons to need a delivery date defined. On the other side, product development is a very complex matter and the team has many reasons why setting a delivery date is so difficult.
  • To address this conflict, the first step is to understand that business people and the product development team are parts of the same team and, as such, must have the same objectives, achieving the company goals while solving a problem for its users. For this reason, they should work together to achieve these objectives.
  • The second step is to understand that behind every product or feature there’s a result expectation. So, when we discuss a product or feature delivery date, we are actually thinking about when we will benefit from the expected results that this product or feature is set to generate.

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Digital product development advisor, coach, and board member. Also an open water swimmer and ukulelist.

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Joca Torres

Joca Torres

Digital product development advisor, coach, and board member. Also an open water swimmer and ukulelist.

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