Getting Rid of Rolling Deadlines

Samir Maharjan
Scrum Master

Whenever clients come to us with a new project they’re always conscious of a few factors. Usually, at the top of the list, are budget and time. This is a reasonable pair of priorities and we’re a team who is experienced in delivering on the requirements of our customers. Our delivery success is built on a few core concepts that help to align our customers and our developers so that everything we work on builds what the customer needs.

Delays are possible in any project but the amount of time we dedicate to planning has a direct impact on how well we cope with delays and get projects back on track so that the end result is still achieved at the right time and at the right price.

The Pressures of Development​

As with any business, the pressure to deliver comes straight from the client, and managing that pressure is a big part of being a Scrum Master. If a client believes that a project will be released in 5 sprints from our initial plans but actually with a variety of rich features on top of the basic platform it’ll be more like 10 sprints then we need to analyze the next step.

Reasonably so, the word ‘delay’ is like a red rag to a bull for customers. They always expect a project completed on time and if we aren’t able to do that then they will lose confidence in us. Because of this, we will never just tell a client no.

Let’s take that quick example of a 5 sprint project again. The customer wants features that will make the project 10 sprints but they still want it in 5. We must be agile in our thinking and understand what we can accomplish in those 5 sprints that most closely aligns with the customer’s vision.

Perhaps we provide a product that can immediately go to market and then advise that the rich features can be added during updates. It’s like manufacturing a functional car rather than a luxury one. This means the customer can immediately get value from the release but also have a scope for development in the future.

Mindset Is Everything​

“The first thing to make sure of is that the team is aware of what agile actually means and how to have an agile mindset within the team and the project. Developers will have their own experiences with different methodologies and if they all work to their own experiences and not a single, joined-up system, then it will create havoc during development.”
Samir Maharjan
Scrum Master, Proshore

Dealing with pressure in a team starts with changing the mindset of the people in it. The best way to think of deadlines is from a proactive perspective. Rather than laying the pressure on a team with a critical deadline, we think in an agile way. We think about things like “how can we achieve that?” and “could this work?”. Rather than having to face off with a deadline, we shift the focus to the action we can take to achieve it.

That’s also helped by having a well-drawn-up plan showing which developers are going to tackle which tasks and what the time frames are for those activities. The plan gives the team clarity over what they’re doing and they’re never spending time finding out what to do next. 

It’s about evolving a mindset around what needs to be completed. We don’t apply pressure by talking about deadlines, we simply see the opportunity to do it right, efficiently, and all while keeping the customer happy.

Goals​

A big part of keeping a team on top of a project and its deadlines is goal setting. As part of scrum, we have a standup meeting each day, where we talk about personal goals and sprint goals. These goals keep everyone aligned and keyed in on what the rest of the team is doing. As they see progress on each part of development they understand what their part is and that together we will complete the sprint in time.

We discuss these goals and how we are going to achieve them, again it’s all about the mindset and just focusing on what is achievable and how we can do it. If there are roadblocks or delays we simply ask “how can we get past them?”

Time Allowances​

“When looking at a sprint we have to understand our people’s capacity. Sure I could block out 8 hours every day but being realistic, people cannot just work flat out for 8 hours, day in and day out. I take that into account when I put together the sprints and build in buffer time to let our developers test, take breaks, and discuss things with the rest of the team.”
Samir Maharjan
Scrum Master, Proshore

A huge part that unfortunately some team leaders miss is the welfare of the developers doing the work. If people are overworked and tired they’re going to produce bad products at a slower rate. Because of that, a big focus for always delivering on a customer’s needs is ensuring the people tasked with that delivery have enough time allocated to everything they do.

When we plan sprints we always take into account that an 8-hour day isn’t really an 8-hour day. We plan in space to have team meetings, tests, take breaks, and process customer feedback and all that keep the developers fresh. The rest they get doesn’t always even have to be a complete stop, it just needs to be a break from what they are focused on. The time away from that task – even if it’s just a half-hour – can give them time to process what they’ve been doing and return to it with more energy.

Client Comms​

“Making client communication as immediate as possible is a huge part of dealing with roadblocks. A week's delay in communicating a problem can completely undermine the customer's confidence in you.
Samir Maharjan
Scrum Master, Proshore

The moment a roadblock appears that cannot be overcome, we contact the client. That approach, that transparency, goes a long way in developing trust between the client and ourselves as well as making the development process more streamlined.

One of our clients is a large data analysis company and they have a number of separate teams so communication can be a challenge. Based on their timeline and budget there was a gap between what they wanted and what could be achieved, so we have to create common ground. Based on their budget we planned for 2 full-time developers and then looked at what those developers could achieve and got that as close to their requirements as possible. Our planning makes our style of honest communication possible.

Making client communication as immediate as possible is a huge thing that some developers don’t do. Customers need to know that we take their issues seriously and that our process and tools can get the project back on track but only with input from them.

With the right mindset and goals in a team, combined with a great plan and transparent communication which focuses on building long-term relationships with customers, Proshore can handle any deadline.

Want to find out how Proshore could be your best developer? Talk to us today.

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