Search Posts on Binpipe Blog

Delivering Results Under Tight Deadlines

"Quality, Budget, or Time - pick any two!"

That is the rule of thumb when it comes to delivering projects in the Software Engineering world.

In a real world no one likes that. No sane project manager would compromise on quality, go over-budget, or miss a deadline!

As a part of Engineering at STARZPLAY we are often required to deliver results under tight deadlines. Recently we had to pull through a project under extremely unreal deadlines for something that would ideally have taken at least 3X the given time. Now, how did we manage to maintain quality, within budget, and ensure we meet our deadline? 

Here are some of my takeaways from the experience of being a part of this project-

- Parallelism & Sequence:
Having clear expectations is the basic necessity for planning well. And once the plan is on the table, the most important factor for rapid delivery is finding out the tasks that can be executed in parallel and zeroing in on the order(sequence) of execution. That is where time is saved/earned.

- Automation:
Replace manual efforts around deployment, and the provisioning, cloning, and sharing of environments with automation scripts & tools as far as possible.

- Flat Hierarchy:
People are important for any successful execution. However, it's not just the number of people but skilled/productive people that make a difference, because we are looking at meeting a tight deadline and not grooming a team for the future (that is another paradigm and subject for discussion for another day). Each member of the team is considered a leader who owns his tasks. Instead of one large team, we kept the team size small & fully autonomous- with members, carefully picked & possessing a variety of skillsets.

- Tracking Time & Direction:
One member in the team tracks actions and decisions and ensures follow-ups on a daily basis and documents the outcomes. This allows the team to keep the members focussed in the desired direction, staying within budget and also helps in reconfiguring priorities when needed.

- Scope & Acceptance Criteria:
So we keep our quality, we stick to budget, and we meet our deadline, but what's delivered on that deadline is continually up for discussion and consideration. That is where scope comes in. One should be clear on the acceptance criteria for every deliverable. Because optimization is a process that can go on infinitely. So in order to be able to close a project on time, a 'scope' for every task needs to be agreed upon.

- Tweak your process not the outcome:
For high velocity projects, it helps to give more weight to `people and interactions` over following a process because its a "process"! Quoting Steve Jobs - "Customers don't measure you on how you do it or how hard you try, they measure you on what you deliver".