Deadlines in Scrum

Working with Deadlines in an Agile Environment

Working with Deadlines in an Agile Environment
by Pete R.

Deadlines are a common feature in any work-related environment. Consequently, any member of an Agile team should expect to encounter them in all projects. That said, the deadlines are not too popular with such teams.

Software development teams tend to struggle with this issue quite a lot. However, they can find ways of working on their projects without the deadlines weighing down on them so heavily. Below are different ways of working with deadlines in an Agile environment.

Making the Projects Smaller

Any project can always appear to be quite massive. For this reason, it’s upon you – and your software development team – to know how to approach what’s before you. Nevertheless, some projects are genuinely massive. In such instances, you need to make them smaller.

Large projects are also:

  • More complex
  • More unpredictable
  • Much harder because of the increasing tons of dependencies

However, it would be great to ensure that your team has enough members first before you break the project down into smaller, more manageable sizes. All the same, even if you’re alone, your task gets much easier if you have smaller tasks to deal with before the deadline elapses.

Change the conversation from deadlines to value

Perhaps, the most relevant job you can do is to convince clients of the importance of value rather than deadlines. Many times, you may be able to deliver the project on time. However, does the client get value for it?

For this to work, though, you have to build a value-driven enterprise. Change the culture within your organization, so the focus is on delivering value to all clients. Remind every member of the Agile team of the importance of adhering to this policy.

That stated, the fact that your focus is more on value rather than deadlines doesn’t negate the importance of time. You still need to remember that clients have time concerns. They need their projects completed within a specific period, or else everything becomes unimportant.

Consequently, part of the job of the person leading the Agile team is to strike a balance between deadlines and value. After all, it’s possible to deliver value within the shortest time possible. As you do all that, don’t forget that software development is full of unpredictability.

Bring everybody on board

Software development teams are full of people with different skills. Some of the members are experts in coding and programming. Others specialize in object-oriented designs. Similarly, you will find many who are highly effective at testing and debugging software.

As the leader, your role would be to find ways of harnessing all these skills and using them for the common good. To do this, you would need to convince all members that they are part of a larger picture. Make sure that everyone is on the same page before the project kicks off!

It’s worth noting that a good team doesn’t just emerge out of the blues. Instead, it takes work and a deliberate effort to create such a group. One way of enabling every member of this team to work cohesively is by empowering each of them. Additionally, you should also:

  • Constantly reminding every member of their roles
  • Giving each member increasing visibility
  • Identifying and destroying the barriers preventing members from coming up with solutions
  • Encouraging members to know and support each other’s tasks

Understanding the factors that affect deadlines

Deadlines aren’t simple matters to understand in the world of software development. After all, deadlines are not independent of everything else that goes on within the Agile team. For the most part, deadlines are subject to the following factors:

  • Prevailing conditions in the market
  • End-users feedback
  • Impact of competitors’ strategies
  • Levels of risks
  • Changes in budget

Now, it’s essential to work with deadlines. Otherwise, you run the risk of taking forever on a single project, which could be a huge inconvenience to your clients. Nevertheless, it’s important to make clients appreciate the fact that your team isn’t entirely in control of all that happens.

As shown above, some circumstances are beyond your control. For example, you might have started working on the project only to realize that the management has cut some of your financings. Additionally, your competitors’ strategies could affect your work adversely.

Place more emphasis on the important stuff

Software development teams are full of humans with unique behaviors and needs. For this reason, they are a bit unpredictable in terms of what each person could opt to do at any given moment. Many times, you will encounter members who appear distracted.

As the group leader, part of your duty includes helping members overcome distractions. More significantly, you also have to find ways of encouraging them to put more focus on the essential stuff. In this regard, don’t hesitate to push them away from non-important tasks.

Mainly, you might discover that focusing on the important stuff isn’t everything. In such cases, you may want to motivate the members to do the crucial tasks properly. Otherwise, your efforts might fail to produce the desired results!

Lastly, remember that deadlines are simple, objective, and visible. Additionally, they don’t change the meaning. Nevertheless, it’s good to understand that deadlines aren’t set in stone. You could always renegotiate them with clients, management, or amongst yourselves too.

All the same, do whatever it takes to submit your software development projects to clients on time. More crucially, let clients understand that your focus is more on delivering value for money rather than adhering to time constraints, which are often unpredictable!


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