When is it Okay to Miss an IT Project Deadline?

“When is it Okay to Miss an IT Project Deadline?” on Information Week, December 1, 2021

Breaking the Bad News

Project management is the art of managing trade-offs. “The primary and most visible trade-offs are scope, schedule, and cost, with quality and risk close behind,” says Alan Zucker, founding principal of IT and business management advisory firm Project Management Essentials. “Delivering a project on time, but with unacceptable quality or risks, is not being successful.”

Communicating project risks should be an ongoing and regular process. “When concerns are raised early, there’s time to discuss options and contingency plans,” Zucker notes. “Bad news is not like a fine wine: it doesn’t get better with age.”

Whenever missing a project deadline appears inevitable, the project manager should immediately inform management and key stakeholders. “The problem should be clearly articulated, and options should be presented,” Zucker says. “Even unpopular options, such as abandoning the project, should be considered.”

Sadly, there are many examples of products that were rushed to market containing known risks and flaws that resulted in needless injuries or deaths. “Often, executives and project managers were focused on the time rather than the quality constraint,” Zucker notes.

Moving Forward

When evaluating a delayed project and calculating a new deadline it’s critical to step back and review the project’s goals, Zucker says. “The objective should describe the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the project.”