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Negotiated Schedules Affect Quality and Deadlines
By Michael Sheeley

A while back I was at a meeting with a group of product managers from local software companies. The topic was the process of prioritizing requirements. When the estimated time of development came up, one product manager made the following comment:

“Estimates from engineers are always overestimated. They would want you to think all features would take about three years to develop. You need to negotiate the schedule.” …or something like that.

I could not believe what I was hearing. From my experience, engineers are usually over optimistic with their initial estimates. Only after thoroughly examining each essential step will an engineer increase their approximation to a more reasonable estimate. The fact of the mater is, software development efforts are notorious for delays and schedule overruns. This negotiation process is likely a common cause.

My guess is that this product manager probably feels a sense of accomplishment when the engineering team finally agrees to shorten their schedule. He probably then gets frustrated later when new releases are delayed. Product managers, project managers, program managers, and anyone else who has a say in persuading schedules must realize negotiating a development schedule does not mean the project will finish any earlier. The estimated delivery date is just that, an estimation. The actual delivery date will not be effected by the new estimations. It will not cause engineers to work any faster, it will not reduce the amount of work needed to be completed, and it definitely will not increase the number of hours in the day. The only thing a negotiated schedule will affect is a low quality product or a delayed delivery, and that is not something any manager should feel a sense of accomplishment about.

Michael Sheeley is an entrepreneur in the software industry. His experiences range for starting businesses to developing new software as a software engineer. His current position is at BAE Systems developing and enhancing new technologies for the armed forces. Michael’s blog can be found at http://www.sheeleytech.com/.

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