On Time

Will you deliver what I’ve asked for on time, and on budget?

9 November 2023 Time to read:  minutes

It’s the question you will always be asked. “I hear what you’re saying about Agile, Scrum and all that jazz — but I want to be confident that you will deliver what I’ve asked for, without going over budget. Will you deliver what I’ve asked for on time, and on budget?”

Let’s be honest, your answer may not be the one that is wanted.

So, the things you must cover are:

  1. Be transparent. Highlight the Agile Scrum approach. Agile Scrum prioritises value delivery over rigid timelines and budgets, emphasising collaboration and flexibility.
  2. Be honest. You cannot provide an exact guarantee. You operate in an iterative approach enabling regular feedback and adjustments.
  3. Be clear. You commit to transparent communication, managing expectations, and involving stakeholders throughout the process. You will provide ongoing updates, monitor progress, and address potential risks. Agile Scrum empowers us to maximise value within given constraints.

Now… this might go two ways. If your organisation is embracing Agile, then you can explain further. Which we will cover below.

If, on the other hand, you are tasked with delivering “this”, by “then”, this is “how”, using “them” and so on — then the honest answer is that a more traditional, waterfall approach (with all it’s pro’s and con’s) is perhaps the approach you should take.

Remember, Agile is good for complex projects, where there are unknowns, and change is welcomed. If you know what, by when, with who, and how — then Agile may not be the best fit. Especially if the culture of the organisation is one where Agile is not fully understood.

Educate

But let’s take the first path — your organisation have decided you will approach the project with Agile. How can you explain how you would answer the question “Will you deliver what I’ve asked for on time, and on budget?”

Explain Agile Scrum Principles

Start by reiterating the key principles of Agile Scrum, emphasising its adaptive and iterative nature. Agile methodologies prioritise delivering value and ensuring high-quality outcomes over rigid adherence to fixed timelines and budgets. Agile promotes collaboration, responding to change, and continuous improvement throughout the project.

Manage Expectations

Clarify that Agile Scrum focuses on maximising customer value by continuously delivering valuable increments of the product. While Agile Scrum provides a framework for estimating and tracking progress, it acknowledges that predicting exact timelines and budgets can be challenging due to evolving requirements and the complexities of the work.

Discuss the Iterative Approach

Explain that Agile Scrum breaks down the work into smaller, manageable iterations called sprints. Each sprint delivers a working increment of the product, allowing for regular feedback and adjustments. This iterative approach provides transparency and facilitates early identification of potential issues that could impact timelines and budgets.

Emphasise Collaboration and Flexibility

Highlight that Agile Scrum encourages collaboration among stakeholders, including senior management, to ensure alignment and manage expectations. Mention that the iterative nature of Agile Scrum allows for flexibility, enabling the team to adapt to changing circumstances and prioritise the most valuable features or requirements within the given time and budget constraints.

Discuss the Importance of Regular Feedback

Emphasise that Agile Scrum promotes frequent feedback loops through techniques like sprint reviews and demonstrations. These opportunities for stakeholders, including senior management, to provide input and evaluate progress help ensure that the delivered product aligns with expectations.

Provide Insight into the Current Status

Share the team’s current progress and accomplishments. Discuss how the team is actively monitoring the project’s progress, tracking velocity, and managing risks to deliver the highest possible value within the given constraints.

Communicate Openly About Risks and Constraints

Discuss any known risks or constraints that could potentially impact the timeline or budget. Be transparent about potential factors such as dependencies, technical challenges, or external influences that may affect the delivery.

Commit to Communication and Transparency

Reiterate your commitment to ongoing communication and transparency. Assure senior management that you will provide regular updates on the progress, including any adjustments to the estimated timeline or budget. Discuss how you will actively manage expectations, involve stakeholders, and address any concerns or changes as they arise.

How would you show that you are able to deliver the core requirements of a project by a given date?

To demonstrate your ability to deliver the core requirements of a project by a given date, you can follow these steps:

  1. Assess the Requirements: Begin by thoroughly understanding the core requirements of the project. Break down the requirements into smaller, actionable tasks or user stories that can be completed within the given timeframe.
  2. Estimate Effort: Collaborate with your team to estimate the effort required for each task or user story. Utilise estimation techniques such as story points, time-based estimates, or relative sizing. This will help you gauge the complexity and size of the work.
  3. Analyse Resources: Evaluate the availability and skills of your team members. Ensure that you have the necessary resources, including skilled personnel and tools, to efficiently execute the project within the desired timeline.
  4. Develop a Detailed Plan: Create a comprehensive project plan that outlines the sequence of tasks, their dependencies, and the estimated duration for each. Consider any external dependencies, potential risks, and mitigation strategies. Yes, it’s true, this is leaning towards traditional waterfall, but when you are tasked with delivering “x” by “y” you will need to demonstrate that you will, or alternatively, why it’s not possible without certain interventions such as more resources, and so on. This plan will serve as a roadmap to guide the team towards timely delivery. “But we don’t plan in Agile!”. This is not true, it is one of the core myths of Agile I have called out — in fact you plan all the time! Plan is not a four-letter word. Having a plan, in the format of a roadmap is a massive bonus and essential to a successful project, especially when you need to deliver mandatory items by a given date. It helps steer the priority of work, the team, the stakeholders, and where the effort should be focused.
  5. Monitor Progress: Implement a robust progress monitoring system to track the team’s progress against the plan. Regularly review and update the project status, identifying any deviations or roadblocks that could impact the timeline.
  6. Mitigate Risks: Proactively identify and address potential risks that may hinder timely delivery. Implement risk mitigation strategies and contingency plans to minimise the impact of unforeseen challenges.
  7. Communicate and Collaborate: Maintain open and transparent communication with stakeholders, including project sponsors and senior management. Provide regular updates on the project’s progress, highlighting achievements, challenges, and any adjustments to the timeline.
  8. Prioritise and Adapt: Continuously prioritise tasks based on their importance to the core requirements. Be prepared to adapt and make trade-offs when necessary to ensure timely delivery of the critical features.
  9. Agile Project Management: Utilise Agile project management principles, such as Scrum or Kanban, to promote collaboration, responsiveness, and iterative development. Regularly review and refine your approach based on feedback and lessons learned.
  10. Test and Validate: As you progress, allocate sufficient time for testing and validation to ensure the quality of the delivered product. This step is crucial to confirm that the core requirements have been met before final delivery.

By following these steps, you can demonstrate your capability to deliver the core requirements of a project by the given date. However, it is important to maintain flexibility and engage in ongoing communication with stakeholders to manage expectations and adapt as needed throughout the project life cycle.

Wrapping Up

Remember, Agile Scrum prioritises collaboration, adaptation, and delivering value.

While it may be challenging to provide an absolute guarantee of on-time and on-budget delivery, Agile Scrum provides a framework that allows for transparency, continuous improvement, and effective decision-making to maximise customer value throughout the project.

Simon Goodchild

Programme Manager with Trustmarque, who has been Programme Director of “nhs.uk” (creation and over-seeing development, currently ranked in top 1,400 for traffic of all websites worldwide, in top 100 in UK); Programme Director for the creation and delivery of an Intranet for the second largest employer in the world (at that time); Director of a health media company taking them through successful floatation; and publisher of “Traffic for Sales: Make People Buy Your Stuff” book, course and sales funnel website, helping SMEs to grow their business.

Simon Goodchild

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