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Friday, July 19, 2013

Impact of any change in the final schedule date

A product development cycle can be fairly chaotic. When you hold a finished product in your hands or have it installed in your machine, the product would look great and you would not even think about the intense passion and drama that is part of the process involved in bringing out such a release. Most teams start out with a concept that this cycle of the product release will be simple, and have a lower amount of tension in the ongoing release. However, it has been my experience that a large number of such releases can be incredibly full of tension; you enjoy bringing out a product that is liked and purchased by a large number of users all over the world, but the times when you are working on the product cycle can be enjoying and frustrating at times.
One of the most tension filled times is the last week and last days of the schedule; you are this close to making the release date, you wonder whether there is anything that was forgotten; you pray to whoever you hold dear and holy that there are no major defects that come up in the last few days of the release cycle that can have an impact on the quality or the schedule of the release. In most cases, changing the release date of the product is next to impossible given the number of items that get shaken up. What happens when you have to change the release date:
- All media communication is screwed and it can end up as a PR disaster worrying people about the quality of the product
- There is a huge impact of the confidence of the senior management in the team management especially when this schedule release impact comes up suddenly
- There is a revenue impact, since as part of finance sheets, there would already have been a calculation of the revenue that will come; any change in this date will cause some shortage in the revenue sheet. If this is a major product, it could actually spiral all the way to change in earnings of the organization.
- There are many processes that are already set in motion such as DVD production, retail channels, and delivery to other partners, and all of these are impacted. For example, if your product is planned to be loaded as part of the installed software on OEM's such as the desktop or laptops of HP, Sony, Dell, etc, there will be hell to pay. These partners have finely tuned schedules and it will take some major negotiation for these schedules to be reset.
- The team would already be high-strung because it is near the end of the cycle. They are expecting a period of down and low tension for some time after the release, and if the release is delayed, this can cause morale issues within the team and continued tension.
- If you are using partners and vendors along with the core team, any delay of the schedule will also need more time for these teams. For example, vendors who provide language translation and review services can be pretty expensive, and any schedule delays will need to factor these in.

As a result of these reasons, and more like them, the team always needs to be on the ball. It would be real bad management and estimation if something happens in the last few weeks to cause the schedule to be changed. There can always be legitimate reasons for a schedule to get changed, but these should be known well in advance so that preparations for all the reasons listed out above can take place.

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