What Happens When Projects Are Completed Ahead of Schedule?
Instead of being completed on time, many projects slip, slide, and slither before eventually getting done. Or not. I know an IT department that implemented what it dubbed The Interim System to handle some mandated functionality while a new system was being developed. The new system slipped a month, a year, a … well, actually, it was never completed. The Interim System became the system, but it was known forever after as The Interim System.
Projects stand a reasonable chance of getting done on time (and maybe even under budget) if you’ve taken appropriate steps, such as creating a realistic project plan, delegating work appropriately, using the right tools, tracking progress, and allowing time for things to go haywire, as they so often seem to do.
But are projects ever completed ahead of schedule? It turns out the answer is yes. Do a web search of “projects ahead of schedule” and you’ll see links to many such projects. True, many are construction projects, not software projects, but some software projects do beat the deadline. Interestingly, just as with projects that fall behind, issues can arise with projects or tasks completed ahead of schedule.
For example, what do you do if you finish the project ahead of schedule? Do you conceal the fact or do you alert your manager and customers? After all, your manager might pile on more work. And your customer might wonder if your due date included a healthy dose of padding. Both parties might expect you to finish early again the next time around.
Also, finishing a project or a task ahead of schedule may place a burden on the customer, who can’t keep pace with your expedited completion. An especially busy customer may actually prefer that you slow down the effort to avoid having responsibilities bunch up along the way.
And then there’s the what-do-you-do-next issue. If you complete a milestone ahead of schedule, do you start on the next task in the project? What if you can’t forge ahead until other tasks on the critical path catch up to yours? Do you work on another project, running the risk of having to multi-task when it’s time to get back to the original project? If you have multiple priorities and competing responsibilities, how do you decide where to turn your attention?
Then again, wouldn’t you prefer to wrestle with problems like these instead of having to account for delays, setbacks, and surprises?
In a major project I heard about, as each of several successive deadlines was missed, the team committed to another deadline. At length, the project was completed two weeks before the umpteenth deadline. Management announced that the project was completed ahead of schedule! Chutzpah, no?