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The Problem With Deadlines What is a deadline? You might think about it differently depending on your role in a project, but it's when all the *stuff* needs to get done.

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Posted by john on - Read

What is a deadline?

You might think about it differently depending on your role in a project, but it's when all the *stuff* needs to get done.

Why should you care?

Because you've probably been in a situation when a deadline wasn't met, and you don't want it to happen again.

Who sets the deadline?

Let's think about deadlines for two types of projects: one you're familiar with — maybe building a new deck — and one you may or may not be familiar with — building a website.

If you've had experience with this type of home improvement project, you'll know it typically involves at least three different groups to complete:

  1. Homeowner: to approve the materials, the design, and pay for the deck
  2. Contractor: to build the deck
  3. Supplier: to get the materials (Wood? Trex composite material?)

Similar to the parties involved in building a deck, if you're building a website you might have three (or more) groups involved:

  1. Business owner: to give approvals and finance the website project
  2. Web development and design team: to build the website
  3. Third party teams: to supply hosting, software integration, shipping systems, etc.

Now that you know who's involved, how do you determine the deadline?

When's this going to be done?

Everyone wants to know, but you should understand the perspective of all the parties involved before setting a date in stone.

For example, if you're the homeowner building a deck, maybe your deadline revolves around an event. You have a big party for the Fourth of July and you want to hold the party outside on the new deck. It's hard to have a party on a nonexistent deck, so the homeowner will see any deadline set after the Fourth of July as late.

The contractor’s deadline takes his current production schedule into consideration. Since the weather is nice, the contractor has a lot of outdoor projects that were already on hold in his production schedule. Those existing projects have priority since they were signed and a deposit was received before your deck project was signed.

Then there's the supplier who bases his timeline for material delivery on past experiences with his manufacturers and distributors. Many times with decks, the framing lumber is readily available, but the amount of Trex composite decking material required for this project can be difficult to get on time. Trex is a popular material, so specific colors can be difficult to get in stock.

Without talking with each other, these groups all have a different estimated timeline for the project.

Building a website is no different

Just because you aren't working with physical materials, like when building a deck, doesn't mean the same considerations don't come into play.

The business owner has a deadline in mind for when they'd like the website to be complete. Maybe it's around a company anniversary or new product launch. The web development and design teams have to consider their project backlog and the amount of effort it will take to build out the site. You'll also have to incorporate any additional teams for third party software or systems that need to be integrated and fit this into their production schedule as well.

So what's the problem?

Everyone thinks their deadlines are completely reasonable, but they haven't sufficiently communicated their reasoning with each other. The problem is a lack of communication around what impacts the deadline for the different groups and how they all need to work together.

To solve this problem, all parties involved need to sit down at the beginning of the project and determine a mutually agreeable deadline.

This deadline must be based on the schedules and priorities of all groups involved.

Finding a mutually-agreeable solution

With the deck, there's a possibility you could complete part of the project before your July 4th party without compromising the contractor's schedule, but you might have to use a different material that the supplier can get quickly. So, instead of a gray Trex deck, you might opt for a wooden deck that you stain gray or use a different color Trex that is in stock with the supplier. Depending on the priority of the deadlines, each party should offer solutions that can help meet the deadline.

Just like with the deck example, web projects involve multiple parties with different deadlines and priorities. A lack of communication can also derail a web project, so it's important to have a web shop that will openly communicate with you to meet a deadline that works for everyone involved.

The key is that until all parties involved in a project agree to a deadline, there is no deadline.

Working on a web project?

Get in touch about your next website redesign or new web application. We can work together to find a deadline that helps you complete the project and achieve your business goals.

Photo Credit: "Deck view" by Heather Elias is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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