A Better Way to Handle Project Deadlines

One question we encounter with every project is "how long will take?" or "Can it be be done by (insert date)" and It's not unusual to come up as early as the initial phone call. For as much as we know, and as skilled as we are, vital details necessary to evaluate the project will most certainly be missing without a longer conversation making it nearly impossible to provide an honest answer at this stage.

It’s not our intention to downplay the question and there may be legitimate, time-sensitive reasons behind the request. For example the client may be attending a conference in a few months, unveiling an important marketing campaign, or maybe it’s just that their boss has set a strict timeline.

Whatever the case may be, it’s an important question that we are willing to discuss in order to manage client expectations. When we’re told it’s going to be an hour long wait to board a plane and it takes an hour and a half, we get angry. Now imagine that we were told our wait would be three hours and we boarded in that same hour and a half, we’re overjoyed. It’s all about expectations.

It’s both easy and tempting to overpromise and underdeliver and that in turn creates a competition in the eyes of the client. Because whichever company can convince the client they can do it the fastest wins and no matter how over-deadline the project ends up — the client will only delay the deadline further by finding someone else to work with.

Studies show that virtually any kind of tech project is almost always delivered late. According to a study by McKinsey , “On average, large IT projects run 45 percent over budget and 7 percent over time, while delivering 56 percent less value than predicted.” Statistically speaking, your project will not be done by the estimated deadline.

So if we can’t set a realistic deadline or we’ll lose the job, and we can’t set an overly optimistic deadline because we refuse to deliver projects late, what do we do?

We remove the deadline from being a competitive issue.

Meeting Halfway

Tech project deadlines are a two-way street, between provider and client. The client contributes just as much toward the deadline as the designers, if not more.

We can’t necessarily estimate how long your project will take without having a firm understanding of your needs, goals, and general reaction time. For example, will it take 48 hours to get an emailed response from you or a couple of weeks? There are dozens, if not hundreds, of back-and-forths between client and designer over the life of a project.

When estimating the project’s schedule, we're working backward from the intended deadline. In our estimates, we include an average response time, and then add a little bit of cushioning, just to be safe.

Even better, our deadline estimates not only include your project needs, but also account for your availability, response time, input, and more, because it takes both the designer and the client to determine a reliable work schedule.

Kiss Arbitrary Deadlines Goodbye

According to a recent Clutch article , “when a team misses a deadline for an IT project, it’s more likely to go over budget.” Instead of setting a deadline that may be arbitrary — or not tied to real-life events or goals —  it is exponentially better to set a non-arbitrary deadline — or a date that is connected to real-life events or goals.

Are you going to a conference this summer and want your site up on that big screen? Or are you doing a big marketing push starting on a certain date and you need the site live by then?

Shooting for a reality-based deadline does several great things for the working relationship:

  • Your designer knows what’s coming and why it is essential.
  • Everyone has a sense of being on the same team and shooting for the same goals.
  • Your designer can offer up potential solutions for delays.
  • Your designer can prioritize the work such that, if the entire project isn’t finished by the deadline, no one would be the wiser — especially your customers.

Custom Designed Work Takes Time

If your project is time-sensitive, you should be asking yourself: “Is it better to have it done as quickly as possible, or is it better for it to be right?”

When you hire Doc4 you have chosen to hire website designers and developers because one or more aspects of your project is custom-built – that is, what we are building has never been built before, at least not like this. This means no one can tell you with any certainty how long the project will take.

At Doc4 Design, we’ve found that every new, custom-built design is best created through an iterative approach:

  • The design or design component is released to you.
  • You test the design and provide feedback.
  • We revise, rinse, and repeat.

Our Unorthodox Approach

We refuse to set impossible expectations. However, we will go the extra mile to balance your expectations with your needs. And while each individual customer is one-of-a-kind with a unique project timeline, we’ll try to be as transparent as possible by giving you a realistic deadline that you can rely on — it may be a later date than you’d hoped, but it is reliable!

We’ve found that the best way to ensure you're not wasting time or money is to connect the final payment to the final deliverables. Our standard payment structure works like this: 50 percent upfront, and 50 percent upon delivery. We do this because it ensures everyone is on the same team — clients, designers, developers, and everyone in between. Not only is there no benefit in us taking a long time, but it is also detrimental to us for it to take any longer than necessary – and this is by design.

Conclusion ...

If a deadline must be set , let’s agree to set a non-arbitrary, realistic deadline. But if at all possible, let’s just not set a deadline at all – instead let’s get started and work as quickly as is appropriate to ensure a great project launch. Give us a call at (479) 202-8634 or email us to discuss your deadline today.

Michael White
Michael White
Business Specialist at Doc4 Design

Want to Hear More?

Need a cost estimate for a new project? Or just want to know what options are available? Get the answers you need by calling us at (479) 202-8634, or drop us a line using the form.