You are Asked to Deliver the Project Early

You are Asked to Deliver the Project Early

Brad Egeland
Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience. Visit Brad’s site at

We all know how hard it is just to win on the project. And by win I mean lead a successful project from start to finish. More than half fail according to most findings and surveys. Most projects fail to meet time or budget constraints or result in customer satisfaction.

If someone asked you to deliver four weeks early, how would you react? Would you ask them to go get their head examined? You would probably want to, but let’s consider how that might work, because there are some fairly straightforward ways to make it happen.

To deliver a product early you have four major options.

Add more people. Often you have an option to add more people to the project in an attempt to get work done faster. Sometimes it works, but on a project that is already late is usually leads to disastrous results.

Adding people to the project will certainly not accelerate your schedule linearly. What I mean is: increasing your project delivery tech staff from 5 to 10 people will not cut your task completion time in half. In fact, it may not help at all – it depends on the team, the new people, and the complexity of the project and the issues at hand.

There is always a learning curve and work could even be missed in the transformation process. Certainly it has the potential to add significant – possibly enormous – costs to the project so don’t go this route lightly. Personally I hesitate to ever go this route without a big change order in hand to cover all of the additional project hours (and I try NOT to be conservative in my estimates).

Reduce scope. You can assess the project landscape and work with the customer and the project team to figure out what work can be removed from the project plan. If the customer needs the project completed earlier, there are probably a few things they will now consider eliminating from the project effort. Look for the stuff that makes sense and start cutting.

Move non-critical work to a post release phase. Just as above, where the customer, business analyst, and project manager may be able to sit down and remove non-essential things from the project scope to help shorten the delivery timeline, likewise they can think of the work that can be done after the first release of the product. Move the tasks and/or deliverables that are not essential to the solution that is needed on ‘x’ date out to a later date and either make that work a separate project or make it a later phase that gets delivered after the initial release time is reached.

Halt work, refocus on the necessary. This is a more drastic version of what I just covered. In this scenario you completely stop work and brainstorm on what needs to happen in the time left in order to get the functionality needed by ‘x’ date out the door and to the awaiting end users. It’s more complex and more risky, but if the date is close it may be the necessary route to go. The resulting change orders will probably be even higher because there is no way you can completely stop work, plan, basically kickoff a new phase to get critical work up and running, then revisit the remaining work without adding some significant effort and hours to that remaining work. Again, a win-win… especially if it works. If you were on track with delivery in the first place, and you’re getting very close to the new deadline, then this drastic move – if handled successfully – will solve a big client need, keep them very happy and bring in more revenue for your organization. It can end up being a huge success story if handled properly.


When the project is running smoothly and delivery looks like it’s going to happen on time and on budget… everything seems right in your little PM world. You planned well, you executed flawlessly, you interacted with the tech team perfectly, and everything is falling into place. Then, the customer says “can we move the delivery date up a month?” and all heck breaks loose. You want to do everything possible. You never want your knee-jerk reaction to be “no”. Always take time to explore it further.

A request for an earlier release date can often be a very painful thing and nearly impossible to accommodate without moving or eliminating some work. You won’t figure it out in an afternoon or overnight. Take your time and plan well. Poor planning can result in lost – rather than gained – revenue and profitability.

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