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Embracing the deadline: How engineers benefit from delivery dates

By John Lafleur 2 minutes read

TL;DR: People sometimes shudder at the thought of working to a deadline. They can be seen as stressful, constraining and often arbitrary. Here’s an Intecom Product Engineer’s advice on why delivery dates do matter, and how to craft deadlines that work for your team.

Delivery dates do matter

  • “Deadlines help us stay focused, aligned and driven – and can be used to keep project scope in check”
  • Focusing on dates allowed us to set project milestones, line up any cross-team collaboration and keep only what was necessary in scope.

How to craft deadlines

Here are the steps Intercom takes to craft effective deadlines:

  • Help set the date by agreeing on the scope of the project and by estimating the amount of work involved.
  • Get the stakeholders into a room with a list of possible features.
  • Mark each as either table-stakes, a differentiator or a nice-to-have and have an idea of how much effort each might take.
  • Break a project into milestones and put dates against those milestones.
  • Evaluate your progress against the dates frequently.

Adjusting project scope and managing uncertainty

“Success is shipping the best product we can, not a set of features we agreed on months ago”.
Factors such as the following add uncertainty, and you should expand the range of your estimate if you spot them:

  • Does the team have a different makeup than before?
  • Does the project have different dependencies than before?
  • Are you using unfamiliar technologies or integrating with an API that you’ve not used before?
  • Are there any new engineering processes that might slow things down?

Planning timelines is about more than just work

“Sequence your work in a way that progressively reduces the most uncertainty”

Get stuff done with deadlines

To-do lists and SMART goals are great tools for getting stuff done, but goals without deadlines are mere aspirations. Adding dates turn these promises into commitments.


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