Delivery timelines are a part of every project plan and serve as essential milestones both to guide a project team and for determining project health. They are also a signifier of the implicit agreement between you and the client or end-user, you say something will be delivered by a certain time, so they presume that that is when it will be completed.
Unfortunately, delivering on time is also one of the greatest challenges that a team can face, which is relatively surprising when you think about it. As one of the foundation principles of nearly every kind of task, one would think that we would have the art of nailing delivery timelines absolutely perfected. So, let’s take a look at why this happens and what you can do to start making big improvements in your delivery punctuality.
- Put effort into setting timelines
For many, timelines are arbitrary dates set in the future, which you will use as a framework around which to build a work schedule. In practice, they should be taken a lot more seriously than that, becoming a task in themselves rather than being created with relative guesswork. There are a wide range of factors which have to be considered when formulating timelines, such as the availability of the required resources, competing projects and where the time will actually come from to complete the task. Take the time to analyze the different factors carefully and give precise estimates that can be kept.
- Break down the deliverables
To increase the clarity and accuracy of delivery timelines, it’s vital to know exactly what needs to get done and how long each section will take. It’s easy to overestimate capabilities and underestimate how long something requires for completion, either due to poor understanding of the task or through a desire to impress stakeholders. However, using a uniform system, like work packages in a work breakdown structure, can make estimating the time necessary for individual tasks should be a lot more accurate.
- Clearly identify the time blocks to complete the work
A major issue that gets in the way of delivering on time is not the ability to perform the work by the time allotted, rather it is the fact that that time has already been committed elsewhere. For many clients, they only see their own needs, so when they are told that there is a work pipeline in place and they’re at the back of the queue, they might be less than happy to be made to wait. For the sake of giving precise delivery estimates though, it is better to inform stakeholders up front, rather than believing that new time blocks can be created out of thin air (i.e. you and your team’s free time).
- Ensure accountability and buy-in
Unfortunately, as much as you try to consistently deliver on time yourself, modern projects can involve anywhere from a handful to hundreds of others, who may all have different priorities. To ensure that you can stick to what you have promised, keep communication strong with others involved and ask them to commit to the project you are undertaking together, if you don’t, their half-heartedness can’t be a surprise.
One of the best ways to ensure that delivering on time is one of the hallmarks of your professional output is to keep clear and visible digital plans. A cloud-based project management platform such as Clarizen can keep you and your team hyper-aware of when your deadlines are and what the immediate tasks in front of you are.