Setting a launch date for your new web site is common practice. Even though nobody knows what exactly the site might look like and even less how much effort it will be to launch it, the release date is fixed. This can have positive and negative effects.
The positive side of having a defined release date is that you have a guiding post for all your decisions. If you’re aware that you only have that much time, you can make the difficult, but crucial, decisions about scope. Without a set date, you always put more and more into the first release. This leads to a bloated product based on your dreams and has a good chance of never getting finished.
Setting a launch date can put too much pressure on your team. Fear is not a good decision maker. If your team doubts it can make it, they will be demotivated or, even worse, become cynical. These effects can easily overshadow the positive ones. Take care that everyone buys into the launch date. It should be challenging but not insane. You’ve got to work with your team and address their concerns. If they are desperate, tell them to scrap non-essential stuff. Make them understand the advantages of limited resources. Though it sounds harsh, it will make for a better product.
The ugly side of a tight release schedule is bad code. If developers feel rushed, they won’t write tests and hack away instead of producing clean, maintainable code. Make sure they understand that code quality is paramount. Coding cannot be expedited. It takes it’s time. If you cut quality now you will create technical debt (just like charging up those credit-cards). If you have to cut corners, make sure that everyone understands the consequences: You will have to put a multiple of the efforts required now to fix the mess later. In other words: You’ll have to pay interest on your technical debt. If you borrow too much, you’ll have to declare technical bankruptcy.
What are your experiences with setting challenging launch dates or working in a project with a tight release schedule? Let us know in the comments.