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Aligning PD Capacity with Product Plans

The Frozen Pipeline
The Frozen Pipeline
The Frozen Pipeline
Situation
A major manufacturing company consistently was missing delivery dates for promised products and upgrades. Before laying all of the blame on the Development organization, management asked us to explore the situation and make recommendations.

Approach
Our exploration placed emphasis on PD Process, requirements management, project capacity planning and project selection.

As we explored we found the root causes for the lateness included the following:

  • Schedule by Edict - Most projects had the schedule set by management or marketing well before developers had a chance to estimate project tasks. Often the organization couldn't really agree on what the due date was and when it was set.
  • Scope Creep - The goal line kept changing. With no agreed upon requirements documentation at the front end "great new ideas" were added to the deliverables list by edict or coercion.
  • Late Starts - Sixty percent of the projects were behind right from the start.
  • Too Many Projects - The company had essentially no historical data about how long a project of a particular type would take and what their actual capacity was. Hence developers could never defend themselves against an onslaught of new product requests. The flight was always overbooked.
  • Slow Decisions - Software companies typically require about three months to get a project reviewed and approved. The best ones take less time. Because no one was minding the project selection process (in fact there was no process) many important projects required well over six months for approval.

Recommendations
We recommended three actions and helped the client to implement them

  • Flood Control - Using a more disciplined, capacity based selection process the number of projects in the development pipeline was reduced by 20% over a six month period. While not a popular with sales and marketing, the resultant improved ability to meet deadlines made life smoother for all. In addition the projected dollar value of the reduced pipeline actually increased by 36%.
  • Establish Project Categories - Eighty percent of current projects could be grouped into five categories. We defined parameters for these categories and established a policy that all future projects must fit into a category - no projects in the "gaps". This helped to improve the ability to build a knowledge bank of project experience, to regularize scheduling and estimating and to keep successful project teams intact.
  • Product Steering Committee - A product steering committee became responsible for selecting new product projects. The committee includes a prominent role for marketing, development and customer service groups and it's quarterly meeting schedule is linked to the annual product release rhythm of the company.

Outcome
Within one year of the assignment time to acceptance for new proposals was decreased by 30%, product pipeline value increased by 36% and average schedule overrun was dropping consistently. In addition the time to market for like category projects had been reduced by 18% with continual improvements expected.

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