Managing unrealistic expectations of stakeholders

Pie Chart of Quality, Deadline, Features

Managing stakeholder expectations is essential in the role of a software development manager. When a stakeholder has an unrealistic expectation of your software development team, you are setting up your team for failure.

Stakeholders should expect to have only 2 of the following 3 basic expectations at the release of their anticipated software.

  1. A high quality product
  2. The deadline requested
  3. The complete set of requested features

The first two expectations are usually the highest priority: quality has a direct impact on usage and availability, and the deadline is usually tied to a marketing campaign or sales contract. The third expectation, the feature set, is less important in today’s web enabled world.

In a tech culture encouraging iterative improvements after the release of a product, especially with agile software development, feature sets are not static. They evolve with the product. Features once believed to be vital to the core product (i.e. Facebook’s poke) are later discarded or minimized, paving new paths towards innovation. Therefore, less emphasis should be placed on features and more emphasis on releasing a good quality product on-time. Features should be cut, drastically if necessary, when the quality or deadline is at risk. Convincing stakeholders of this philosophy will evade unrealistic expectations and will setup your development team for success.

Do you think all 3 expectations are always possible? Which 2 expectations would you choose? Tell us what you think in the comments below.