Unrealistic Requirements Deadlines – How to Respond to Your Project Manager

Today we’re talking about an issue that’s more common for business analysts than you might expect. And that’s how to handle the situation when your project manager insists on an unrealistic requirements deadline, even after you have mapped out your business analysis plan.

In this video, I share exactly what to do in this situation.

For those who like to read instead of watch, here’s the full text of the video:

Today, we’re going to talk about a common challenge that business analysts face and that’s what to do when you’ve created your business analysis plan with a forecasted date for finishing the requirements, but your project manager ignores it and sets a different deadline for you anyway.

Well, this happens more often than we would think as business analysts because project managers also face aggressive deadlines, but also because we often tend to want more time as BAs. And, so, we can forecast dates that really aren’t supported by the project manager of the business.

So, what do we do? Let’s talk about it and dive right in.

This tip is from Lesson 4 of the BA Essentials Master Class. There are a 5 shifts you can make to shift your requirements deadlines.

Requirements Deadline Shift #1 – Make Sure Your Deadline is Realistic

First, you want to make sure that your requirements deadline is practical and realistic. We have a tendency, as I was mentioning, as BAs, to get a little bit perfectionist about our thoughts about what’s going to happen. We can be a little bit of, worst case scenario thinking. We can see all the things that could happen in our projects to go wrong, like stakeholders not turning up to our meetings, or new requirements surfacing late in the process. We tend to bank all those things that could go wrong and the time it takes to be perfect into that original deadline that we set for ourselves.

Requirements Deadline Shift #2 – Evaluate Best Case versus Worst Case

Does your project manager want the worst-case scenario or the best-case scenario? Often, they’re probably looking for the best-case scenario. So, the date that they gave you might have been thinking more best case rather than worst case. They want to handle those things that could go wrong as assumptions, risks, or constraints on the project that are managed separately from the timeline.

So, really, understand from your PM, do they want the best case or the worst case, and then encourage yourself to think about that best case. That’s how you get a little bit more realistic and practical about what is it really going to take to do the requirements. What’s the best that you could put forward in terms of a deadline?

Requirements Deadline Shift #3 – Provide 2 Dates

The other thing you can do is give them two dates. You can give them your best-case date and your worst-case date if all the things that you’re probably expecting go wrong, you’re going to be right about some of those. So, you want to, maybe, give them the second date. If some of those things do go wrong, what would the date be? That could add value to manage expectations as you go through and implement the project.

Now, often, just this kind of simple tweak and how we talk about deadlines and how we put our deadlines together can solve issues. That might bring your project manager’s deadline more in alignment with your deadline, and that might get you to close enough to move forward. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

You might really, truly be doing a very practical best-case scenario for your timeline and your project manager might still say, “Oh, I need it two weeks earlier” or “two months earlier.” Some significant time earlier that just is truly causing you to freak out. What do you do then?

Requirements Deadline Shift #4 – Create a New Plan that Cuts Scope

You could just get started and say it’s not going to work and see when we get to that deadline that I’m still working on the requirements. But another option would be to offer a new plan. This time you want to cut scope from your business analysis effort of the plan, or you could make changes to the plan that introduce additional risks to the project.

Some of the things that you might consider when you cut scope or introduce risk is not meeting with a group of stakeholders. Or instead of meeting with multiple stakeholders from every department, you just pick one that’s a subject matter expert and move through the requirements quickly without giving them, necessarily, time to collaborate with their team. So, you’re getting a more isolated set of input on the requirements that would allow you to move more quickly. You might miss requirements when you do that. It’s not perfect, but it could be a realistic way to try to achieve that timeline.

Requirements Deadline Shift #5 – Eliminate Requirements Deliverables

You might eliminate certain requirements deliverables from your plan. Say you were planning to do business processes, use cases, wireframes, and a data model, all courses that we teach, all important techniques that have their time and place in business analysis.

Maybe it would be possible, though not ideal, to skip the business process step and jump right into the use cases, which is going to give the development team what they need. Maybe you can circle around later and do that business process step for the business team. Just another idea.

Essentially, you want to offer a solution to achieving that deadline, achieving that date, and then be clear about the risks and the assumptions that you’re making so that when those things do surface and you do have to slip on that timeline a little bit, it’s because one of those things happened and you can communicate that and be managing expectations around that.

Those are just some ideas for what you do when your project manager hands you a requirements deadline that you feel doesn’t work. You really want to make sure your deadline is realistic and practical, and eliminate that perfectionism and see if you can meet them halfway, and then educate them about the business analysis process as you go.

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think and how you will apply this in your career as a business analyst.

And, again, remember to join us in the BA Essentials Master Class for a practical, real-world approach to applying the business analysis process.

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