[Unknown knowns] Intercalary in 'Date vs Feature' driven projects

The commonly 'unknown known' principle of two types of projects hurts, the teams more often than we can imagine. Industry struggles with date vs feature driven projects everyday - yet the concept is unclear to many and leads to undue pressure at all levels.
A common misconception from the requirements owners' perspective is that a date driven project looks exactly like a feature driven project.

In simple terms - a functionality needs to be developed to solve a customer's problem within the given quality constraints. However, as always - the devil is in the detail.

A date driven project has a fixed date that cannot be moved at all (full stop). The requirements owner will maintain the practicality of the situation and ensure that the project finishes on the given date. When push comes to shove - some lower priority features will be dropped to maintain the schedule.

A feature driven project has a fixed set of features that cannot be reduced at all (full stop). The key focus stays on getting all the features into the project at launch. e.g. if there were ten features proposed by the sponsors - they will expect them to be completed to declare the completion. In critical challenging situations - the dates are moved and the sponsors are happy with the change.

There is however another hybrid method supported by agile & lean implicitly that allows date and feature driven simultaneously  (known in simple terms as releases). The definition of feature driven in this context is interesting as we continuously keep reducing the 'devil of the detail' within the features. At every detailed release review discussion, the product ownership tries to refocus only on the necessary and valuable (to the customer) stuff without compromising the quality.

Unfortunately - all that looks so simple and in the absence of other critical factors like economy, competition, ever changing business needs and human nature; the picture is as rosy as it can be. Crunch time, economic downturn, shrinking market share and many other variable of this complex system called business life contribute to challenging situations between business and IT organizations.

There is no silver bullet available to address these day to day challenges. Teams have to find a balance that is based on the best judgement of the team as a whole and long term leadership vision.

In all that doom and gloom - there is a ray of hope that helps both types of projects every few years. Even though it is just a day - 'intercalary' is sometimes a blessing in disguise to the tight schedule. Enjoy an additional day of delivering high value stuff. Rest assured that such opportunities are perpetual yet rare....

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