Executives pushing for release but we're not ready

There's big pressure to say that we're done, that this is ready to provide to customers and call the project done. But some of us don't think so. How do we stop Management from pushing us to release before we're ready?
We've seen this exact situation many times before. But before deciding how to stop the executive push (and there are ways), it's important to consider whether you should stop it. Have you asked why the executives are pushing for release? When was the last review of progress toward objectives and requirements? When did the team last assess trade-offs between value to the business and fulfilling the project objectives?

Many times there are sound business reasons to release a project before it has completely met the defined objectives and requirements. Sometimes there are greater risks and potential liability to the company from releasing too soon. Making the best decision requires open and honest communication about the driving factors and evaluation of the options.

To move this process forward you need to understand what is motivating the executives to push for release. It might be an opportunity to "freeze the market" by being the first to address your customers' needs, blocking your competitors' entry. Would the increase in revenue and market share outweigh the expense of releasing a subsequent "complete" version to address the current shortfalls? Or would the current release fail to satisfy the customer expectations—or worse, present potential risks to your customer's business, for which the company could be liable?

The only way to know is have an open conversation with the executives to assess the options. The project team must understand what is driving the executives' need to release, and communicate the risks of releasing at this time.

Before you can have this conversation, you need to be prepared. Update your assessment of development to requirements, capture the current risk profile, and define what features and/or functions will not be available if the release is required. Our Executive Summary of Project Status/Risks can be helpful in collecting all this information and keeping it in an easily scannable format. (Busy, time-pressured executives who are themselves feeling the pressure to release won't have time to read an 8-page status report or flip through a dozen or more slides. Keep it to one page whenever possible.) Then conduct an assessment using the Project Alternatives Tradeoff Table that takes into account your understanding of the business objectives for the project, what options exist at this point, and the associated risks/issues of each option. With this information, you can present a clear set of options to the executives, so they can make an informed evaluation of the risks and rewards associated with the decision.

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