Tech & Work

IT manager needs help balancing an overwhelming software release

One IT manager needs to strike a balance between being responsible for meeting a software release deadline and being responsive to change requests. How would you solve the problem?

TechRepublic member Elizabeth Elliott has a problem. As a product manager for a software vendor in the financial industry, she is in charge of coordinating the vendor’s next software release.

Elliott is looking for a balance between meeting the daily demands of the release effort and saying no to requests that do not follow the release’s established business plan.

“I understand that market demands have to be addressed in order to sell our software, but we cannot do this at the cost of the entire plan,” Elliott said.

The software’s development turnover date is approaching, and Elliott is looking for advice that keeps her responsive to the mini-projects that arise yet allows her to stick to the release’s plan.

Does this scenario sound familiar? If so, what advice would you give Elliott to help her strike the balance she needs? Read her post below and join the discussion.

Juggling responsiveness and responsibility
Elliott: I'm a product manager for a software vendor in the financial industry. We write virtually no software for internal use. Our internal software needs are met by our parent company out of state. My organization’s objective is to sell our software, so we focus on developing and supporting software.

My job is a new position for the organization. So far, my job has revolved around coordinating the next product release. I have authored many of the specs, been involved in numerous internal and external customer [focus] groups, and developed tools for tracking major change requests.

My biggest problem is working with the constant demands of and changes to the product while trying to stick to at least part of the business plan cemented months before.

I understand that market demands have to be addressed in order to sell our software, but can we do this at the cost of the entire plan?

Tell us your current project nightmares
Are you experiencing your own project headaches? Tell us about it. Send us a brief description of what’s bugging you. If we select your story, we’ll turn it into an article and ask other managers in the TechRepublic community for advice.

In retrospect, more of the software product was developed off-plan than on, but it is not easy to determine the actual number of hours we devoted to off vs. on. Also, as we become driven by what needs to be done today, some items start to slip from the current release only to be pushed to the next.

This sends a message to the market that we are responsive to our customers; but we don't always keep our promises. And worse, there is a risk that our customers will be disappointed if we don't honor our commitments. This makes it an uphill battle to sell software the next time.

So here's the question, ancient in this industry, but new for me. Where's the balance between being responsive to daily pressures and honoring our commitments? How do you determine this balance, communicate it, and manage with it in mind?

I have the credibility I need with senior management, sales, and marketing, but that has not been enough. Bribery by chocolate has not worked either!

Am I struggling with something I just have to get used to? Should we return to just developing the product with no plan, which is where we will instantly evolve if my boss and I do not champion the plan?

What's your advice?
What advice do you have for Elliott? What direction should she take? Let her know what you think by joining the discussion below.


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