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I've been searching for management role for a long time and finally got myself hired into a new start up company as Project Manager. I'm managing a project (Multi Level Marketing Apps) Team. I estimated the project will be finished around 5 months; everything went well for the first the 3 months.

But then there were certain milestones (Calculation Pyramid Structure) that the developers didn't meet. The developers say they need more time to carry out the tasks. After looking at the original schedule, there is a high possibility that the project might be delayed.

What's the best way to ask the client for more time? I estimate the bug fix will take an additional month.

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    Not enough information. What got delayed, why was it delayed, how much was it delayed, and can your process accommodate the delay? – Todd A. Jacobs May 20 '14 at 14:59
  • "Hello client, the project is going to take x amount more time because of factor y." Jobs done. – Andrew Clear May 20 '14 at 20:09
  • @Mark, thanks for correcting my post ^^ ~ – Snooper May 20 '14 at 23:40
  • @AndrewClear , ^^ also have to find a way to tell client , else they might hit me with a brick on the head – Snooper May 20 '14 at 23:40
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The best way in every circumstance will boil down to understanding your client's perspective - including, but not limited to, the extent to which they value time as compared to cost and quality.

It's always tempting for the project manager to paint a rosy picture and not inform the sponsor/client of a risk. That is usually the wrong thing to do because it deprives the sponsor/client of their power to make decisions that steer the project in the right direction on the time/cost/quality spectrum.

The right way will vary, but is probably to present the risk alongside your analysis of the options to mitigate that risk. The analysis should represent your understanding of the client's needs.

For example, produce a table with options:

Option 1 - throw money at the problem - maybe you can bring in extra resource/work extra hours. Pros - gets the job done more quickly, cons - more costly, maybe detracts from quality if you're bringing in non-experts or, if they're inclined toward caring about staff well-being, may add to stress levels.

Option 2 - reduce scope and/or test time. Pros - gets job done more quickly, cons - quality may be diminished.

Option 3 - focus on quality outputs & extend timelines. Pros - high quality project Cons - more time and, therefore, may eat into contingency budget.

Option 4 - maybe you can come up with more out-of-the-box options like a phased delivery?

Then produce a thought-out recommendation to the client based on what you think is most important to them. They may disagree with you, but they will appreciate your efforts to a) give them a choice and b) make the problem & decision as simple as possible.

Hope that helps.

  • thanks for spending some quality time replying to this post, a lot of valuable input from you and the boys before this post – Snooper May 20 '14 at 23:44
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Project managers manage variances. You will have both favorable and unfavorable ones. It is not a matter of "asking" but rather informing. Planning values that you choose, both cost and time, are single values that live in a probabilistic range of results. For example, your project has an estimate of finishing between three to nine months. You targeted five.

So your customer should be aware that there is both risk and opportunity for coming in late or early. So part of your reporting needs to expose the variances you have, the risks you are predicting, e.g., project is at risk coming in late, and any mitigating activities you think may help. If you customer comes back and says being late is unacceptable (and there are many reasons why that could be) then something else has to give. Scope drops, bring in more resources (be careful with that because that can backfire), something.

Good PM's do not guarantee coming in on time. PMs who are liars do. Good PMs manage variances and communicate them early and often, good news and bad.

  • Thanks for the valuable input. I like what you say ^^ ~~ "Good PM's do not guarantee coming in on time. PMs who are liars do. Good PMs manage variances and communicate them early and often, good news and bad." ~~ – Snooper May 20 '14 at 23:42
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I second David's opinion (+1!): your main duty is to report, clearly, when any delay can happen in the future. As the post stands, it seems this delay has been identified before the deadline, which works in your favour.

Back to the original question, "how to ask for more time if you identify a potential delay ahead", some rules I'd suggest you to follow:

  • Do not ask for more time, expose the options. As there's a possibility that the original plan won't be met, you need to expose the options and let the client do the call. Depending on the project, the client may not be interested to extend the schedule. What happen if this project was a kind of Millennium Bug and the schedule is missed by a day? In this sense, Khris already provided a good list of options.
  • Avoid blaming the team. Your client is not interested if your dev gave wrong estimates, if someone got sick for weeks or if a scenario wasn't considered. In the end, it's your duty to report the problem and the deviance on the original project.
  • If such risk was reported at the beginning of the project, refresh client's mind. Project estimates are never 100% accurate... that's why they're estimations. If the delay was caused by one of the reported risks, you might have more comfort raising it. Again, problems are always inherent to the work to be delivered, not to people.
  • Avoid falling into Brooks Law: Your client might be tempted to throw people into the project. I'd avoid this as much as I could, unless the knowledge required is 100% technical and the learning curve would be very small.
  • Be always transparent: There might be a temptation on avoiding report today as the problem may solve itself magically before the deadline. Just don't. It won't work. You must flee from falling into another law, this time Murphy's.

All in all, missing estimates is eventually part of PM job. You'd only hit all estimates if you'd be adding a huge amount of padding on them, which wouldn't make you a good PM either.

Success!

  • Hi Tiago ^.^ , thanks for the input. I took the advice you guys gave and at first the client was bit grumpy and not happy of what we said , but then after showing what happened in the project ( bug fixes , new feature request etc ) then finally he said OK to lengtern the project deadline – Snooper Jun 6 '14 at 2:07
  • Hi Snooper, glad it helped you. Success on the next projects! – Tiago Cardoso Jun 6 '14 at 19:55

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