When Backlog Items Are Finished Too Early
What do we do if the team works faster than expected?
15 September 2015
When we take on a fixed-price project, we have an initial backlog (on which we made estimations) that can, of course, change over time. This potential change can lead to a completely different software product from what was agreed to at the beginning of the project life cycle. I'll use my experience as a starting point for discussion.
Faster development of backlog items
This time something new happened: We finished our backlog items before the negotiated fixed date in the contract. We finished work in six sprints instead of eight. That's good.
What did we do with the remaining time? Exactly what the customer expected us to do: We accepted more backlog items in order to fill the void in the remaining sprints. Stakeholders were delighted because they got what they wanted, on time, and even got more functionality that they hadn't thought about during the first few sprints.
This led to new problems I didn't even consider.
Margins on the project
In my company, and in many others, annual income depends on the margins on every project. The question I was asked: "Why didn't you stop as soon as you completed the backlog items? Remaining sprints could have been seen as project margins. This way, you did not get any margin improvement with respect to what had been planned, so don't expect any bonus at the end of the year."
OK, I can live with that; I know that, too often, margins are reached through unpaid overtime. But the question remains on the table: What do we do if the team works faster than expected?
With a fixed-price contract, time and scope are also fixed. We stop thinking in terms of customer satisfaction, and that is not what I want.
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