15.1. Big deadlines are just several small deadlines

To discuss important aspects of mid- and end-game strategy, we need to define several interim dates that occur on projects. The three most basic interim dates, in a plain-vanilla schedule, correspond to the crossovers between the rough rule of thirds described in Chapter 2 (see Figure 15-2). Each crossover point represents a shift in focus for the team, and it should have its own exit criteria.

Figure 15-2. Within milestones, there are key dates that should be tracked, targeted, and given exit criteria.

Exit criteria are your list of things that the milestone was supposed to accomplish. They describe what state the project has to be in to complete a milestone. The earlier exit criteria are defined, the better the odds are that the milestone will be completed on time.

The three key crossover points in any milestone are:

  • Design complete/spec complete. The team is ready to write production code. All specifications, prototypes, or design briefs needed to begin implementation are finished. (Note that this doesn't demand for all specs to be finished, only the ones deemed necessary to start implementation. This could be 20% or 90% of them.) Design work may continue (see the section "The coding pipeline" in Chapter 14), and iterations and revisions may occur, but an acceptable percentage or core of it has been completed.

  • Feature complete ...

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