How NOT to Manage Expectations

Posted on 23. Mar, 2006 by in Business, News

I don’t know about you, but one of the first things I learned at business school was how to manage expectations. It’s a simple concept really – you simply tell the client or customer that you’ll have the product finished in 7 days and then deliver it in 5 making your client ecstatic at your ability to beat the deadline. What the customer doesn’t know is that it really takes 5 days to produce and that 7 days was a conservative estimate that you gave him to get him off your back just in case the project took 6 days.
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A simple concept, right? Well, what I don’t understand is how a multi-billion dollar company like Microsoft can’t seem to grasp this concept. The recent announcement that the new OS–Vista–will be delayed another 6 months or so is just one more notch on the tree for Microsoft. They’ve been in the business of developing software for a while now. In my opinion they should now begin to understand how long it’s going to take to develop something like Windows Vista. If it’s going to take forever, like it has, then tell us so. Telling us that it’s going to come out in 2006, then mid-2006, then 2007 does nothing but diminish your credibility and make me like you even less.

What Microsoft should have done is announce that Vista wouldn’t come out until 2008. Then in 2007, to the applause of millions, announce that it’s going to come out tomorrow. Can you imagine the excitement? People will be asking themselves, “How did Microsoft do it? How did they get so ahead of schedule?” But what they won’t realize is that 2008 was just a date they set to cover their butts just in case it did take that long.

4 Responses to “How NOT to Manage Expectations”

  1. Josh

    23. Mar, 2006

    This is exactly what NASA did with the Mars rovers. They claimed they would only last a couple of months at most, but they are still proving useful and functional after over a year of service. Who would think that even a government agency knows how to handle expectations better than Microsoft.

  2. Sterling Camden

    23. Mar, 2006

    Unfortunately, in this new era of agile software development, you can’t take seven years to release a new version of anything and hope to survive. MS will be able to weather almost six years (XP, 2001 – Vista, 2007), with some damage to their credibility, but if they had announced a seven year plan from the start it would have hurt them even more.

    What they should have done is have some planned incremental releases in between, and over-deliver on the expectations for those.

  3. fiend

    24. Mar, 2006

    Like Sony, Microsoft is on uneasy grounds, from a ultimate killer OS, they removed all the killer things to make a deadline, and now it seems there is no deadline, all of this will just give more ground to competitors ^_^.oO(Apple and Linux start to sound and look very appealing)

  4. hoss

    28. Mar, 2006

    Sterling Camden is on the right track. MS could not have said that Vista is 7 years out. That give a incentive for users to start looking for options. If Vista is only 6 months away (and continuously 6 months away), then it makes a tougher choice.

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