In software development projects, expectations are a powerful force. They can determine the perceived success or perceived failure of a project, and since perception is reality, it can be one of the more important aspects of a successful project. Ensuring that the business owner and development team have the same expectations, open lines of communication can thus help warrant a successful project.

From a business owner’s perspective, expectations are almost always high, as they should be, while working with a development team to realize your vision and goals. You should expect your development team to be responsive, to be knowledgeable, and to bring their technical expertise to the table. You should expect to get regular communication and updates. You should expect a professional delivery, starting from a clearly communicated project plan and ending with a beautiful and elegant final product.

However, the “managing” of expectations comes into play in setting realistic parameters around your project and your goals. Everyone wants their project to be done “yesterday”, but delivering a professional solution always takes time. It is important to keep realistic timeline-based expectations for your project, and to work with your development team to set realistic goals. If you choose to force aggressive timelines on your team, you will almost certainly be disappointed along the way. When people move faster than what is necessary, mistakes happen. And mistakes are costly in many ways. So by setting an unrealistic timeline expectation for yourself and your team, you are setting yourself up for a perceived failure (and therefore an actual failure) resulting in costly reworks of the end product.

Another area where expectations should typically be set and managed relate to the cost of a project. As the saying goes, “good, fast, or cheap…pick any two”. In the current landscape of global software development and open source solutions, software can be delivered at lower costs than ever before. However, highly customized or complex solutions still take a degree of expertise, effort, and time, and as long as your expectations for the team match the budget allocated to achieve your vision, you will be well placed to achieve success. If, on the other hand, someone expects to create the “next big thing” and something better than all the other apps on the market for a few thousand dollars, they are setting themselves up for incompatible expectations and a failed outcome.

The Lesson: You can achieve a successful outcome by setting realistic expectations and managing them well, without any need for compromising your goals or sacrificing your vision.

As a software development team, it is also their job to define and manage expectations, which is integral for the success of any project. From the outset of any project, it is up to the development team to review and clearly communicate the approach, scope of features, and any foreseen limitations or clarifications related to the end product which the client may need to be aware of. It is the responsibility of the technical team to set clear timelines, set clear expectations on when and how often the project communications will happen. And most importantly, setting and managing a clear schedule through the life of the project so that the big picture expectations are clear to all stakeholders.

So how can you maximize your chance of a successful software project? By clearly setting and communicating your expectations from the start and ensuring frequent and open communication, you can ensure that everyone involved is on the same page and has the same perception of what is expected. Then you will have a perceived success (Then your project will be perceived as a success), and since perception is reality, you will have a truly successful project.