Today was an important day. We got a project, that has been hanging around for far too long, signed off by the client. This was such good news that I had to send a text message to one of the developers while he is on holiday in Greece. While I am almost certain that he was not thinking about work, he did seem to appreciate knowing that it all went well.
There is a popular misconception that the end of development projects are full of insanely long hours, with the whole team living in the office and eating nothing but pizza. I suppose such stories originate from companies wishing to play on the excitement of it for a big launch. The truth is that while something close to that is occasionally true to make sure we hit a deadline, the end of a project is almost always a long, drawn out process that eats away at your time in ever smaller chunks.
At the start of a project things look good. So far there have been no major mistakes, you are on schedule, at least until the end of the first day. Starts are good. Even in the middle of things you could always catch up. You may in fact hit a deadline with time to spare, thinking that this is the end. But it isn't, because the hardest thing to do in this industry is to get clients to sign off on something.
Thinking about it from their point of view the reasons are simple. The moment they sign it off as complete is the moment that they have to start paying again for any changes. This would not be a problem for clients if they had given you a decent specification in the first place. Invariably they like to see a project as a "collaboration", or an "evolutionary" process. These are wonderful things, and truthfully they are the way almost all developers would wish to work, but at some point, someone has to sign on that dotted line that reads END.
People ask me why projects always overrun so much, and it is very hard to explain to someone who isn't there, and never has been. Mostly projects do not overrun in terms of the number of days worked, it is just that the total length of time from start to finish is much greater than expected.
I know that there will be people reading this who will know exactly the projects I have had in mind while writing this, I only ask that you not name names.
So, one project signed off, several more to go. Can't wait to start the next one...