You might think that promising a reasonable date is a reasonable downsell, but it increases risk to the customer relationship without offering anything of material value to them or to you.
It is never remarkable when things ship on promised schedules. It is remarkable when not.
The nature of engineering projects is to run over time. This is *particularly* true at small companies which are bandwidth constrained, but it happens at AppAmaGooBookSoft, the federal government, and every engineering team you've ever loved.
To be in the habit of promising dates is to be in the habit of breaking promises. You should cultivate the habit of not promising dates.
Note that this is really "heads I lose tails I lose harder" with respect to the instant customer need here. They have an internal target, you're missing it either way, but you set up a new target where hitting it is still a miss and missing it is just a double miss.
You might sensibly think "Aha but there is value in communicating dates to customers because that allows them to make informed tradeoffs for their own schedules based on the date."
Real talk: they won't, but they will perceive themselves to have done so.
"What do you mean they won't?"
Have you worked at an organization? Where there are a number of people whose paychecks are all signed by the same person? Who break bread together? How often do *they* successfully align disparate workstreams with dates *given meetings to do so*?
Your customer does not report to your boss. They do not see you in the hallway. They will not have you at their progress meetings. They will almost certainly not copy you in on every update to their Gantt chart.
When you tell a customer you are slipping a date, they will not interpret it like the last 47 times it happened when Bob got sick, QA underestimated cycle time, or Jane got blocked by being matrixed to the incident response.
And will they say "Oh, don't worry, I had avoided doing any work on the basis of your forecast dates, so this is ultimately no skin off my nose?" Nope. Nobody likes to admit that they took no action on what might resemble a relevant factoid. They *thought* about it, clearly.
They thought about it, and then they wrote a schedule, and their thinking about it informed the schedule, and the schedule is now wrong, like every schedule which has ever been written but (importantly) distinguished because none of those other schedules clearly blamed you.
Don't promise dates!
Abhijit Sharma @abhijitysharma
Estimates aren't commitments.
Customers don't believe this.
Customers will experience motivated cognition with regards to their interpretation of what "I think it is possible we could have is ready by September 21st." means.
Part of this is just a failure of our technologies for measuring progress, since there's no natural way to type into Excel the difference between:
$1,043,286 (THIS IS AN AUDITED FINANCIAL FIGURE) and
September 21st (gut feeling by an optimist who was trying to make us feel good)