Good, fast, cheap – pick two


They say a picture tells a thousand words. This image certainly does.

It’s the modern version of the Project Management Triangle, an idea that’s been bandied around board rooms since the 1950s.

Sometimes called the Iron Triangle or Constraints Triangle, the idea is this: good, fast, cheap – pick two.

Why only two? Well, here’s the logic.

  • If you develop something quickly and of top quality it’s going to cost you.
  • If you go for speed and economy, you won’t get high quality.
  • If you focus on high quality and low cost, it’s going to take a long time.

While some argue lean and agile methodology can help you have your cake and eat it too, most agree achieving the three points of the triangle is a kind of business utopia – highly desirable but unattainable.

If you can only pick two, what should you choose?

Whether you are developing your own ideas, products or materials or providing a service to a client, you’ll be faced with certain constraints. These constraints will usually make the decision for you.

Budget is a deciding factor in most projects. However, for blue chip clients, expectations can be a driving force and for others a tight deadline is the deciding factor.

Here are a couple of examples.

  1. You’re a pilates instructor with a workload that’s fast getting out of control. You’ve got more and more new people signing up, you’re adding classes to your week and you don’t have time to field enquiries. You have a great website, but you need an online booking system…and you need it yesterday.

You need a fairly complex system to avoid double bookings and allow for multiple automated options. You’re confident of your income stream, in fact this system will strengthen it by reaching more people and saving your time.  In this case, you can justify paying for the fast delivery of a high-quality product.

  1. You work for a not-for-profit and your budget is close to non-existent. Your project is to put together a comprehensive online resource to support your disadvantaged clients and help them connect with other services. At the moment this is all done one on one in the office but you could reach more people with this resource.

While it sounds impossible, “cheap and good” is actually possible in this case. You’ve got a great volunteer who is willing to work on the project, but can only give an hour or two a week. The best approach here is to spend the time getting your site architecture right then slowly populate the pages. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. Every piece of information or contact you add is valuable and you’ll build up an amazing resource over time.

Cheap and fast – approach with caution!

I mentioned earlier the idea of lean and agile business methodology. This is a whole other topic in itself.

But, if an innovative team of motivated minds get together and apply these time and energy saving methodologies, cheap and fast can lead to a good quality outcome. A word of warning: choose your team carefully, do your homework, be ready to work hard and shift your expectations at speed.

What are you prepared to let go?

For most of us, it usually is a case of pick two and make the best of it.

Given budget is generally the clincher in most projects, my advice to clients is go for the best you can afford and think about what you can let go.

And remember, as with the not-for-profit example I gave earlier, you don’t have to do it all at once.

If you need a new website but you’re on a tight budget or a short timeframe, start with solid architecture and a clean design. You don’t need a lot of images or text to get you going. When you can afford it, or have more time, employ a photographer, get some web copy written, start a regular blog and develop a Content Management Strategy (read my blog on that topic here). It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Work with us

At Online Influence we work with a lot of small businesses, start-ups and people with wild and crazy ideas! We understand that every business and every project is unique. Our friendly team is practiced at producing remarkable results for our clients – no matter what constraints there are on your project. Contact us today to break through the Iron Triangle.