The Power of Three

As project managers, IT professionals must produce deliverables that satisfy three task factors. Deliverables must (1) meet certain quality standards, (2) be installed within a specified period of time, and (3) be completed within a specific budget. From the project management perspective, the principal task of IT professionals is helping users fit their aspirations for information technology-enhanced performance improvement with the realities of time and resource constraints.

To keep these interdependencies in mind and in the minds of users, one IT organization uses the slogan "Good, Fast, and Cheap: Pick Two." "If you want fast and cheap, then you cannot have good." "You can have good and cheap, but then you cannot have it fast," and so on. A key implication of the project management perspective is that IT professionals today more carefully manage the interdependencies between quality, time, and cost.

While engaged in this task today, IT professionals are being asked to more evenly divide their attention between each of the task factors. Historically, IT professionals have been perceived to focus more on quality (as they, not the user, defined it) to the near exclusion of time and cost considerations. The legacy of such practice was user complaints that work products were off target, late, and over budget. The specter of outsourcing that haunts IT managers today is, in part, due to the unfortunate legacy of these complaints.

Better managing the relationships between quality, time, and cost occurs when IT professionals successfully address a couple of key project planning and project tracking and control challenges. In the project planning phase, when requirements and specifications are being established, disagreements among users about performance improvement priorities or user anxiety about making costly decisions (e.g., large financial investments in IT; significant changes in business processes) are common and can make it difficult to establish commitments about quality, time, and cost. Directly engaging these difficulties (e.g., implementing a group priority-setting session to resolve user manager disagreements, working with the user management team to build a common vision of how requirements will be implemented, influencing users to adopt a more gradual and incremental approach to innovation) is necessary to resolving them. Proceeding without such clarity creates problems later in project life cycle.

Later in the project life cycle, changes in the project environment frequently occur and invalidate initial commitments about quality, time, or cost. User requirements shift; tasks exceed their estimated completion times; budgets are slashed. When project tracking and controlling practices detect changes, trade-offs between quality, time, and cost must be negotiated. Deliverables may have to be scaled back to address budgetary constraints. Timelines may have to be extended to allow for the development of increases in desired functionality. Budgets may have to be increased to complete project deliverables more quickly, and so on. Assertively engaging users in problem solving about such tradeoffs is another important aspect of better managing the project task factors.

To maintain the proper relationship between quality, time, and cost, tough choices are often required. What makes these choices difficult is that one is not often selecting between a clearly good and bad choice. Rather, the choices are often between good and good.[1]

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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