Time, Cost, Quality – Pick 2

When it comes to projects – IT or building, there’s one quote I keep coming back to:

“Time, Cost, Quality – Pick Two”

Kevin McCloud repeated this mantra often on Grand Designs, and while he was referring to ambitious building projects, it holds true in IT as well (and much of life). If watching Kevin McCloud wag his finger at naive home builders taught us anything, it’s that projects never go perfectly to plan. There is always an unforeseen complication (usually followed by the obligatory drama for the episode). Worst case scenario, you can lose out on all three, but typically you end up making one of these decisions:

  • Take longer, and do it right. The budget has no more wiggle room, so you have to wait (compromise on Time)
  • Cut a corner and finish it now. The budget is rigid, the timeline inflexible. So you creatively reduce the scale somehow (compromise on Quality)
  • Pour in a ton of money and get it done right, and get it done now (compromise on Cost)

We’re doing a reno, and while I’d love to have a few lazy thousands to throw at problems to make them disappear, I tend to go with option A and compromise on time.  That way we can do a decent job on our reno and still feed the kids if we don’t mind it taking a few months longer, and sanding the floors ourselves (and painting, building walls, hanging doors, jackhammering up bricks and tiles, and … it’s a never ending list really).

In business, I need to make sure my clients are on the same page as me. Most business clients are very price sensitive. Plus, it’s difficult for a small business to scale up instantly, so no matter how much money the client has, you just can’t finish things instantly by throwing cash at it. Which means they are most likely either quality or time focused. I like doing a good job, so I work best with quality focused clients who can afford some flexibility with the time when needed. I’d rather do it right than do it twice.

So the next time you’re struggling with a client’s expectations, it may be worth finding out what they are willing to compromise on, and what they hold most precious.

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