embedded software boot camp

Two out of three ain’t bad

Sunday, March 25th, 2012 by Nigel Jones

With all due apologies to Meatloaf for the title, I thought I’d pass along something that I’ve found useful over the years. Being a consultant, I regularly find myself in discussions with clients concerning new product development. Without fail, the following three topics are always high on the agenda:

  1. Features, reliability, bug rates etc. I tend to lump all these into the ‘good’ requirement.
  2. Timescales. When can you start, and more importantly, when can you deliver? I call this the ‘fast’ requirement.
  3. Costs. What will it cost and what can be done to minimize these costs? I call this the ‘cheap’ requirement.

What I tell my clients is this:

You can have it good, you can have it fast and you can have it cheap – but you can’t have all three.

Despite the slightly flippant nature of this meme, I’ve found that clients instinctively recognize the truth in this statement. As a result it forces them to think seriously about what their real priorities are – and to plan accordingly.

Incidentally, you may wonder what combinations end up getting asked for the most. Here’s my qualitative assessment:

Good and Fast

This is the most common. Typically the client that is in a time crunch to deliver something that has already been promised. In situations like this, they have to accept that development is going to be more costly.

Good and Cheap

This is also common. This is the client that is planning ahead. They want a product developed, but know it takes time – and accept this reality.

Fast and Cheap

This comes up when clients are looking for a prototype / proof of concept.

Of course you always get the person that wants all three. I just tell them that two out of three ain’t bad :-).

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