Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The time, cost and quality debate continues

The mantra from Project Management states that time, cost and quality are interdependent so that if one of the factors is changed, the others have to change too. This has been used across all types of projects to try and define what a developer will do for a client in a stated amount of time and for a known cost.

This trio has been referred to as the golden or iron triangle. Project Managers of more traditional projects than interactive electronic projects have found it hard enough to apply, but iMedia projects have suffered from:
  • a lack of a clear definition at the beginning of projects from clients,
  • a fast changing environment that forces changes in markets and therefore changes in the products that are offered,
  • faster obsolescence of skills and expertise in the workforce or accelerating costs of expertise in the workforce through new need outstripping supply, because of the volatile environment.
As a result of this last consideration, resource costs become variable and unstable while the end product requirements shift too.

Despite the difficult nature of the iMedia environment, the Time Cost Quality processes are sought after as attributes in many current interactive job descriptions. iMedia management wants these to work and who can blame them. They want their companies to be successful i.e. make money. They want the costs controlled. They want the expended time controlled. But, everyone wants to push the boundaries (quality and creativity) as well. Can we have it all?

Time, Cost and Quality are good principles to start from but they don’t give the whole answer. As we’ve explained before, there are variations offered that try to capture more control mechanisms within a project environment such as iMedia. We’ve noted such variations as scope, stakeholders, Agile programming methods and users in our book and previous blogs (for example here and here).

Sometimes you get a clash of disciplines. The Agile programming explosion that has its scrums and sprints – iterative small developments that are agreed with clients rather than the older sequential development models – has clashed with traditional controls of time, cost and quality because it is iterative not incremental. For an up-to-date perspective on this, see Keith Richards’ white paper on how to integrate Agile with Prince2,December 2012, Prince methodology itself adds in extra control mechanisms but very often they are extensions of the core trio processes. Prince takes a strong stand on defining the project parameters, for example, so that the trio can be applied. As an alternative perspective, it appears that the triplet has expanded to a sextuplet and includes risk, resources and scope for Voyager 8 in his blog February 2010. Can this give better control?

We all know that different markets affect the products. The emphasis on projects to sell, to convince, to brand etc. are more about the users of the product and how they relate to it than what the client or developer think they need. User experience can drive projects more than clients do. Time, Cost and Quality work with tight specifications upfront and strict control of changes but these are so very hard to attain in iMedia particularly when user experience shifts so quickly.

So, the debate goes on. There are so many factors to consider in the mix of stakeholders, clients, team, and users in defining the end product that will serve defined business needs. Always a thorny issue: jelly and walls come to mind! Anyone have a better take on all this?

No comments:

Post a Comment