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Devil’s Triangle of Project Management
By Karim Vaes

Say what?

One of the basic principles I’ve learned during college about Project Management is the concept of the “Devil’s Triangle”. Although it’s a very simple concept in nature, it’s powerful when (failed to be) understood.

As you might have expected, there are three sides to our triangle:

  • Time
  • Cost
  • Quality

Devil’s Triangle

Three is a charm

The basic rule is that you choose one primary and one secondary focus of your triangle. The third one is something you just have to accept.

Examples

  • If we choose to go for a low budget (cost) and fast paced project (time), then we will have to cut in features (quality).
  • If we choose to increase or pace (time), we will have to sacrifice either quality or money (cost).

Risk

In addition to these three sides, we’ll have an extra factor in the middle called “Risk”. This is something that will influence each side. When a certain risk occurs, it will have an impact on at least one of our sides.

Examples

If one of our senior developers would turn sick (risk), we would need to replace him/her. This would cause us to rethink our plans in terms of:

  • Replace him/her by a senior consultant : cost increase, quality (should) remain, time line (should) remain
  • Replace him/her by a junior team member : cost decrease, quality might remain, time line will probably be longer

As you can see, you’ll need to decide (upfront) with your stakeholders which areas they value as important. Where you have to clarify that it’s not possible to win on all area’s, but that you just have to accept one side of the triangle.

Karim Vaes, has 7 years of experience in designing, integrating and deploying within Enterprise-Level environments for both large and small organizations in a variety of industries; including Telecom, New Media & Manufacturing. His project experience lies within software development and complex infrastructure environments.

Karim’s website can be found at http://kvaes.be/ and he can be contacted at pmhut@kvaes.be.

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