Web Projects Planning and the Iron Triangle

The Iron Triangle allows for only two factors in determining the success of a web project. But the impact of the client’s perspective on the triangle seems to reduce the two factors into a single option.

Iron TriangleEarly on in my development career, I leaned how the Iron Triangle impacts projects. The iron triangle (aka the Project Triangle) is a software development concept that says that the quality of a project is determined by three factors:

  • Timeline. How long you have to complete a project?
  • Budget. How much is the client is willing to pay for the work?
  • Features. What functionality can be built?

The point of the Iron Triangle is that you can pick or constrain only two of these three factors. So if the project timeline and features are constrained, then the budget must grow. If all three factors have to be met, then the quality of the web project will be sacrificed. While this concept seems to give developers some breathing room, the Iron Triangle seems to be further constrained when the client’s perspective is taken into account. Let me explain.

A client typically approaches web projects with two constraining factors. When a client requests a solution, they normally constrain the project by asking that the solution be delivered by a certain deadline. The deadline is normally set because the client needs to meet a pre-determined objective, such as seasonal promotion, customer acquisition campaign, etc. Additionally, when a client requests a solution, they further constrain the project with their budget. Since money doesn’t grow on trees, the client will dictate how much they can spend for development on a project to be completed.

So when the client’s constraints on a project are taken into account, the Iron Triangle is actually reduced to a single option: project features. This means that developers have to look at how many features they can implement for the time and money that they are given. The good news is that the feature list can be functionaly robust or weak. That means that there’s some play in what the client will or will not get for the time and money that they’re dedicating to the project.

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