Good, Fast & Cheap (“Pick Any 2”): The Iron Triangle of Product Development

Good Fast & Cheap

Learning about the The Iron Triangle (also referred to as Triple Constraint) was a bit of an eye-opener for me. It’s derivative of a design principle that you can prioritize any (and only) 2 of the following 3 results at the expense of the other: Quality, Time, Cost.

• Design something quickly (time) & to a high standard (quality), but then it will not be cheap (cost). [Think lots of good workers]
• Design something quickly (time) and cheaply (cost), but it will not be of high standard (quality). [Think lots of inexperienced workers]
• Design something with high standard (quality) and cheaply (cost), but it will take longer (time). [Think limited, but good workers]

This principle has aptly been applied to many areas in business (most notably toproject management) and it got me thinking, what are the 3 pillars for the development of DataComm products? Based on my own observations, there is a relationship in the characteristics of Time (Ease of use), Affordability (TCO) & Quality (Features).

• If it’s easy-to-use and affordable, it won’t have sufficient features
* Presumption: Adding additional features raises vendor costs which is passed along through the product 

• If it’s easy-to-use and has sufficient features, it won’t be affordable
* Presumption: Making the product affordable would require the vendor to reduce the costs (like development & design)

• If it has sufficient features and is affordable, it won’t be easy-to-use
* Presumption: Improving usability requires increased design efforts which would come at the expense of other resources (features) or add to costs.

The problem has been with traditional development models where the vendor creating proprietary software has an increased cost-basis that is directly proportional to these three characteristics.  Developing faster, better, more intuitive software requires more engineers, developers, artists, etc. THIS IS ALWAYS A ZERO SUM PROPOSITION, FOR WHICHEVER IS GAINED BY ONE SIDE IS LOST BY THE OTHER.

That’s not the case for every vendor!!! Over the last several years, companies like Endian have been leveraging the power of the Open Source model in which this “balancing act” for creating faster, better & more intuitive products simply does not exist. Being able to integrate the Best of Breed OSS (Open Source Software) into an intuitive platform allows Endian to create feature-rich products quickly at a fraction of the cost!

The benefits of being able to incorporate OSS enterprise-level tools into a framework shift the paradigm for organizations like Endian for a number of reasons:
• (Cost) Much of the algorithms developmental efforts are absorbed by reputable 3rd parties (other OSS organizations, community development, etc) which drives down cost and delivery times. In this way, if Endian wanted to improve a specific aspect of its software, it has the luxury of shopping for the best of breed OSS engines OR developing the solution on its own (not just the latter).
• (Time) The products source code are available to the public for inspection, as a result the code is written to prevent “holes” and “back doors” making it more secure. This helps drive down Quality Assurance times and divide the inspection out over a large community of users.
• (Quality) Because companies like Endian are not relegated to developing only within the parameters of their own expertise, they can add features that are incredibly sophisticated from integrating solutions created by organizations that specialize in a specific niche.

This illustrates how Endian can build incredibly powerful, easy-to-use, affordable products in shorter developmental cycles. As a result, its clients are the beneficiary of the continued feature upgrades that are released throughout the year.