When stepping into the realm of project planning and client engagement, a golden rule shines like a beacon. This beacon guides you: in any project, you can hold down two corners of a triangular puzzle. Time and cost. Functionality and cost. But trying to control all three—time, functionality, and cost—is like attempting to hold water in a sieve. It’s a dance with chaos, a recipe for an unhappy client, and an exhausted team.

Time and cost

Consider the first pair: time and cost. It’s like a well-planned journey. You can decide when you’ll arrive (time) and how much you’re willing to pay for the ticket (cost). But your choice of destination (functionality), is influenced by these factors. Maybe you’re sailing to the Bahamas, or maybe to Bermuda. But you can’t determine both your arrival time and the cost of the journey without allowing for some flexibility on the destination.

Functionality and cost

Functionality and cost are like two ends of a seesaw. They balance against each other. You may opt for a slick new system with all the bells and whistles (high functionality), but it comes with a price tag (high cost). On the other hand, a more affordable system (low cost) might not have all the high-tech features (low functionality). You can choose which end of the seesaw to sit on, but you can’t dictate how high or low the other end will be.

Time, functionality, and cost

But then, the perilous attempt at juggling all three—time, functionality, and cost. It’s like trying to catch three fastballs simultaneously. Your hands are tied. You can’t catch them all. You try to speed up the process, cut costs, and keep all the functionalities intact. But in reality, you end up stressing your team, compromising on quality, and setting up for failure.

Understanding this principle—this golden rule—it’s like having a compass in your hand. It helps you navigate through the maze of project planning. It helps you manage client expectations, set realistic goals, and create a harmonious working environment.

So remember, two corners of the triangle are yours to hold. The third one, let it flow, let it find its place. That’s the dance of a successful project.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Product + Content Marketing at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.