Iron Triangle Project Management

All agile software projects have the same challenges:

  • What the project must deliver.
  • When it needs to be delivered.
  • How it will stay on budget.

Managing these three constraints is a tricky juggling act, but a once-common software planning tool can help balance different variables and achieve project management nirvana: The Iron Triangle Project Management

The Iron Triangle vs. The Agile Approach

At first glance, The Iron Triangle approach looks no different from the agile software one, as its principles involve scope, schedule, and budget. That’s pretty much the three agile points we listed above, right? Yes, it is, but there’s a critical difference that dramatically separates the two. In an agile approach, speed, not scope, is the most important driver. What that means in practical terms is getting the smallest usable features workable as quickly as possible. Here’s why that matters.

Real-World Usage vs. Hypothetical Models

Experience tells us that no matter how much thought, planning, and speculation go into a software project when the rubber hits the road, it quickly becomes obvious some assumptions and abstract concepts aren’t going to work. In agile software projects, we focus on quickly building the things we know will work, focusing on the most critical issues to solve rather than following a pre-defined chronological path.

When you release and test minimally viable products, you’re able to produce better solutions than you would if you blindly followed an initial plan you were required to stick to. Here’s an illustration of the agile approach in action. Microsoft discovered that by fixing the top 20 percent of its most reported bugs, 80 percent of related crashes and bugs in a system would be eliminated. In other words, 20 percent of the code had 80 percent of the errors!

This 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto principle, can easily be applied to agile software projects. At Zibtek, we work with our clients to make sure upfront planning helps them define project priorities that get their core business objectives met in the shortest possible time.

Speed Without Sacrificing Quality

Does all this speed have a negative impact on a project? It could, but done right, the answer is no. Zibtek balances speed and quality by holding strong sprint planning meetings with product owners, engineers, and quality assurance where the focus is on brainstorming ideal technical approaches to solutions and architecture. Unlike a Kanban approach, which runs fast with no thought or planning, an agile approach runs fast while still allowing for strong architecture and coding standards.

Harmonious Project Management

So, are The Iron Triangle and the agile software project approaches compatible? On many levels, the answer is yes. While agile moved the needle from strictly following upfront planning to doing smaller tasks that speed up the process, most projects still follow many of the laws of The Iron Triangle, whether consciously or not. Where agile wins the day is that it gets things accomplished even as the scope of your project progresses and changes. Zibtek’s agile software project methods work for all types of software development models, including those being developed alongside products. We invite you to check out our Software Development Comparison Guide to learn more about how you can get the most Agile bang for your investment.