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How to Outsmart the Triple Constraints: A Phased Approach to your Mobile Project

In a post I wrote this past May, I discussed the impact that the Triple Constraints – a compromising dance between time, scope, and budget – have on developing your mobile app project. Most importantly, I noted that, “if you try to move or grow one side of the triangle without moving or growing the others, quality is compromised.” You can get the craziest most complex app imaginable (maximum scope) if you are willing to spend the time and budget necessary to get there. In contrast, you can also have an app that does not exceed your budget or timeline if you are aware that you might have to keep your scope within limits. Just like any relationship, it requires compromise. 

All of that said, there is one option that breaks out of the typical project management triangle, which I failed to mention in the previous post. Instead of trying to squeeze your project into one triangle, what if you broke it into multiple smaller triangles, each completed over a longer period of time?

At Maestro, we refer to this method as a phased approach.

A phased approach means compromising time to achieve your wish list of features and functionalities.  It’s taking a large project with an intimidating price and lengthy timeline and splitting it up into smaller, more manageable, pieces. When I was studying in graduate school, I used this very method to rock through my projects and assignments, carefully balancing time, scope, and “budget,” (we will say that energy and focus were my currency).

For example, if I just finished up class for the day and noticed I had 150 pages to read on business strategy by the morning, I would probably stick around to read the first 50, go for a workout to clear my head and refocus, then come back to finish up the remaining 100 pages. Large projects and assignments look far less daunting when broken into bite-sized increments.

Although time, scope, and budget are always going to influence your projects, you may decide that you want to dream big and develop big without compromising any aspect – outsmart the triple constraints by mapping out a phased development approach!

Many companies choose to start off with a MVP, or minimal viable product, and plan phases throughout the year (or several years) to implement additional features and complexities. It’s as if you have multiple Project Management Triangles, which, when combined, allow you to eventually develop your entire “dream big” vision.

The Benefits By attacking the project in phases you extend the timeline. By extending the timeline you allow the budget to spread out over several easily digestible bites instead of choking down one lump sum. I know extending the timeline might not sound like a benefit, but the very first roll out of the application, the MVP, will be fully functional and will bring results on it’s own. Additional phases and feature add-ons allow you to improve upon and expand the support and tools provided.

This method may also help to get the stakeholders on board. Not only have you planned out the solution thoroughly enough to have an actionable phase-by-phase plan, you also only need to take nibbles out of the quarterly budget, freeing up money to be spent on other deserving needs, as well.

Think Before you Phase Yes, the phased approach is a very appealing option. Who wouldn’t want to get everything on their wish list? However, just as we caution with any solution, there is no “one size fits all” in mobile. You need to look at what is going to deliver the most value for your company; a phased approach may or may not be a part of the answer to that question.

In addition, if you are going to implement a phased-approach, planning is key. The investigation and work before development occurs, as well as ensuring that you have a clear schedule and timeline of features will help make the process smooth from phase to phase.

No, unfortunately, the triple constraints are not going to go away. At some point your project will probably run into a fork in the road and be forced to compromise time, scope, and/or budget. When this happens, remember that a fork in the road doesn’t mean a dead end, just that it’s time to get creative. Perhaps that creative balancing act will lead you to a phased approach, allowing you to achieve your entire business-driving wish list over a longer period of time.

Sydney Hill

Not to mention refreshing, positive and downright invigorating. Should we expect anything less from a personality that absolutely bubbles…

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