Solutions Design: Fast, Cheap, Good. Choose 3.

February 9, 2010

In the past, the truism was: Fast, cheap, good.  Choose 2.

Whether talking about software design, or systems operations design, we are now living in the future.  Why has this changed?  Because the economies of scale for completing software and operations projects has changed.

The kernel of truth to this still exists, each of these elements, speed, cost and quality, can press the upon the others to unbalance any solution.  If a project is done fast, it can be done sloppily to not dot every “i” and cross every “t”.  To create a solution faster, you could hire more people, which makes the solution fail at cheapness.  If you want quality, you could spend a long time building it, and pay for the best in the business.

There is a new way of looking at all of this however, because like technology, other things have progressed with the times as well.  The relationship between fast, good and cheap has not changed, but changes of scale have made working faster, better and cheaper, so when best-of-breed hybrid techniques are applied none of the three areas needs to be disproportionate.

Our ability to understand project management has drastically improved over the past 30 years of mainstream computing solution design and development.  Our ability to understand how to use technology, with methodologies like Object Orientation, 3-Tier server systems, Agile development methodologies, to name only three well-known improvements, gives us a better way to approach solution creation.  There are thousands of improvements out there, in the public, available for anyone to learn and begin using.

Using this knowledge and these skills lead to the ability to work faster, and create higher quality work.  Additionally with the broad spectrum of commercial and open source solutions to leverage, there are many applications, services and libraries which turn many solutions into mostly integration work, and the majority of the original thinking is in managing the host of existing solutions.

“Fast, cheap, good: choose 2”, will remain a fun joke for those feeling the pressures to complete projects under pressures, but with all the information out there at your fingertips, all the work already completed and made available for you to use by others, and having seen personally proof to the contrary, I think it is time to retire this saying as a truism.

The bar has been raised; if you’re only getting 2 these days, you’re doing it wrong.