Every project has four dimensions that can be managed. Each of these dimensions can and should have associated goals, and the list of dimensions must be prioritized as well.
- Scope: For software projects, scope is the project requirements list. Typically, this includes performance requirements and a set of features. To increase the scope, add features or make existing features on the list; to decrease the scope, remove or simplify features or reduce performance requirements.
- Cost: For software projects, cost is primarily contained in resources needed for the project.
- Schedule: The schedule for software projects is typically prioritized using the desired release date. If interim dates (alpha, beta, feature freeze, code freeze, etc.) are determining factors, these dates may be prioritized separately.
- Quality: Many models prioritize based on the previous three dimensions only. Unfortunately, what usually drops is the quality of the product or at least the testing time. It is important to realize that the quality of a software product is directly influenced by the other project dimensions. There are times when the product quality is of lesser importance than other dimensions – demo deadlines, marketing events, etc.
It's true, of course, that all four dimensions are critical to a project.
Think of each of the dimensions as a dial. On any project, the project sponsor can 'set' any two of the dials. Those two dials guide the project, and don't move. The other dials can be turned as goals, but they move in order to allow the two guiding dimensions to remain set.
Trying to set more than two dials almost always causes at least one dimension to fail to meet expectations. The problem is that there is no control on which dimensions fail – things just start falling through the cracks. Although determining the priority of the dimensions can be a difficult exercise, it enables the project sponsor to maintain control and provides guidance to all project team members throughout the project in making day-to-day trade-offs.
Throughout the Project:
Any significant movement in any of the dials does trigger a risk assessment during the course of the project. Prioritizing the dimensions does not mean that the 'unset' dials are ignored; it simply means that the project team understands the priorities of the project sponsor when trade-offs must be made.
Project Name: _______________________________________________
Project Sponsor: ______________________________________________
Check Two Dials:
____ Scope ____ Schedule ____ Cost/Resources ____ Quality
Details on the dials – Settings for top two, goals for others:
Scope: (note specific features/items or date and name of document)
Schedule: (note phase and date)
Quality: (Note test time/cycles, bug metrics, other)