Blow up the Iron Triangle: Rethinking Software Project Approaches and Goals to Increase Business Value


By Jeffrey Davidson



In an effort to bring more value, save more time, and make a bigger difference, software projects are rethinking every part of project delivery. Companies are attempting new approaches to solve challenges and opportunities.

These changes herald how the definition for project success is moving from the Iron Triangle of Scope-Schedule-Cost to a more flexible and impactful model of Value-Quality-Constraints. The tectonic shift influences nearly all elements of how software projects are conceived, executed, and measured. From redefining the problem statement to piloting solutions in a matter of weeks, the new focus on value over traditional project metrics shakes project management and requires a new understanding.


Everyone agreed the organization needed change. The IT department had lost another leader from the top job. After going through four leaders in about as many years, the question was, what kind of leader would be coming in next?

The original IT leader did not have many processes and didn’t believe in project management. If you were connected or had friends in the department you could get something done. Conversely, if you didn’t have the connections, you didn’t have much chance of being heard. Let’s call this leader “Cowboy.”

Cowboy’s replacement brought in great people and best practices. It was easier to be heard if you could figure out how to get your idea through the process. The work was more organized with Project Managers and Analysts and loads of paperwork. And meetings, there were many, many meetings. This leader lasted for a few years and we will call him “Process Heavy.”

The next IT leader said the process was too heavy and we needed a new, lightweight method. Scrum was introduced to developers and the staff was reorganized from departments into teams. The new method was held onto so tightly any variance or deviation was shunned and cast aside. The teams were happier and the business liked getting small bits of work more quickly. Unfortunately, the new process brought a confusing new vocabulary and large projects never finished. This leader is the “Developer’s Friend” and he lasted for much less time than his predecessor.

The fourth IT leader felt like a breath of fresh air. “We should be a bit more flexible with our process,” he said. And the business liked when he told them “Yes.” He told all of them yes without a way to give them what they wanted. So the staff with less process had more work. And the business eventually tired of hearing everything is okay when they could not get results out of IT. This leader will be “Yes Man.” He didn’t last very long at all.


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note:  Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. This paper was originally presented at the 7th Annual UT Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, Texas, USA in August 2013.  It is republished here with the permission of the author and UT Dallas. 

About the Author

pmwj17-Dec2013-davidson-AUTHOR IMAGEflag-usaJeffrey S. Davidson

North Texas, USA

Jeffrey Davidson, CSPO, PMC is a dynamic and engaging speaker, found at conferences and IIBA chapter events across the country. He works as ThoughtWorks’ North American Lead Analyst and Principal Consultant, focused on building BA communities and skills across in US and Canadian offices. Jeffrey regularly consults on critical projects in the transportation and finance industries, working with high-performance business analyst and software-delivery teams. He is a board member and past-president of IIBA Dallas Chapter. He can be contacted at [email protected].