In our over-advertised, over-branded and over-marketed society we have been foolishly led to believe that we can have it all. All the style, all the status, all the luxury, all the quality, all the savings, all we can eat, all we can watch, all the time. Everything is for us the customer. However this is not the case.

The point of this post is to introduce you to the project triangle and how it affects you and what you can expect to get out of any situation as a consumer or as someone working with an agency in the branding/marketing industry or a freelance designer, programmer or consultant.

The project triangle takes into consideration the three main elements that exist for both client and service or product provider. Those three elements are price, quality and time. All projects have a budget (price) for the client and a cost for the service provider. All projects have certain requirements, goals and expectations from the client that need to be met at an expected level of quality. All projects have a timeline of when things need to be completed. The project triangle simply allows someone to see where they may choose two of the three elements and which one is left. This can help lead to a better understanding of what possible outcomes could be expected from choosing a particular route. Let's look at some examples.

Price + Time = Quality Suffers
If you want something done cheaply and quickly then the quality of whatever your getting will always suffer. A simple example of this in the real world would be fast-food restaurants. Suppose you want to go out for a hamburger, you want it quick and cheap so you go to one of the popular fast-food chains. Have you ever gone to one of them and gotten anything there that looks as good as it does on the menu or TV ads? Of course you haven't. Why not? Because in this case, as the customer you chose price and time, the restaurant owns quality. However, they spend a lot of their time and effort trying to convince you the quality is there, but that just can't be, based on the theory.

Time + Quality = Price Suffers
If you need something done quickly and you need the quality to be awesome then the price you will end up paying will always be higher. This has to be the case here because the company providing the good or service will need to throw more resources, people and expertise at the situation to fulfill your request (quick turnaround at high quality) and that has to come at a cost or that company will not be in business for a long time. Consider shipping a package. You always pay a premium for getting something to a destination over night than you do if you can wait for a week for it to arrive.

Price + Quality = Time Suffers
If you need something done cheaply but it needs to be awesome then you will have to be patient as to when the product or service will be delivered. If the financial investment is not going to be there from the customers end but the quality of the final product needs to be high then it has to be realized that the priority given to the customers needs will not be as great as other items that are worth more financially to the service or product provider. Have you ever had to get a rain check from a store because a good item was on sale for a great price but was sold out when you went to get it? Maybe a landscaper was having a spring discount on services but they were booked up for three weeks because of it, so you find yourself waiting almost a month to get booked yourself.

I am writing this to help you understand what you are facing when considering making an investment into your brand because it can help you be more strategic as to how you go about choosing the time to do so.

Consider the three elements and which two are the most important to you. Then consider what the implications may be by letting the third one suffer.

If you want to allow time to suffer you need to be a very good planner and think far ahead to meet your objectives in the small windows of opportunity that may exist. If you want to allow price to suffer you need to be strategic about when you spend your money. Maybe you have to save your budget for a few quarters before committing to a strategy or understand that you may not be able to get everything you want on the budget you have. However with small budgets come the opportunity to think very creatively and do things on a more personal level then you may have done with a lot of money to spend. If you want to allow quality to suffer you have to consider what that may do to your image/brand and the relationship you have with your audience. Maybe there are other creative strategies you can apply to lesson the impact of allowing quality to suffer.

It's important to consider the project triangle and realize that it is unrealistic to think that everything in a situation will completely favor your side. I only mention this because it can help set realistic expectations which will set you and your organization up for a win.

I can tell you from personal experience that if you're in a situation where you think you are getting all three, I can almost guarantee you that you will not and the one that is most likely to suffer is quality. If by some miracle you do manage to get all three, someone, somewhere, is making a sacrifice on your behalf, likely putting in extra time and hard work to make things happen for you. It's kind of like the saying there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone, somewhere has done the work and someone has paid the cost.

Andrew VanderPloeg
Andrew VanderPloeg Guest Blogger, Consultant

Andrew served at Bark for over 20 years before recently taking over the role of Vice President of Marketing & Communications at ShareWord, one of our favorite organizations.