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The Agile Triangle: How to balance value, quality and constraints

To reach desired project goals, project managers traditionally focus on the project management triangle, also called the iron triangle. It highlights the importance of balancing scope, time and cost for successful project management. However, as more organisations now look to adopt an Agile approach, the project management triangle has begun to feel constrictive in these fast-paced setting - to combat this, the Agile triangle was created.

Learn more about the project management triangle.

Three aspects of the Agile triangle

The Agile triangle consists of the following three points:

  • Value: Instead of focusing solely on delivering a project within a predefined scope, time, and budget, Agile places a strong emphasis on providing value for the customer. This means prioritising features and tasks that offer the highest value and making adjustments as needed based on feedback and changing requirements
  • Quality: Quality is central to Agile projects, emphasising delivering a product that not only meets but exceeds customer expectations. This involves continuous testing, integration, and feedback loops to ensure the final product is of a high quality. Quality in the Agile context also encompasses usability, functionality, and performance
  • Constraints: While the traditional constraints of scope, time, and cost are still relevant in Agile, they are viewed more flexibly. Agile projects are more adaptable to changes in scope, with time and cost being managed in a way that supports the primary goals of delivering value and maintaining quality. Agile methodologies often use iterations or sprints, allowing for adjustments along the way rather than strict adherence to initial estimates

Why adopt the Agile triangle?

Adopting the Agile triangle in project management offers several compelling benefits encouraging organisations to strive to maintain competitiveness and innovation.

Here are key reasons to consider adopting the Agile triangle:

  • Enhanced flexibility and adaptability: Traditional project management models often struggle with changes that occur during the project lifecycle. The Agile triangle places constraints in a more flexible context, allowing teams to adapt more readily to changes in the market, technology, or customer preferences. This adaptability is crucial for businesses operating in environments where requirements can shift rapidly
  • Increased customer satisfaction: By focusing on delivering value and involving the customer in the development process through regular feedback and iterations, projects are more likely to meet or exceed customer expectations. This continuous engagement ensures that the final product is closely aligned with the customer's wants and needs, enhancing their satisfaction and loyalty
  • Improved product quality: Quality is a cornerstone of the Agile triangle. Agile methodologies incorporate continuous testing, integration, and feedback loops, which help identify and address issues early in development. This commitment results in higher-quality outcomes, reduces the risk of product failures, and increases the product’s value to customers
  • Better risk management: Agile’s iterative nature and emphasis on early and continuous delivery helps identify potential risks and issues early on. This approach allows teams to respond proactively to risks, making adjustments as necessary, which can significantly lower the impact of these risks on the project’s overall success
  • Increased project control: Agile methodologies provide teams with mechanisms for constant monitoring and control through daily stand-ups, sprint reviews, and retrospectives. This continuous oversight within the triangle ensures that projects stay aligned with business goals and allows for immediate corrections, enhancing project control and management
  • Efficient use of resources: Agile projects can allocate resources efficiently by prioritising tasks based on their value and adjusting scope flexibly. This can lead to cost savings and ensure that efforts are focused on high-value activities that contribute most significantly to project goals
  • Fostering innovation: The Agile triangle’s emphasis on customer value and quality, combined with the flexibility to adapt to changing requirements, creates an environment conducive to innovation. Teams are encouraged to explore creative solutions and improvements, which can lead to breakthrough products and services
  • Cultural transformation: Adopting the Agile triangle can catalyse a cultural shift within an organisation towards greater collaboration, transparency, and empowerment. This can enhance team morale, improve cross-functional collaboration, and build a more agile and responsive organisation

Combining the Agile triangle with the project management triangle

It is possible to take a hybrid approach and enjoy the structure of the traditional project management triangle with the rapid-thinking, value-driven approach of Agile.

Here are some of the strategies that can help:

1. Redefine scope to emphasise value

Instead of defining scope strictly as a set of predefined features or deliverables, incorporate the Agile emphasis on delivering value. Use the scope to prioritise features that offer the highest value to the customer and remain open to adjusting these as the project evolves based on feedback and changing needs.

2. Incorporate quality as a central objective

Quality in Agile is non-negotiable. Continuous testing, user feedback, and iteration ensure the product meets high standards. Make quality an integral part of the project objectives, alongside scope, time, and cost.

3. Adapt time and cost constraints with Agile flexibility

Time and cost are managed through sprints or iterations in Agile, allowing for adjustments based on the project's progress and evolving requirements. Adopt this iterative approach to manage time and cost, using short delivery cycles to provide flexibility and rapid response to change.

4. Enhance collaboration

Agile methodologies emphasise collaboration, stakeholder engagement, and transparency. Ensure that stakeholders, including customers and team members, are involved in the project process, from planning through delivery.

5. Use metrics and KPIs to measure success

Adopting Agile metrics such as velocity, sprint burndown, and release burnup charts to measure progress alongside traditional KPIs focused on scope, time, and cost.

Take an Agile approach to project management

Embrace the flexibility and adaptability of the Agile triangle and the structure of the PRINCE2® methodology with a PRINCE2 Agile® certification.

To learn more about our training options, and start developing your skills in Agile project management, speak to a member of our team today.