You may have heard of the “Iron Triangle of Project Management” (or Triple Constraint, Project Management Triangle) and if not it goes something like this:

The quality of any project is determined by the following:

  • features requested,
  • budgets (usually people) given
  • and the deadline

A change to any of these 3 items will necessarily change the quality of the project or require offsetting adjustments to the other constraints. If you want to shorten the deadline then the number of people must increase or the number of features must be reduced or likely both. This model is so well known simply because its validity is demonstrated time and time again.

The Digital Triangle of Software Automation

We at Scenario 77 believe there is an equivalent “Iron Triangle” that applies to process automation, in general, and it’s cousin software automation, in particular. The 3 points of our Digital Triangle however are:

  • Increased Productivity
  • Reduced Cost
  • Mitigated Risk

When any software solution is being designed and compared with its corresponding processes its important to evaluate the impact the implementation of that software will have. If you increase productivity the software solution is often automating what was previously several manual tasks, this may not increase costs but it may introduce a lack of quality control oversight (aka risk). Or you may add fields to a form or extra “Are you sure?” types of screens to mitigate risk however this increases the time it takes to complete a function and therefore reduces productivity and increases costs in labor.

Software Automation involves trade-offs

Of course, this trade-off in productivity, costs and risk is not unique in software automation but what is unique is the speed and scale that a small change can make within your organization. Do you remember the 80’s Superman movie where Richard Pryor’s character finds a way to redirect small fractions of a penny that go wasted (or so he thought) to his own bank account and finds out very quickly how fast those fractions added up (and how quickly it was noticed)?

There is nothing inherently wrong about changing the features, timeline or budget of a project. The Iron Triangle of Project Management is simply a model to help you understand that a change in one area will have an impact on another. And for the same reason in our Digital Triangle of Software Automation implementation of features in software designed to increase productivity, reduce costs or mitigate risk will likely impact each other. In fact, increased productivity almost always reduces costs however it will at the same time almost always increase risk.

Software Automation benefits are powerful

Here’s one example which comes from a real world client (although vaguely described to protect the innocent). We implemented a system that automated a daily task that took about an hour to complete. The new productivity-enhanced, cost-reduced process could be done in about 15 minutes. However in the process of development we identified an extra check was necessary to prevent a situation when sometimes, though rarely, incomplete information was able to slip through the cracks despite everyone’s best efforts.

We implemented a quality control check which involved an extra screen and validation routine that added a couple minutes to the process. That one check decreased productivity and increased costs but did mitigate the risk. However, in case you haven’t been tracking the math, the completed process now takes 17-18 minutes at most which was still less than half the time it took before. An easy win. We wish they were all like that.

If you think there’s an opportunity to improve the operations of your company but think custom software is too costly or disruptive to implement. We’d love the chance to convince you otherwise. 

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