SOW engagement management has a lot moving parts, hence, managing speed, cost and quality in a SOW project can get very tricky. Each of these key SOW project elements has a direct management relationship with one another. For example, lowering the budget to support a previously defined SOW project can affect the amount of resources that support the delivery of a project engagement’s speed to completion and/or quality level of the project deliverable itself.

There is a subtle balance between these three core project management dimensions and altering one can affect one or both of the other two dimensions. The key assumption is that the project has already been assessed properly by the provider and SOW engagement manager. So how does one approach setting expectations on SOW project speed, cost and quality as the definition specification of a SOW project will preset the performance levels of these three project management dimensions.

Kevin Dennis, principal consultant from Strategic Staffing Solutions, offers an interesting perspective in balancing these three SOW project management dimensions. One needs to think about a project as if it is a triangle, with each length of the project triangle representing speed, cost and quality. In a pre-specified SOW project, one can’t have all three sides set at the lengths one might want them to be set. One can set two sides of a triangle at desired lengths, but the third side must be adjusted to form a triangle with the other two sides.  In order to change the length of that third side – a compromise has to be made to complete the project management triangle – with one or both of the other two sides. (You can learn more about this at Staffing Industry Analysts’ SOW Management Expert Certification Class in October.)


This project management triangle (sometimes called a Triple Constraint or the Iron Triangle) is a model that conceptually manages the constraints of project management. It is a conceptual aid where the triangle seeks to conceptually show a relationship connection or opposition of the three different project management dimensions. It is used to illustrate project bias in the management focus of the project team.

The three sides of the project management triangle conceptually represent speed, cost, and quality.  Remember, you may define two of these, yet the third will be the result of those two choices.  So a SOW project that must be done quickly and at low cost might result in a lower-quality deliverable.  Or a project done quickly with high quality could require more resources and potentially higher project costs.

All customers want high quality deliverables done quickly and at low cost, but this might not be possible if the project management triangle relationship perspective among project management dimensions holds theoretically true. Setting these kinds of expectations is an important part of project and engagement management – and this must be done during the engagement’s initiation and definition.  After the project is defined, it is too late because project speed and quality have been defined by cost/resources made available to complete the project.