Good, Fast, Cheap; Pick two… lies

Ok, so for this clickbaity title there has to be a showerthougthly post. 

Any developer that has been in the industry for a few years has heard the saying (and maybe even used it on occasion) that there are three variables to building a solution (not only in software development); Good, Fast and Cheap… and that we can only choose two of those as it is impossible to have all three. Product teams do not like to hear this but you need to compromise somewhere… I say we can only choose ONE. Any client will probably want to burn me at the stake. Not only can’t they choose all three but they can now only choose one? Unfortunately yes… and here is my, I think very simple, reasoning.

Good and Cheap

Probably the most commonly selected option (unless you are VC funded). OK, so how do you go about making it cheap? You hire inexperienced developers. Juniors, undergrads, etc. Maybe a mid or two. You take a risk that it might take a bit longer but you hope that given enough time you will get a good product. Unfortunately by definition, like in any craft, you need experience to build something “good” (don’t want to get into a definition of what good means… this is a WHOLE other book). So how does a junior build such a solution? By learning and gaining experience while building it… and making a ton of mistakes along the way… This sounds expensive…

Good and Fast

Ah… the rich people land. Anyone that has even heard of “The Mythical Man-Month” can suspect where this is going. Lets hire all the top talent. All the “rock stars”. First of all there is the law of diminishing returns. At some point adding yet another developer adds little value and even becomes detrimental (e.g. communication overhead). Ok, so lets say that the management knows this but still wants it as fast as possible. Let’s push them to the limit. Overtime. Weekends. Bugs. Burnout. Turnover.

Fast and Cheap

Not sure why someone would want this but… this one is actually possible… I mean if we do not care about the quality of our product we can hire a bunch of undergrads, grind them to dust and we might get something that works 2 out 3 times.

If this is something that is good enough… never is, even if at first the product says it is but that is a whole other topic.


Apart from the last, very questionable, option, it can be clearly seen that you really can’t have even two. To build a good product you need experience. Building a good product takes time. Period.

Good, Fast, Cheap; Pick two… lies