Project Alternatives Tradeoff Table


Quick Summary
Screenshot Use this template to cut through all the complex decisions that can plague the front end of a project. The table gives your team a concise way to document (and communicate!) the alternatives you are considering for scope and features, and the impact of various combinations on the project's cost, schedule, resources, and risk. Getting it all onto a page or two can really help a cross-functional team reach agreement on a reasonable scope that meets most important customer requirements.


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What this is

A table format that gives your team a concise way to document, analyze, and communicate the alternatives you are considering for scope and features. The trade-off table helps the team capture the critical factors associated with each design alternative under consideration, and allows them to compare the impact of various combinations on the project's cost, schedule, resources, and risk.


Why it's useful

The "fuzzy front end" of a project is often fraught with many constraints. Management or marketing or customers want the shortest possible schedule. Other groups are pushing flor lowest cost or budget. And everyone wants as many features as possible to satisfy a range of customers. But of course resources are limited!

Using this template allows the team to systematically capture data related to each alternative, and to cut through the complexity to reach decisions. Getting it all onto a page or two can really help a cross-functional team reach agreement on a reasonable scope that meets most important customer requirements.

If your project is planning to make use of outside partners for development, manufacturing, etc., the tradeoff table can be a very valuable tool for communicating scope decisions and key criteria to your partner. Alignment on such tradeoffs is critical to keeping any remote team members on track with the goals of the project, and able to make sound design decisions etc. even though they are not "on site" with the rest of the team every day.


How to use it

Use this table early In your project when scope and schedule and resources are being discussed and agreed to. The table can be filled out for:

  • An individual design alternative. For instance, say you have a software system and are considering buying a new set of functionality "off the shelf"- a software package. The other alternative might be to code the new features in house. These 2 options are design alternatives which have different ramifications for the overall schedule, the level of risk, how many software and test resources will be needed, etc. A tradeoff table for this software "subsystem" can then be created and used in a Preliminary Design Review as the developer outlines his design alternatives for this part of the project. The table gets revised as more is learned about the design alternative, until the design decision is made.
  • The overall project: The tradeoff table can also be used at a higher level, to express various scenarios for the overall project and compare schedules etc. See the example at the end of this template file. This project trade-off table is used throughout the scope decisions phase, and updated as needed to aid the ongoing analysis and communications process.
If you're using outside partners, involve them in the tradeoff table creation for the overall project and for key subsystems they're involved in, or review the tradeoff tables with them if they're hired after tradeoff discussions have been started. Make sure the partner buys into the tradeoff table information and any decisions the team makes based on the table.


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