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EG47: Good. Cheap. Fast. Pick any 2

Written by Emanuel Martonca
on May 2, 2022

There is a very good chance that all of you have already seen this, or variations of it, at least once.

You can choose to smile, chuckle and move on to the next post in the feed, treating it as just another meme.

But I am here to tell you to stop for a few minutes and think about this.

Because it is all you need to know to create a future-proof strategy for any software services business.

What clients think

There are multiple starting hypotheses:

  1. Clients will generally prefer a vendor that is good, cheap and fast, all at the same time
  2. The clients evaluation is usually done on a relative basis, compared with other options, meaning that what they actually mean is better, cheaper and faster
  3. Humans being humans, clients will not necessarily compare all 3 attributes between vendors at the same time. They will compare each attribute with another vendor: A is better than you, B is cheaper and C can deliver faster > so you need to improve your offer.

What vendors offer

In a global market such as the one for software services, it will always be possible to find:

  1. Someone who claims to be better
  2. A team that says it can work faster
  3. A company with a cheaper offer

At the same time, we all know that it is virtually impossible to deliver a service that is good, cheap and fast at the same time, regardless of how one chooses to measure these.

Which brings us to the “pick any 2” shortcut.

If we want to create a proper business strategy, we need more depth.

One way to achieve this is to consider good, cheap and fast as 3 dimensions that can be measured on a scale of 0 to 100.

For good, 0 is the lowest quality and 100 is the best possible.

For cheap, 0 is the most expensive vendor in the world, 100 is the cheapest.

For fast, 0 is the slowest vendor, 100 is for the fastest delivery time anyone can offer.

The choices we make are not binary, on-off, but a point on each scale.

We might find a customer segment that is looking for Good (50), Cheap (30), Fast (70). Startups looking to build a new software platform from scratch might fall in this group. 

There are also customers who need Good (90), Cheap (30) and Fast (40). A successful technology company with a 20-year old software platform, looking for a specialist team to work on one of their core modules might be a part of this group.


Understanding customer needs from their perspective is one of the most important steps in building a good strategy for selling software services.

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