The Cost-Scope-Time-Quality Triangle of Generative AI


I’ll admit it. I’m a skeptic by nature. It’s not that I don’t like innovation; it’s that I try, at all costs, to avoid ‘bright shiny object’ syndrome.

I’ve been playing with AI (some of you may have attended the webinar Tamara Gielen and I did last month on using AI for Email Campaign Development). And one thing I’ve found is that the iron triangle of project management applies.

1. The triangular relationship of cost, scope, time, and quality applies to generative AI

You’ve all seen the triangle. The idea being that if you skimp on one of the sides, it will impact the other two.

For instance, If you skimp on budget (cost), you’ll have to decrease the scope and/or increase the time.

Not only is this true of AI, but not understanding that this is true of AI is causing a lot of people to miss the value of the tool. I know because at the onset this is a misconception that I held.

I saw AI for email marketing much like the ‘fondue in a box’ I see at the grocery store. Just add water and bread cubes and voila! Cheese fondue! It is cheese fondue, but it’s not the recipe I love, which I’ve been making for years, which my friends expect when I invite them over for a fondue party. It’s fine, but it’s not great.

My early experiences with AI, perhaps like many of yours, suggested that it would be very helpful for people who didn’t know how to do great email marketing, but that it didn’t hold much value for those of us who consider ourselves very good email marketers.

But I now know that I was wrong. Here’s a brief review of what I’ve learned, which I hope helps some of my fellow #emailgeeks get on the AI train in a more thoughtful way.

2. Cost: Invest for the best results (it’s *not* expensive)

Probably the most-asked question in the chat during our webinar last month was “Can I do this with the free version of ChatGPT? Or do I have to pay?”

The paid version starts at $20 per month. If you’re serious about this, sign-up now. If your employer won’t pay for it, look at it as an investment in your career and pay for it yourself. Once you learn how to use it, it will save you time. And we’re entering a world where it will be a key resume skill for your next job or promotion.

My prediction? I think that AI tools are going to get more expensive – so get in and learn the basics now for $20 per month.

3. Scope: Start with a manageable task

It sounds great to use AI from beginning to end to build your email marketing program. But the best way to introduce it into your process is in manageable bites.

I started in earnest using it for research. I was working with a university client and asked ChatGPT to give me the top reasons that people are interested in higher education but don’t apply to college. I got a pretty good list, probably pretty close to what I could have done myself. But it would have taken me longer than the one minute (it may have only been 30 seconds) that ChatGPT needed to return the full list, with a bit of detail on each.

I did this for a while, then worked my way into using it for other foundational (not consumer-facing) items like features, benefits, advantages analysis. My webinar with Tamara was like a trial by fire – she pushed me much more quickly than I would have otherwise gone (thank you Tamara!), using AI for the entire process.

But I don’t recommend this. Did you learn to cook by making full 4-course meals? Probably not.

So choose one aspect of your work that you can use AI for. Then practice. Do it again and again until it’s second nature. And then move on to something else you can do with AI.

4. Time: Be patient as there is a learning curve

This is one of my shortcomings. I get frustrated when the first output I get isn’t what I want. Join me in committing to patience.

AI is like any other tool. There’s a learning curve. In this case, a lot of it has to do with crafting prompts. Prompt engineering as it’s called.

Will it be frustrating and take you more time to do things in the short term? It might. But once you master it, it will save you time. If it doesn’t, just don’t use it for that. But you won’t know where it’s useful and where it’s not unless you are patient and play with it.

5. Quality: It really is determined by the other three

You’re not going to get great quality email marketing from ChatGPT without mastering cost, scope, and time.

Let’s review:

  1. Pay for the best version of ChatGPT or your AI tool of choice
  2. Start with a manageable task
  3. Take the time to learn how to use the tool effectively
  4. After you’ve mastered one task, repeat steps 2 and 3 with additional tasks

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Jeanne sig