For those of you who are into managing projects, Triple Constraint would be a phrase of extreme importance. It is a simple model of constraints which is essentially a part of project management.
These constraints viz. Cost, Scope and Time, attribute to the success of a project. The cost constraint keeps the budgetary track of the project. Likewise, the scope constraint and the time constraint investigate the tasks and scheduling of the project respectively. A project is always inter-constraint dependent, meaning, a project manager has liberty to alter a constraint, but not before assessing the risks of the changes in the other two which would take place due to this interdependence.
Nevertheless, Triple Constraint is an essential part of a successfully completed project, it does not give assurance of success always. As they say, “You cannot always play around with these constraints, but these constraints are always at a play in a project”
Just as they say, “Restrictions enhance Creativity”, Triple Constraint too, gives everyone a framework to work into for a project. These metrics mark the beginning along with taking the project forward, also giving a chance to alter these constraints as and when the situation of doing it arises. Managing a project means allowing a series of compromises and trade-offs to lead things towards a successful completion. The Triple Constraint model helps managers to know what trade offs are going to work and what impact they will have on other aspects of the project without affecting the Quality part.
Constraint 1 – Cost
This is by far the most important factor to be considered while planning a project. And this depends on several variables – availability of resources, materials, and men. Furthermore, there are external factors that can impact and alter a project which must be taken into account during the planning phase.
Also, the fixed and variable costs inherent in any project must be also looked into. These costs include the economic cost of teams with varying skills and productivity.
Budgeting is what creates the Cost baseline. Throughout the project process, Cost control works to manage the Variation of costs.
Constraint 2 – Scope
Project scope defines the specific requirements or tasks which are required to complete the project. Scope is really important to manage things for any project, whether it is agile methodology projects or it may be waterfall projects, As if you can not control the project scope, It is not possible to deliver the defined project on time or within budget!
While managing scope, it is important to prioritize your tasks, It enables you to plan and assign resources effectively for the project.
Besides this, the key skills in establishing and managing project scope is taking care of stakeholder’s expectations. They can promptly pop ups new demands during an ongoing project, and you are required to be able to fulfil their expectations.
All these scope management steps are extremely fundamental due to the amount of time required by each and every task is censorious for the final deliverable product’s quality. This can hugely affect on schedule and cost, especially when it is a large scale project.
Constraint 3 – Time
Basically, a schedule is the approximate estimate of time allotted for completion of a project.
For large projects, Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) comes in picture. It breaks down major tasks into small chunks which way it can be more convenient to manage and track those tasks.
Then it is prioritized considering dependencies and deliverable requirements and then it will go on a timeline schedule.
To Visualize the schedule, A Gantt chart is used. Where there comes each task as a point on the timeline, Which is linked with task dependencies, and durations defined. To make more accurate estimates it is helpful to have some historic data on hand.
How it is Used
When you’re managing a project, There are some things which can be changed whereas Others can’t. The Triple Constraint gives us a solid sense of the things which can and can not be adjusted throughout the project process.
For an example, if you are not achieving your defined schedule, you can reduce some of the features of the project. Which is reducing the scope. In other terms it is also called crashing in project management terms.
But when you need not to make changes with the defined tasks Then you can add more resources to achieve the schedule on time. Which is an increasing cost.
In some cases, You can also change the due dates to give more time. Which again depend on the project budget and requirements. All these cases are applying the Triple Constraint methodology for managing the project nicely.
Fundamentally, Triple Constraint is truly a balancing act. It is more like juggling; it looks really easy until it is tried practically. And just like juggling, it also takes a very good practice for a project manager.
How it works
There is a give and take relationship between scope, time, and cost. So, the Triple Constraint concept states that if you make any changes to any one side, it will have effects on the other sides of the triangle for sure.
Let’s take an example of geometry.
Here “Quality” is placed in the core of the triangle. It is simply to state that the quality of a project depends on the project scope, cost, and time factors on the project.
The concept is , if you are maintaining a consistent level of quality (or, in geometry, that consistent area within the triangle), when making changes to one side of the triangle part, the other sides must be adjusted accordingly.
So If client is asking for something to be delivered faster (time), They will have to pay more (cost).
And If they are trying to save some money (cost), Then they can cope up with that by choosing a simple version (scope).
Many companies are having a competitive environment, and it is obvious to get pressuresome comprehensive deliverables with less cost as much as possible (and quickly than competitors!).
Well, That is possible in some cases, the Iron Triangle reminds us that most of the time, projects cannot be comprehensive, cheap and fast all at once. We have to know our priorities in order to decide “what is got to give”.
Let’s take an e-commerce website built with a budget of $600,000 and a timeline of 5 months.
- Scope: E-commerce website
- Time: 5 months
- Cost: $600,000
Let’s use a familiar scenario. Say the client originally thought that they’d be able to write content and manage some images from their team, including SEO. And they came up with that their team doesn’t have any available resources to prepare the designs and write the content, and they come to ask you about having your team do it for them. With the Triangle in mind, when you get this request from the client you have to remember that you can not increase the scope without affecting its relationship with cost and time.
The Conclusion – The Managing Mix
The Triple Constraint is really very helpful while having conversations with clients, both for initially determining the project and when managing change requests. We as project managers must also try not to alter them too much which may affect the project drastically.
It is also known to us that most of the time, projects cannot be cheap, comprehensive, and fast all at once. We have to know our priorities in order to decide what is best for the project.
Naturally, the client would prefer to change the scope without the time or cost of the project being changed. However, a sharp project manager knows the dynamic between scope, time, and cost and doot compromise with quality. The Project manager can help stakeholders understand this dynamic to successfully manage the project.