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The Triple Constraint

Project manager training The ‘triple constraint’ (sometimes referred to as the Project Management Triangle) is a simple tool that helps us prioritise the key performance factors within the project.

In an ideal world, projects would be cheap (cost), done well (quality) and done quick (time).

However, this ideal is often unrealistic. Sometimes we are forced to compromise on one or more of these 3 elements based on which are the project imperatives.

Time/schedule – This refers to the actual time required to deliver on the project. Naturally, the amount of time required will be directly related to the amount of requirements that are part of the end result (scope) along with the amount of resources allocated to the project (cost).

Cost/resource – This is the estimation of the amount of money and resources that will be required to complete the project.

Scope/quality – These are the functional elements that, when completed, make up the end deliverable for the project.

The key thing to remember about the Triple Constraint as a project management tool, is that being a triangle, one cannot adjust or alter one side of it without in effect, altering the other sides. So for example, if there is a request for a scope change mid-way through the project implementation stage, the other two elements (cost and time) will be affected in some manner.

As an added example, if the schedule appears to be tight and the project manager determines that the scoped requirements cannot be accomplished within the allotted time, both cost AND time are affected.

The Triple Constraint can help project managers:

  • Stay on top of all 3 elements by being more aware changes in one area will impact the other. Stay on top of all 3 elements.
  • Identify what the priority area is for the project – e.g. what resources are available? How will this affect scope/quality, etc.
  • Use it to help identify potential risks/constraints
  • Use to convey information to Stakeholders / manage expectations (in many cases, the stakeholders are likely to be the main reasons for ‘scope creep’ or change requests in a project. Having them aware up front of what the ramifications might be will make dialog easier and will also make them scrutinise change requests more thoroughly.

For more information around how to manage projects successfully, click here

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