The Triple Constraints of Project Management

Instructor: Brianna Whiting
In this lesson we will explore the topic of triple constraints. We will learn what three factors make up the triple constraints, and we will explain how they affect one another. The lesson will include various examples and a summary to outline key parts.

A First Look at the Triple Constraints

Let's imagine that you work for ABC Corporation. Each day your routine consists of overseeing various projects the company is partaking in. Some of your basic tasks include keeping employees motivated, communicating instructions, and setting project goals. While your job has always been challenging, lately you have realized that the projects you have been assigned have been a bit overwhelming. You see, some of your projects have not been meeting basic requirements. For example, there was a delay in the project that both cost the company money and put the project behind schedule. Additionally, the client requested that a new task be completed by the workers onsite. What you have ultimately been struggling with is the triple constraints of project management.

Definition of Project Management and Triple Constraints

In order to understand the triple constraints of project management, let's first define what project management is. Project management is the process of using skills and tools in order to get a project from start to finish. When completing a project there are three important factors that a project manager must understand. Those three factors are referred to as the triple constraints of project management and include: scope, time, and cost. When the three factors are joined together, we refer to them as the triple constraints and we illustrate those factors in the form of a triangle. Each corner represents one of the constraints with the concept of quality occupying the middle.

Each constraint represents an element of a project that a manager must meet. For example, a project must be completed within the agreed upon cost. A project must be completed on time. A project must abide by the scope of the project. And, lastly, the project must be conducted with quality and customer satisfaction in mind. It is highly difficult to change one constraint without affecting the other two constraints. Consequently, when one or more of the constraints are ineffective, the quality of the project is compromised, which is why quality is placed within the center of all three constraints. Let's take a look at each constraint in depth.

Cost

The first constraint is cost. When a company agrees to complete a project for a customer, ultimately there is a budget. Usually a customer is only willing to pay a particular amount, so the project manager must complete the project accordingly. If at any time, there is a cut in the budget, the other two constraints will likely change as well. Usually, the scope of the project will decrease and the amount of time to complete the project may increase.

For example, let's say, that while working for ABC Corporation, you have a customer that wants you to complete a project for $10,000. Unfortunately, after a week into the project, the customer explains that they can only come up with $8,000 for the project. The impact affects not only the cost, but also the scope, time, and quality. First, the scope of the project will have to be minimized to be completed with $8,000. In other words, you can't do as much for $8,000 as you can for $10,000. Thus, the scope decreases and the project becomes smaller. The quality of the project may also be reduced because the materials you were going to use have to be replaced with less quality materials. And, because you need to find cheaper materials, the time frame will be expanded in order to shop around.

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