Brianna has a masters of education in educational leadership, a DBA business management, and a BS in animal science.
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.
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.
The second constraint is time. When a company decides to complete a project, they set a deadline for when the project needs to be finished. So, let's say a customer comes to ABC Corporation with a project that needs to be completed in two weeks. However, shortly after setting the two week deadline, they decide they need to bump up the deadline by three days. This means that, first, you need more manpower to complete the project in such a short amount of time. Therefore, you need to increase your costs to compensate the added employees. Also, you will have to remove some of the elements of the projects in order to complete the project sooner, which ultimately effects the scope of the project. Quality is also affected because the project is missing some important elements in order to meet the new time frame.
The third element of the triple constraints is known as scope. When a customer asks a company to complete a project for them, they explain all the details they want incorporated. This is known as the scope of the project. So how does scope affect the other elements? Well, let's say that ABC Corporation is completing an electronic project for a customer. However, that customer decides to add more apps to their electronic device in order to maintain competitive with other corporations. This change in scope increases the amount of employees needed to add the additional apps, and the deadline might have to be pushed back so that there is enough time to add the apps. The quality might be jeopardized when employees are frantically trying to include more apps with little prep time.
The triple constraints of project management include time, scope, and costs. When all three of them are combined, they form a triangle. In the center of the triangle is quality. Each project incorporates all three constraints because it needs to meet a budget, complete a project within a specified time frame, and meet the desired scope. When one constraint is affected, the other two are usually affected as well. Ultimately, the quality of the project may be affected as well.
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