In modern corporate times, the project management triangle, or the iron triangle, consists of the three constraints that a project is typically 'bound' to. These three elements of the Triple Constraints of Project Management share a proportional relationship, where the adjustment of one will also lead to a change in the rest of the two constraints. The triple constraint theory isn’t a new concept; project managers have used it for at least 50 years.

What Are the Triple Constraints of Project Management?

The Triple Constraints of Project Management serve as a model for constraints that come with project management. These three constraints are:

  • Cost: The project budget, which serves as the financial constraint in a project
  • Scope: The activities necessary to achieve the project's goals
  • Time: The project's schedule based on which the project will be completed

According to the Triple Constraints of Project Management, the project's costs, time, and scope all impact its success. A project manager can maintain control of the triple constraints by balancing these three constraints via tradeoffs.

While the Triple Constraints of Project Management is essential to any successful project, it does not define its success. Projects comprise several components, far more than the three that comprise the Triple Constraint. To better reflect the most crucial elements of a project, some project management experts have included these additional limitations to the model:

  • Quality: Every project has quality criteria, regardless of whether the end delivery has a tangible or intangible output. To control quality, project managers require a quality management plan.
  • Risk: Risk is an unavoidable part of any project. Project managers need to assess and come up with a risk management plan that estimates and elaborates on how risks would be managed. 
  • Benefit: Various types of benefits are profited out of projects. A project manager ensures that the best financial benefits are available for project stakeholders. 

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Why the Triple Constraint is Important for Project Success

The triangle is a simple technique to alert stakeholders of scope creep. It also highlights how tradeoffs can and should be considered. The triangle model also allows project managers to calculate the impact of external factors and influences on one or more 'legs.'

This dashboard may be customized to match the needs of practically any project and can assist project managers in tracking the timeline, budget, and scope of their projects. Keeping the triple constraints of project management in mind helps project managers/ supervisors raise an alert before a project is jeopardized. A dashboard must measure the three main elements that can be adjusted to give the best quality in a project to be useful.

How Does the Triple Constraint Work?

Implementing the triple constraints of project management theory is not difficult. It all boils down to successfully understanding how to handle the three constraints' tradeoffs.

The triangle serves as a visual reminder that actions made regarding limitations will affect others. Project managers know that they will always need to manage each project's budget, schedule, and scope. However, separately handling any of these is impossible since every decision made regarding one impacts the other.

Here are some steps that can help project managers successfully balance the triple constraints of project management:

Step 1: Work With the Client

To understand what the client expects from the project, start with determining whether they have a budget, scope, and timeframe in mind.

If deciding on project guidelines seems unachievable, use the triple constraint to analyze choices and explore potential tradeoffs. Even if you know that changes may be required along the way, starting with an achievable and fair goal is critical.

Step 2: Communicate the Project Scope

To ensure the success of your project, everyone engaged must understand its scope, roles, and duties. In addition, they must understand each component of the plan and the anticipated outcomes.

The scope helps everyone involved reach an agreement on what is being delivered. However, clients or teammates must first understand how it will affect the triangle if they wish to make changes. Any modifications must also be documented in the project's official documents to guarantee that everyone is up to date.

Step 3: Set Deadlines

It is crucial to keep the project's progress on schedule. Creating a timeline that is easily accessible and understandable by teammates should be set up in a highly visible area for reference. For instance, several tools feature a vast collection of templates that includes Gantt charts and calendars that can assist you in creating visual timelines that can be viewed anytime-anywhere as a visual reference.

Step 4: Allocate Resources

Allocating people with the relevant skill set to the appropriate tasks is important for assigning resources efficiently. In addition, making sure that the teams have the necessary equipment and funding will lead you to success.

Step 5: Monitor the Project and Make Tradeoffs and Adjustments as Needed

Well-defined plans are essential for the project's success. However, the strategy will be useless if you do not track its progress. Monitoring allows you to make tiny adjustments while maintaining the balance of the three constraints. The triple constraints theory allows you to adjust while keeping your goals reasonable and attainable.

You should adjust the other two if you change one of the three constraints. Communicate any changes to team members as soon as possible to ensure everyone is on the same page.

How to Manage the Triple Constraint?

It might appear simple, but each of the triangle's three parts can be explored to reveal a more profound significance:

Cost

Several aspects influence the project's financial commitment. First, resources are involved, ranging from people to material, all of which involve costs.

Both variable and fixed costs must be estimated in any project, like labor or equipment. This is especially important when outsourcing or using contract workers.

Project managers can do these things to keep expenses under control:

  • Determine the costs for all jobs included in the project scope.
  • Based on the project's expected costs, create a project budget.
  • Use the budget plan as a cost baseline for cost control throughout the execution of the project.
  • Monitor all project costs to stay within the project budget.
  • When required, adjust the project budget.

Scope

The project scope refers to all the work necessary to complete the project. Managing such tasks is crucial to the success of the project. Therefore, you must prioritize your tasks to effectively plan and allocate resources when handling scope.

Project managers do the following to manage scope:

  • Use a scope management plan to outline what project activities will be completed.
  • The plan should be shared among all so that everyone is on the same page.
  • Use change orders to avoid scope creep and maintain track of all modifications made to the project scope.
  • Manage the expectations of stakeholders to keep the project on track.
  • Keep track of all project activities within the scope using task management tools and methodologies.

Project managers must perform these scope management actions because the amount of time each activity will take is vital to the cost and quality of the end output. Therefore, this can significantly influence scheduling and expenses, especially if the project is large in scale.

The task management capabilities of the project management tool make it simple to assign, organize, and prioritize your tasks. They allow you to delegate all key project activities to the appropriate personnel, avoiding the dreaded scope creep. Furthermore, by providing file sharing and task comments, we ensure collaboration.

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Time

The project schedule, in its most basic form, is the expected timeline given to finish the project or provide the final deliverable. Typically, this is determined by first calculating how long each project activity will take. 

All project tasks are identified using a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). The project manager can then establish the entire duration of the project using different scheduling methodologies, such as the PERT charts or the critical path method.

The project schedule can be controlled using the tips below:

  • To visualize the project timeline - specify task sequences, and track the duration of every task using a Gantt chart.
  • Create policies, processes, and documentation for project planning, execution, and monitoring.
  • Use a resource schedule to allocate resources appropriately.
  • To check if projects are on track, compare the actual progress to the schedule baseline.

Controlling the Triple Constraint With Project Management Software

Using the triple constraint in combination with project management software will be the best way to manage your project and have a successful deliverance. They make managing the triple constraints easy by using the real-time data provided by the cloud-based software. 

Costs

Project management software assists you in tracking project expenditures to ensure that you are not overspending. Entering hourly rates for all the resources, creating budgets, and including project costs, the real-time dashboard tracks and reports on price and five other variables across your project in easy-to-read charts and graphs. This is a simple method to keep track of your expenses and ensure you're on track with your budget. In addition, this enables you to identify budget issues before they become a huge problem.

Time

These project management software make tracking your schedule easy. When tasks are modified, the changes are immediately reflected throughout the software. That implies your dashboard and reports are up to date. The duration bar on the Gantt chart helps keep an eye on the progress of the individual tasks.

Timesheets are synchronized with team tasks, making it simple for teammates to pick and enter their assignments. This enters their time into the timesheet, which may then be viewed and approved within seconds.

Scope

Project management tools are flexible enough to change to keep up with the changes in the scope. You can switch between project views, such as the Gantt chart and the kanban board, to gain visibility into your work. The prioritized overview of the tasks on the Kanban cards changes as the relevance changes.

Kanban boards will only deliver tasks to teammates when the capacity and resources required to complete them become available. Then, the board adjusts to the change in scope.

The workload page includes color-coded charts illustrating who is burdened with work and who is accessible. As a result, managers can quickly balance the workload when teams are over or under-allocated.

Best Practices for Managing Triple Constraints Theory

While managing triple constraints of project management, the following tips can be kept in mind:

Stick to the Plan

Stick to the triple constraint structure once the client has agreed on the rules to keep your project on track. Don't rely on the triple constraint triangle to make frequent changes.

Know Your Priorities

To make better decisions, deciding on the most critical project constraints will help keep the triangle balanced. 

Add Constraints if Needed

If required, you can add constraints like risks and quality to ensure efficient and successful completion of the project.

Consult With Team Members and Stakeholders

Before making any changes to the triple constraints of project management, consult with other stakeholders. Opinions from a different perspective or viewpoint can assist you in achieving the proper balance of all variables. For example, executives and department heads can help identify how changes will affect their teams and what needs to be changed to compensate.

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Conclusion

Project constraints are a part of project management and will always exist. As a project manager, it is your responsibility to communicate and collaborate with the stakeholders, clients, and team members to ensure that the iron triangle remains balanced and the constraints, if one is changed, should be in sync with the other two. 

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