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An Overview of the Project Management Triangle to Know it Better

An Overview of Project Management Triangle
Any project management team has to work within certain constraints to complete a project. The project management triangle constraints of scope, time, and cost are explained here.
Shashank Nakate
Last Updated: Jan 17, 2019
On Time, On Spec, On Budget
The given term is often used in reference with the concept of 'Project Management Triangle'. It means that the project is delivered on time, as per specifications, and under the budget assigned to it. Here, the term 'spec' (specification) is used as a substitute for 'scope'.
The project management triangle depicts how a project is constrained or bound by the factors of scope, time and, cost. Any given project needs to be implemented keeping in mind these three constraints. A manager is said to be successful if he/she is able to implement a project within these constraints.
To implement a project within the earlier-mentioned constraints, different techniques have to be devised and provided to the project management team. The project manager has to guide his team in this process. If the given mentioned constraints did not exist, there would be no need to indulge in the activity of 'management' at all.
In such a scenario, there would be unlimited money and time available to complete a project. However, in the real world, one has to work within constraints to fulfill any project. Therefore, using the project management triangle for reference is useful in the process of implementing a project.
Project Management Triangle Explained
The explanation of how a project gets affected by the constraints of scope, time, and cost, is presented here.
Scope of project discussion
The expected outcome of a project is defined as scope. Scope also means the requirements that are specified in order to attain the expected outcome. A team is responsible for delivering the outcome specified under the scope of the project.
The changes made in the scope of a project impact the cost and time under which it is completed. One of the important components of scope is the quality of the deliverable. The effect of quality on time and cost can be markedly observed in bigger and complex projects.
Time management
Time constraint is simply described as the time allotted to complete a project. It means a project has to be completed within a certain projected time.
This time constraint has the greatest influence on completion of a project. Resources, skills, and experience are the factors which influence the time needed to complete a given project.
Time is a constraint that is the most difficult to manage. In order to meet deadlines, the manager may have to put in more resources than estimated, on the project. This may escalate the cost of the project.
Sometimes, the scope of the project has to be reduced to meet the deadlines. IIt means that the manager may need to remove a deliverable from the scope of the project.
Cost Management
A project is constrained by a certain predetermined cost. It needs to be implemented under this predetermined cost. The cost is determined on the basis of resources needed and labor rates.
In the process of budgeting, a cost baseline for the project is established; the work packages needed for completing of the project, and cost of resources are budgeted.
Cost variances may occur in the life-cycle of a project. Controlling the different factors which induce cost variances is an important part of project management. A manager makes use of various cost management tools at his/her disposal, to keep a tab on cost variances.
Time constraint can push costs beyond the estimated or original cost. For example, to complete a project within a deadline, the manager may have to make arrangements for additional resources. In such a case, the cost is bound to go beyond the originally estimated one.
Variants of the Scope Constraint
Scope of project
The term 'scope', in today's business environment, is interchangeably used with terms like deliverable, product, goal, quality, etc. The reason all these variants of scope are used is because scope is a broad term.
The meaning of scope could be used differently in different contexts. Today, quality is an important factor that shapes most project management processes. Therefore, the project management triangle can be modified into the 'Project Diamond', by adding a fourth constraint - 'quality'.
Stuck Side of Project Management Triangle
Project Management Triangle
A stuck side of a project management triangle represents that constraint which cannot be changed.
For example, if you have to work on a project with a limited budget, the 'cost' constraint is the stuck side of the triangle. If you have to complete a certain project within a deadline, the 'time' constraint is the stuck side.
Finding out the stuck side of the project management triangle proves to be useful for making changes to the other two sides/constraints. For example, a fixed deadline can be met by increasing the cost on resources, or by reducing the scope of the project.
Today, quality is one factor which affects most projects. The focus on quality has led to inclusion of this constraint in project management models, like the 'Project Diamond'. In fact, quality is central to many project management models.