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Project Management Triangle Tutorial: What It Is and How to Use

Last updated on 24th Aug 2022, Blog, Tutorials

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Manorajan (Senior Manager )

Manorajan is a six-sigma rule project manager with 6+ years of experience who inspires creative thinking and excitement among team members. His paper concerns the SDLC model, the Kanban methodology, and the agile methodology.

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What is the project management triangle?

The project management triangle is also known as names, specifically iron triangle, triple constraint, project triangle, scope triangle, and quality triangle.It’s not a new concept and has been used as a tool to communicate the difficulties of a project since, at the very least, the 1950s. The project management triangle asserts that all 3 constraints of time, scope, and cost are interconnected, and any modifications in one will affect the other two.

For example:

project management triangle
  • If you increase the scope of a project (e.g., add more features), also improve the cost or push back the deadline.
  • To decrease the project’s budget, to decrease the scope or extend the delivery deadline.
  • If the project’s deadline is non-negotiable, then have to either descope (e.g., create a basic prototype) or improve the budget.
  • A change in any of the project triangle constraints will affect one or the other two, so project managers must decide which compromises or trade-offs make the most sense for the projects and teams.

The Project Management Triangle’s Fundamental Concepts:

The project management triangle should be found by project managers and clients before the project commences. It is necessary for all stakeholders involved to understand and agree upon the project’s restraints so the right decisions are made in the best interest of the project’s outcome. By identifying the three basic concepts of the project management triangle, project managers can work toward delivering the project to the best quality possible.

Project management triangle: Why it matters

The project management triangle is a useful concept for project managers for the below reasons:

  • It helps to see how changing one project constraint will impact other constraints. If you modify the scope of a product that you are hoping to launch, know that either the budget needs to increase, or the timeline needs to be extended (or both).
  • It can help mitigate risks. a project to launch a new piece of software has a hard deadline, and worries about engineers will fall behind.
  • can ask stakeholders for a contingency budget, just in case they require to hire another engineer to help finish tasks.
  • It can clarify priorities in a project. Does the project have a hard deadline, a strict budget, or very particular deliverable requirements? Knowing this can give a better idea of what a successful project will look like.

The Three Constraints:

The three constraints in a project management triangle are time, cost and scope.

1. Cost Constraint

The cost of the project includes the sum of all needed materials, labor, and any additional elements required to finish the scope of the project within the required timeframe. For clients, the project’s price tag is always at the front of the mind. For project managers, offering an accurate estimation on the cost of a project is no easy feat.Should the scope or timelines change, the cost of the project will inevitably change as well.

The project management triangle is commonly applied and used in the following ways:

  • Unanticipated modifies to supplier pricing
  • Staffing gaps and recruiting the costs
  • Added deliverables to a project’s scope

2. Time Constraint

For any assigned project, the time constraint refers to an expected project delivery date by the client. Time constraints within the project management triangle are often some of the most complex obstacles for project managers to overcome. Any delay in materials or unanticipated challenges for the team can cause major delays to the project, which makes meeting fixed time constraints a challenge.And since time limitations are directly tied to the cost and scope of the project, any impact to the time constraint can snowball into added costs for high labor or result in significant sacrifices to the project’s overall scope.

Common implications to a project’s time constraint contain:

  • Unexpected delays on resources from the vendors
  • Added deliverables to the project scope from a client
  • Underestimating the period of a task within the project

3. Scope Constraint

  • The scope of a project refers to any of the work needed for the project to be successfully completed.
  • This is why identifying and documenting the scope of the project from the onset is needed practice for project managers and stakeholders.
  • The scope constraint equips project managers with the goals and guides them in calculating project costs and accurately scheduling all labor.
  • Changing the scope of a project at any stage, might expect, can cause a domino effect throughout the entire project.
  • Project managers can be forced to either push back delivery dates, add additional labor costs, or both.

Common Applications and Uses of the Project Management Triangle:

Balancing the basic limitations within a project management triangle is one way project managers can effectively plan, schedule, and deliver a successful project. By identifying stakeholder expectations and constraints, a project manager can increase the overall quality of the project and provide a positive experience for all parties involved.Using the project management triangle as their guide, project managers can best assess all scenarios to make decisions that are in the best interest of a client.

Common applications and uses of the project management triangle include:

project management triangle include

Anticipate and Mitigate Risks:

  • Though risks are inevitable, understanding a project’s iron triangle can help to drive project managers to be proactive in the decision making and mitigate risks.
  • Knowing which constraints are fixed and where any measure of flexibility lies permit the project manager to navigate obstacles and achieve the desired result.

Improve Communication With Clients:

  • According to one PMI study, poor communication is a contributing factor in 56 percent of all the failed projects.
  • So, how does the project management triangle help? With limited understanding or experience in project management basics, using the iron triangle as a visual tool can assist the project managers in explaining project restraints to clients and stakeholders.

Adapt to Project Changes:

  • Unfortunately for project managers, modifications in scopes, timelines, and budgets are all too common.
  • A solid awareness of the fixed constraints within the project management triangle permits project managers to suit or pivot to sudden project changes or new requirements.

Deliver Quality Projects:

  • For a project manager, their goal is to deliver only the largest quality project to the client.
  • Deploying the project management triangle and successfully balancing the project’s fixed constraints can help to achieve success throughout all the projects.

Quality:

  • Quality is not a part of the project management triangle, but it is the objective of each delivery.
  • Hence, the project management triangle represents the quality.
  • More project managers are under the notion that ‘high quality comes with high cost’, which to some extent is true.
  • By using low quality resources to complete the project deadlines does not ensure success of the overall project.
  • Quality will also be a crucial project objective.

Six stages of Project Management:

six phases project management

A project undergoes 6 levels during its life cycles and they are:

Project Definition – This refers to explaining the objectives and the factors to be considered to make the project successful.

Project Initiation – This refers to the resources as well as the planning before the project initiates.

Project Planning – Outlines the plan as to how the project should be executed. This is where the project management triangle is needed. It considers the project’s time, cost, and scope.

Project Execution – Undertaking work to deliver the outcome of a project.

Project Monitoring & Control – Taking necessary measures, so that the operation of the project goes smoothly.

Project Closure – Acceptance of the deliverables and discontinuing resources that were needed to run the project.

Overcoming Challenges to Project Constraints:

It is always a need to overcome the challenges related to the project triangle during the project execution period.Project managers are required to understand that the three constraints outlined in the project management triangle can be adjusted.The important aspect is to deal with that.The project manager requires to strike a balance between the 3 constraints so that quality of the project will not be compromised.To overcome the constraints, the project managers have some methods to keep the project going.Some of these will be based on preventing stakeholders from modifying the scope and keeping limits on both financial and human resources.A project manager’s role is evolved around the responsibility.A project manager needs to supervise and control the project from the start to the closure.

The following factors will outline a project manager’s roles:

  • The project manager needs to explain the project and split the tasks amongst team members
  • The project manager also requires finding key resources and building teamwork.
  • The project manager needs to set the objectives needed for the project and work towards meeting these objectives.
  • The most important activity of a project manager is to maintain stakeholders informed on the progress of the project.
  • The project manager is required to assess and carefully monitor risks of the project.

Skills Required for a Project Manager:

In order to overcome the challenges related to project triangle and meet the project objectives, the project manager require to have a range of skills, are:

  • Leadership
  • Managing people
  • Negotiation
  • Time management
  • Effective communication
  • Planning
  • Controlling
  • Conflict resolution
  • Problem solving

Benefits of using the project management triangle:

There’s a reason the project management triangle is an essential component of the project manager’s toolbox. It aids in project managers’ comprehension of a project’s boundaries, which subsequently directs them in daily decision-making. Adaptable to changing circumstances. Throughout the project life cycle, especially in agile project management, change is a consideration to anticipate. The project management triangle serves as a reminder that projects cannot be fast, cheap, and good all at once. Project managers should be aware of when adjustments or sacrifices are necessary. Communicate constraints with clients high effectively According to research by the Project Management Institute (PMI), projects fail primarily because of poor communication, hence the importance of effective communication strategies to convey messages to the team members and also stakeholders. Otherwise, crucial data can fall through the cracks. Most clients do not have a thorough understanding of project management basics. This means that the triple constraint concept, particularly the dependencies that exist between them, is probably not something they consider when requesting change in the project management plan. The iron triangle is a visual tool they can use to illustrate the correlation, allowing them to entirely understand what the changes they’re requesting entail.

Use the triple constraints to your advantage:

Though the iron triangle and its system of triple constraints may be limiting at first, once you learn how to apply them in an enterprise project management process, find that these tools will actually make the projects run more smoothly. With a better understanding of the limitations and flexibilities ahead of time, can avoid costly setbacks In addition, the iron triangle will help to ensure that select the right project management software, create processes, and set up the production so that the team can hit the ground running. After that, there’s no telling what we are able to complete together.

Conclusion:

A triangle is frequently used to represent project management. A successful project manager must strike a balance between the three constraints so that the project’s or outcome’s quality is not jeopardized. There are additional tools and techniques available to address the challenges associated with the three constraints. A good project manager will use the proper tools to complete the project successfully.

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