What Is Triple Constraint? (How To Use It, With Examples)

The triple constraint of project management has been given many names – the Project Management Triangle, Iron Triangle, and Project Triangle – which should give you an idea of how important the Triple Constraint is when managing a project. If you’re managing a project, then you’re working with the Triple Constraint.

Therefore, it can be easily argued that the Triple Constraint might be the single most important concept in the history of project management. When used in combination with effective project management software, it can give you the ability to drive your projects to success.

What is the Project Management Triple Constraint

How does triple constraint work in project management?

The core of this approach to project management revolves around the belief that the three elements are all directly joined, and you cannot seek to get more favorable results from one without making sacrifices out of the others. When seeking to expand the scope of a project, for example, you will either need to expand the timeline so that your team can accommodate the increased work, or you may need to expand the resources allocated to the project to increase daily productivity to deliver the increased scope on the same timeline.

What is triple constraint?

Triple constraint is a model that consists of three fundamental elements of a project and the way they interact with each other. The three components of triple constraint are:

Scope

A projects scope is the full outline of the expected deliverables. It is important to clearly define the scope of a project before starting it to ensure that all parties have the same expectations for the final results.

What you include within the scope of a project can differ based on the type of project being completed. When creating a website for a new company, for example, your scope may include the type of pages in the final build. For a construction project, the scope may include the full design schematic for the project and what materials you will use in the build.

Time

All timelines should realistically fit within the confines set out by the scope and budget. Within a given project, you may include multiple timelines. In addition to the overall scheduled delivery date for the final project, you can place individual timelines on the various elements that must be completed as part of the project. You may adjust any of these timelines as part of a triple constraint adjustment.

Cost

The resources involved in carrying out a project make up the third principal element of triple constraint. This accounts for not only the costs associated with purchasing any physical resources but also the daily operating costs of the staff working on the project. By transferring staff off of one project onto another, for example, you are increasing the cost of the second project by committing additional salary costs to its completion.

How to use triple constraint

Triple constraint can be used internally to set expectations and create estimates on a project, or it can be used externally to set prices and expectations when working with an outside client. Here is how to apply triple constraint to a project:

1. Consult with the client

When working with an outside client, any project planning begins by discussing the project with the client. Ask about their expectations and goals for the project, including their preferred budget, scope and timeline. While you can use triple constraint to make further adjustments to these factors while the project is underway, its important to start from an initial target that is achievable and fair.

If you are unable to agree on a set of guidelines, triple constraint can help you reach an agreement that both sides feel is fair. If you do not believe that your company can meet the timeline and scope requested at the offered budget, discuss potential trade-offs with the client. By increasing the budget, lengthening the timeline or decreasing the scope, you can find a proposal that works and move on to planning and execution.

2. Assess options for internal projects

When managing an entirely internal project, triple constraint can still provide useful guidance during the planning phase. Using triple constraint, you can draw up several options for carrying out the project, adjusting the importance of the three distinct elements within each.

For example, one potential plan when developing a new app can put a focus on delivering the end product as quickly as possible, resulting in a decreased scope for the project with fewer add-ons. Alternatively, you may opt to focus on making the app as expansive as possible, with many features for users. As a result, you commit to investing more resources and allowing for a longer development window.

Theres no universally correct priority order when balancing the three elements of triple constraint, and by plotting several plans you can identify which provides the best balance for your needs. The level of detail applied in this phase may also vary. Simple outlines or summaries may work for minor projects, but for a large endeavor that will include significant investment from your company, it may be worth spending time and resources on more thoroughly analyzing each option before moving forward.

3. Explain the scope

In order to deliver the product or service your plan calls for, all staff members must know what their roles and responsibilities are. Creating a planning document that clearly defines the overall scope of the project, including the individual elements of the plan, will ensure that each staff member understands the expected results. At any point in the process, the scope of work document can serve as a reference when questions or concerns arise.

When working with an outside client, a document clearly defining the scope of the project is also essential in ensuring that all parties agree about what is being delivered at the end of the project. Any time either party wants to change the scope of work, the alterations should be reflected in the official project documents to avoid any misunderstandings or disputes.

4. Set deadlines

When overseeing a project, its important to do everything in your power to keep the project on schedule. This starts by making the proposed timeline for the project clear to all staff members. Besides noting when you expect the plan to be complete, also assign individual timelines to smaller elements that comprise the larger plan. Keeping each subsection of the plan on a schedule allows your company to complete the project as promised.

5. Allocate resources for the project

When managing a project with many parts, setting the total cost is only the first step in allocating resources for the project. In order to deliver the project on time with the required scope, its important to use those resources efficiently. Assigning staff correctly and providing all teams with the funding and resources they need can help you set your team up for success.

6. Monitor your project

Creating an initial plan to follow is important on any major project, but it is also important to continue monitoring the execution of that plan throughout the project. Setting intermediary targets for deadlines and spending allows you to more easily monitor the progress and order changes if the plan is deviating from your targets. Regular status reports allow you to catch minor problems and fix them before they become a major issue in need of a large change to the plan.

7. Make trade-offs to adjust plans

If you find that you need to make changes to your project while executing it, triple constraint response allows you to adjust your actions while keeping goals realistic and achievable. Anytime you are improving performance within one of the three elements, provide compensation in one or both of the other two.

Maintaining triple constraint is most relevant when working with outside clients. A client may seek to improve what they are receiving, such as rushing the order or asking for enhanced features. While you may wish to accommodate these changes, extending the timeline, decreasing the scope or raising what they are paying is necessary to keep the deal equitable.

Tips for managing triple constraint

Keep these tips in mind to apply triple constraint effectively:

Triple constraint example

Triple constraint allows you to develop several potential solutions to find the best path forward. This example shows how a company can use triple constraint when negotiating with a client:

Hannover Heating hired Johnson Web Development Services to code a new website. The initial scope calls for a basic design featuring pages that explain services, share the daily oil price and provide contact forms for prospective clients to enroll or current clients to receive customer support. After agreeing to terms, Hannover Heating decides that they would like the site to include an online portal for clients to create an account to pay their bills digitally.

This is a substantial increase in scope, as it calls for enhanced security and the ability to process credit card payments. Johnson Web Development Services examines the new proposal and provides Hannover Heating with three options:

Because the client requested more work, the contractor requests a higher fee in both scenarios where the deal is altered. However, the client can minimize the cost by making further allowances on the third element by expanding the timeline. Spreading the concessions over two elements makes the amount of concession on each smaller.

FAQ

What are triple constraints?

The triple constraint is a model that describes the three most significant restrictions on any project: scope, schedule and cost. The triple constraint is sometimes referred to as the project management triangle or the iron triangle.

What are the 3 types of project constraints?

“The triple constraint has traditionally been understood as the three primary factors that constrain a project: scope, cost, and time.”

Which is an example of triple constraint?

For example, when you set a deadline for the project to be completed and released, you have given the project a time constraint. The triple constraint theory says that every project will include three constraints: budget/cost, time, and scope. And these constraints are tied to each other.

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