The project management triangle, consisting of the three constraints of time, scope and cost, is essential to successful project delivery.

In the last blog post we provided an introduction to project management, explaining what it is and why it’s important. Now that you have a basic understanding of what project management is all about, we’re going to dig a little deeper and talk about the project management triangle.

The Project Management Triangle

tscAll projects have outputs or goals; they all have timeframes in which they need to be completed; and they all have set resource and finance allocations. These three considerations, which can be termed time, scope and cost, combine to form the three constraints that comprise the project management triangle. The combination of time, scope and cost is what largely dictates the quality of a project’s output.

  • Time is, unsurprisingly, the amount of time available for a project to be completed. The amount of time allocated needs to be realistic given the scope and cost of any given project.
  • Scope is the fundamental elements that comprise a project – what the project is setting out to achieve. Scope can often change over the course of a project, as requirements are added or removed; this is called scope drift.
  • Cost encompasses resources, labour, risk, materials and all of the factors that go into achieving a project scope within the allocated project time.
  • Quality is what you get when you combine time, scope and cost to deliver a project. If the three key constraints change, so does the quality. We’ll explain this later.

Relationships Between Time, Scope and Cost

Time, scope and cost comprise the three sides of the project management triangle, but it is not just the constraints themselves but the relationships between them that make the concept so important.

You can’t adjust one constraint without affecting the others. If you increase or reduce one of the three constraints, the other two must also adjust. Consider the following three examples: –

  • A car dealership has decided to undertake a project to upgrade the database systems on which it holds details on its vehicles and customers. Time, scope and cost have been set. However, the software vendor announces that the current software is set to reach the end of its supported life before the planned completion of the project. The time will have to decrease, which means that the scope may have to decrease to meet the shorter timeframe and the cost may increase as more out-of-hours work is required to complete the project.
  • A creative agency is rolling out new Windows laptops to all of its users. After time, scope and cost have been set, three directors at the company have stated that they want Apple MacBooks rather than Windows laptops. The scope of the project has increased, which means that time and cost will increase as additional work will be required to allow the Apple MacBooks to access systems designed primarily for access by Windows operating systems.
  • A housing developer is seeking to open a sales and marketing suite at a new development. With time, scope and costs already having been set, it emerges that connectivity to the development is not available via standard providers and an expensive wireless network will be required. The cost of the project has increased, and so the time and scope will have to adjust depending on the priorities of the business.

Understanding that time, scope and cost all have an influence on one another is important, but what is also essential is understanding which of the three constraints or sides is ‘fixed’. For the car dealership example, the time is fixed and so there will need to be flexibility with scope and costs. The scope of the creative agency’s project is fixed, dictated as it is by the directors, but they will need to understand that in increasing the scope they will also need to increase costs and possibly time. And the housing developer needs to establish which constraint is fixed – if it is cost then they will either need to reduce scope (to bring costs in line) or increase time (to wait until better connectivity is available).

Achieving Quality Output

Time, scope and cost combine to deliver quality in the output of a project. Understanding the quality of output required is important when setting the three constraints: increase time, scope and costs and you will increase quality, but remember that the same applies the other way. It’s important that all stakeholders understand this and are realistic about what is required to produce an output that meets the quality required.

At TSC Projects we believe that the project management triangle is an important concept that should be understood not only by project managers but also by stakeholders. If a project is planned and executed with the project management triangle in mind, it will stand a great chance of success. If you’d like to learn more about how we successfully utilise the project management triangle, please get in touch.

Effective project management lowers costs, improves stakeholder satisfaction, and allows you to gain a greater competitive advantage.

What comes to mind when you think about project management? Do you use it? Is it a necessary evil? Do project managers actually do anything, or are they just sitting back whilst others work around them?

At TSC Projects we’ve encountered all manner of preconceptions when it comes to project management. So in this blog post we’re going to start at the beginning: what is project management, and why is it important? We hope that, once you’ve read it, we’ll have shifted some of those preconceptions and started to explain the true value that project management brings.

What is a Project?

Let’s not try to run before we can walk. What is a project? Broadly speaking, a project comprises the following three elements: –

  • Outputs or Goals: There needs to be a goal – a reason for a business to undertake a project. Some projects have multiple, complex goals; others have one goal, and it’s straightforward. But there should always be an output of some kind behind a project.
  • Teamwork: Projects invariably require teamwork between otherwise disparate parties. These parties can be within the same organisation or representing third party suppliers. They can be in the same building or half-way across the world. But they need to work together as a team to achieve the project’s goals.
  • Temporary: As a rule, projects take place outside of a business’s everyday operations. Your Finance Team does not need a project to carry out its everyday purchase ledger activities. However, it probably will require a project to upgrade or replace its purchase ledger system.

Each project is unique, and so the three elements above will apply to a greater or lesser degree. But they should always apply. So, now we know what a project is. What is project management?

What is Project Management?

The Association of Project Management, an organisation that is committed to developing and promoting project management, describes project management as being “about people getting things done”. And at its most basic, that’s what is!

Consider the three project elements described above. Project management touches on each one: –

  • Defining Goals: Why is a project necessary? What are the defined outputs, and is there a business case to justify the outputs against the required investment?
  • Bringing People Together: This element of project management is key. Effective project delivery will often involve getting disparate parties to work together towards a common goal, even when their individual roles are entirely separate. They can even conflict. Consider a new office fit-out: the connectivity provider needs to install a fibre circuit to the comms room, but their plan conflicts with the interior designer’s proposed office layout. Meanwhile the IT provider can’t (or won’t) attend site to install equipment until all of this has been resolved. Sound painful? More than likely, but effective project management will overcome these issues and bring the separate parties together.
  • Being There When Needed: Since projects are temporary, project managers need to be adaptable to different requirements. At TSC Projects we understand that projects are transient, and that effective project management requires flexibility and adaptability.

Project management, then, is “about people getting things done” to carry out projects that deliver outputs to businesses. But why is it important, and how does it deliver value?

Why is Project Management Important?

Effective project management is essential to successful project delivery. But more than that, project management enables businesses to deliver the most value from their project investments: –

  • Lower Costs: Project management defines costs and then manages them throughout the project lifecycle, ensuring that they are agreed between all parties and do not spiral out of control.
  • Improve Stakeholder Satisfaction: A single project will have many stakeholders, all of whom have different needs. Project management improves stakeholder satisfaction by ensuring that the project scope takes into account these needs, balances them and delivers to an agreed level to all stakeholders.
  • Gain a Competitive Advantage: Through significantly improving the chances of successful project delivery, lowering costs through efficiencies and budget management, and taking into account the needs of all stakeholders, project management delivers value that allows businesses to gain a competitive advantage.

So, quite a lot to consider. But these are the fundamental elements behind project management, and they are important to the services that TSC Projects deliver to our customers. In the next blog post we’ll go into a little more detail around time, scope and costs, the three key attributes of project delivery. In the meantime if you’d like to discuss any of the points raised in this blog post, and how they apply to you and your business goals, please feel free to contact us.