The challenge for every Project Manager is to deliver what was requested on time, and within budget. Each project will have its own unique set of competing demands. The classic competing demands are often referred to as the triple constraints.

 

These triple constraints describe the interdependency between the three cornerstones of a project.

First, your scope of work, which includes all the work you have to do in order to create what the customer has requested. Next, your schedule, the time you need to create the output.
Third, your budget, the total amount of money you need in order to create the end result.

 

These 3 elements work in tandem with one another. When one element is reduced or expanded, at least one of the other two elements will then need to adjust. One of your first tasks as a project manager of a brand new project is to prioritize the triple constraints to make certain everyone is in alignment. A conversation with your sponsor or client will help sort out which is the most important demand on your project.
Whether the client understands project management, or has ever heard of the triple constraints, in their mind they are already know what’s most important to them. Your job is to have the open dialogues so all are clear on the prioritization to keep everyone focused on what you’ve would agreed to be the most important outcomes.

 

You would be surprised how many people attempt to run projects without first confirming the priority of objectives. It’s like getting in the car for a road trip with a driver whose top priority is seeing and enjoying the sights along the way. While the passenger’s main desire is getting to the destination as quickly as possible.

Somebody is going to be disappointed.

 

Desires that are not expressed become a source of tension, disappointment, or in project terms, failure. Knowing which demand takes precedence allows you to develop a road map and resolve conflicts during project execution. For example, during a software project, my customer asked to add new features to the software after hearing about a competitor’s product. It then became essential that our product have the new features. The most important constraint in that case was scope.
The impact was, the budget and schedule increased as a result, pushing out the delivery date slightly, yet ahead of the competition. During another project to create a service offering, the marketing department asked us to bring the launch date forward by two weeks to coincide with a major industry show. The most important constraint was the schedule. The impact was, costs were increased, and some features of the product were removed to meet the new deadline. During another one of my projects, an unexpected budget cut was imposed after the company posted poorer than expected stock performance.
The most important constraint in that case was the budget. The impact was, scope was reduced and schedule pushed out, so cheaper resources could be made available. In each of these examples, I needed to re-balance the project to meet the new constraints, and deliver a successful outcome.

 

Advanced planning helps focus decisions throughout the rest of the project.
Do you discuss the priority of your triple constraints with your sponsor before every project? How about with your client? If
you haven’t, you need to do it to ensure that everyone’s on the same page.