The Triple Constraint in Project Management: Time, Scope & Cost

PM Articles by ProjectManager.com. 

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.

Triple Constraint DiagramTriple Constraint Diagram

What Is the Triple Constraint in Project Management?

So, what is the Triple Constraint? That’s easy, it’s a model of the constraints inherent in managing a project. Those constraints are threefold:

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  1. Cost: The financial constraints of a project, also known as the project budget
  2. Scope: The tasks required to fulfill the project’s goals
  3. Time: The schedule for the project to reach completion

Basically, the Triple Constraint states that the success of the project is impacted by its costs, time, and scope. As a project manager, you can keep control of the triple constraint by balancing these three constraints through trade-offs. We’ll explain how these trade-offs work in the section below.

While it’s true that the Triple Constraint is an important part of any successful project, it doesn’t determine success. Projects are made from many parts, more than the three that make up the Triple Constraint. That’s why some project management experts have added three more constraints to the model, to better reflect the most critical areas of a project. Here they are:

  • Quality: There are quality standards for every project, whether its final deliverable is a tangible or intangible product. Project managers need a quality management plan to control quality.
  • Risk: Risk is inherent to any project. That’s why project managers need to create a risk management plan to explain how project risks will be handled
  • Benefit: There are different types of benefit obtained from a project. Project managers must ensure that project stakeholders get the best financial benefit possible.

How Does the Triple Constraint Work?

As stated above, project managers can increase or reduce the cost, time and scope of a project with trade-offs to keep it on schedule and under budget. Let’s see how these project triangle trade-offs work with some examples.

  • Time and Scope: You can reduce your project scope to also reduce your project duration if you’re running behind schedule. In the opposite case, you can increase the length of your project timeline in case the project stakeholders come up with extra project activities.
  • Cost and Scope: By reducing the project scope, you’ll need to execute fewer tasks, which means lower costs. In the opposite case, a larger project scope means higher costs.
  • Cost and Time: In some projects, time and cost can be directly related. For example, the costs of renting equipment or labor are directly proportional to the time you need them for.

All these scenarios are applying the Triple Constraint for managing the project, but there are many more possible trade-offs that can occur in a project, which also involve quality, risk and benefit.

By using a project management dashboard, a manager can keep sight of the project as it progresses. Metrics such as the schedule, cost and scope of the project are easy to track. With this information, a project manager can identify issues and adjust the Triple Constraint to prevent those issues from developing into problems. ProjectManager features a real-time dashboard that presents all the critical project data that impacts the triple constraint.

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ProjectManager’s Real-Time Project Dashboard

How to Manage the Triple Constraint

The Triple Constraint appears simple, but that’s only on the surface. Each of the three points of this triangle can be unpacked to reveal deeper meaning.

Cost

The financial commitment of the project is dependent on several variables. There are the resources involved, from materials to people, which all include costs.

There are also the fixed and variable costs inherent in any project, such as equipment or labor, which must be calculated. This can seriously come into play with the use of contract workers or outsourcing.

This is what project managers do to control costs:

  • Estimate the costs for all the tasks in the project scope
  • Create a project budget based on the estimated costs of the project
  • Use the project budget as a cost baseline, which is employed to control costs during project execution
  • Control all project costs to keep spending under the project budget
  • Adjust the project budget when necessary

Related: Free Project Budget Template

Scope

As mentioned, the project scope refers to all the project work required to complete the project. Managing that work is critical for project success. When managing scope it’s critical that you prioritize your tasks, enabling you to plan and assign resources effectively.

To manage scope, project managers:

  • Use a scope management plan to clearly define what project activities will be done
  • Share the scope management plan with all stakeholders, so everybody is on the same page
  • Use change orders to avoid scope creep and keep track of all changes made to the project scope
  • Manage stakeholder’s expectations to maintain the project scope
  • Use task management tools and techniques to keep track of all project activities in the scope

These scope management actions taken by project managers are all essential because the amount of time each task will require is critical to the cost and quality of the final product. This can have a great impact on schedule and cost, especially so if the project is on a large scale.

Related: Theory of Constraints: A Guide for Project Managers

ProjectManager has task management features that make it easy to assign, sort and prioritize your tasks. This way you can delegate all the critical project tasks to the right people, preventing the dreaded scope creep. Plus, by offering file sharing and task comments, we enable collaboration on the task level.

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ProjectManager’s Task Management Features—Click to learn more

Time

At its basic, the project schedule is the estimated timeline allotted to complete the project, or produce the final deliverable. Usually, this is figured out by first estimating the time that each project task will take.

A Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is used to identify all the project activities. Then project managers can use different scheduling techniques such as the critical path method or PERT charts to determine the total duration of the project.

Here’s what project managers do to control the project schedule:

  • Use a Gantt chart to visualize the project schedule, define task sequences and monitor the duration of each task
  • Create policies, procedures and documentation for planning, executing and monitoring the project schedule
  • Allocate resources effectively using a resource schedule to avoid bottlenecks
  • Compare the schedule baseline to actual progress to determine if projects are on track

Now that we’ve learned what most project managers do to control the triple constraint, let’s learn about the project management tools that you can use to help you with this process.

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ProjectManager’s Interactive Gantt Chart

Controlling the Triple Constraint with ProjectManager

As mentioned at the top of the post, the triple constraint when used in conjunction with a project management software is the best way to control your project and lead it towards a successful end. ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software with real-time data that gives project managers the power to manage each arm of the triple constraint: costs, time and scope.

Costs

ProjectManager helps you track your project costs to make sure you’re not overspending. You can create budgets, add project expenses and input hourly rates for all of your resources. The real-time dashboard tracks cost and five other metrics across your project and reports on them instantly in easy-to-read charts and graphs. This is an easy way to keep an eye on your costs and make sure you’re aligned with your budget. Now you can catch budget issues before they become a problem.

ProjectManager's dashboardProjectManager's dashboard
Track your project in real time with dashboards—Try It Free

Time

Your schedule can get away from you, but not with ProjectManager. When tasks are updated, they’re instantly reflected across the software. That means, your reports and dashboard are accurate and current. You can even watch the progress of individual tasks on the online Gantt chart, where the duration bar indicates how much progress has been made on the task.

Timesheets are synced with the team’s tasks, which makes it easy for team members to select their task and just enter it. This brings their time into the timesheet, which can then be previewed and approved with a few clicks.

Scope

Scope is going to change throughout the project, and ProjectManager has the tools to stay flexible with those changes. There are multiple project views, so you can switch from the Gantt to the kanban board to get visibility into your workflow. Kanban cards, which represent tasks, are set by priority, which can change as the relevance of those tasks change.

kanban view in ProjectManagerkanban view in ProjectManager
ProjectManager gives you three views for projects, which improves scope management.

The great thing about kanban boards is that they’re set up to deliver tasks to team members only when the resources and capacity are there to complete them. As the scope of the project changes, the kanban board can quickly adjust.

If you notice teams are under- or overallocated, you can balance that out on the workload page. The workload page has color-coded charts that show at-a-glance who is overloaded with tasks and who is available. You can reallocate their work quickly and easily to keep the project within scope.

The Triple Constraint will help you manage your project. Planning for the schedule, scope and cost of your project will help you achieve your goals and objectives. ProjectManager, a cloud-based project management software, gives you the tools to use this model effectively. See how our real-time dashboards & interactive Gantt charts can help you by taking this free 30-day trial.

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Matrix Organizational Structure – A Quick Guide

PM Articles by ProjectManager.com. 

If you need to manage multiple projects, it’s recommended to have a matrix organizational structure in place. Projects have many activities, from resource planning to task management and everything in-between. Therefore, that organizational structure shouldn’t be rigid, but flexible and efficient.

Every organization is structured in some way, and that structure is determined by its business goals and project objectives. The way you structure the functional areas of an organization is going to offer a standard for operating procedures and routines. It will also determine what your team members do, and what project management tools are best for the job at hand.

Matrix organizational structures are often used in project management because they speak to both the product of the project and the function of the management producing it. Let’s take a closer look at this type of organizational structure to determine its pros and cons in project management.

 diagram illustrating what matrix organizational structure is diagram illustrating what matrix organizational structure is

What Is a Matrix Organizational Structure?

A matrix organizational structure is a combination of two or more organizational structure types. The matrix organization is the structure uniting these other organizational structures to give them balance.

Usually, there are two chains of command, where project team members have two bosses or managers, a functional manager and a project manager. These roles are fluid and not fixed, as the hierarchical structure between these two kinds of managers isn’t organizationally defined.

This two-boss matrix will employ the best of both organizational charts and management styles to strengthen strengths and make up for weaknesses. This way, if an organization is working on producing two products or services at the same time, they can organize both and use that duality to their advantage through the matrix organizational structure.

Managing multiple projects requires robust project management software. ProjectManager has an overview section that includes portfolio roadmaps. This Gantt chart view lets you see all the projects in your portfolio on one page to better strategize resource planning. Get better organized today by trying our tool for free. 

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Customize your roadmap view in ProjectManager and track only what you want to track.

How Does a Matrix Organizational Structure Work?

A matrix structure is more than just overlapping an organizational chart on top of another. Using matrix organizations requires careful planning and team collaboration tools.

Matrix structures work by fostering cross-team collaboration and shared resource planning across projects. Simply put, a matrix organization structure reorganizes companies to maximize their productivity and uses two chains of command to make them more dynamic.

Pros and Cons of a Matrix Organizational Structure

A matrix organizational structure is not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are advantages and disadvantages that need to be understood to know if it’s the right one for the organization. Plus, there are three types of matrix structures that you’ll need to know before making a decision. But before we learn about those types, here are the main pros and cons of using a matrix structure.

Pros

A matrix organizational structure can benefit your company because:

  • It allows the sharing of skilled resources between functional units and projects, which facilitates resource planning.
  • It fosters better cross-functional communications, which improves team collaboration and builds a more dynamic organization.
  • It helps organizations achieve their goals at a faster pace, thanks to a higher use of material and human resources.
  • This structure is great for employees who are looking to widen their experience and skill sets. It puts them in an environment that facilitates learning and gives them an opportunity to grow professionally.

Cons

As usual, there’s also some cons associated with the use of matrix organizational structures:

  • There can be some confusion about the organization’s hierarchical structure when a team member is subject to two managers and it can be difficult to reach a balance of power between them. That can also create unnecessary conflict.
  • Limited resources can become an issue if managers don’t communicate during the resource planning process.
  • There are a lot of managers in a matrix organizational chart, which is not to everyone’s liking. And having more people in managerial positions affects the company’s costs.
  • Team members can feel the strain of working in a matrix organizational structure, in that their workload can be heavy.

Project management software can help you work better together by giving transparency to your matrix organizational structure. ProjectManager has kanban boards, project management calendars and Gantt charts that show managers their team’s workflow without getting in their way. They can see where there will be potential blocks in production and thereby allocate resources to keep the channels open. Other resource management features, such as a workload chart, keep the team’s tasks balanced.

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Find the stress points in your project and resolve them with ProjectManager’s board view.

Types of Matrix Organizational Structures

The main difference between these matrix structure types is the balance of power between the functional manager and the project manager. Let’s see how they differ.

Weak Matrix Organization

In a weak matrix organization, the functional manager oversees all project management areas and is the highest authority in the decision-making process throughout the project. The project manager on the other hand has a much lower authority and has to answer to the functional manager.

Balanced Matrix Organization

In this type of matrix structure, the project manager has more authority than in a weak matrix organization. The functional manager still acts as the primary managerial authority in the decision-making process.

Strong Matrix Organization

In a strong matrix organization, the project manager has equal or more power than the functional manager. The project manager has control over resource planning and task management.

ProjectManager Can Help you Run a Matrix Organizational Structure

Given the complexity of a matrix organizational structure, it’s critical to have the right project management tools to make sure team members are receiving their tasks in a clear and orderly fashion. Two bosses can create a muddle, so having all project communication housed in one software is essential.

ProjectManager has a “My Work” section that enables team members to see all of their tasks in one place, regardless of whether a project or functional manager assigned it to them. This enables them to manage their workflow more efficiently, marking their progress and adding comments along the way for managers. They can also work on tasks by projects too if they want to stay in one mindset before moving on to another project.

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ProjectManager lets workers complete tasks in whatever way they want.

For project and functional managers, the reporting tools in ProjectManager can be nothing short of essential. With a real time project dashboard and advanced reporting features, management can always keep abreast of what’s going on. With ProjectManager, you can make a project report with just one click. Our reports include status reports, task reports, variance reports, availability reports and more. This is an all-encompassing project management software that suits everyone in the organization.

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Get automated, in-depth reporting.

When dealing with multiple projects, a matrix organizational structure can give you an advantage, but only if you and your team are equipped with powerful tools. ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software that is built to manage projects of all sizes and levels of complexity. Its real-time data keeps managers updated and gives project teams a collaborative platform. Try it today with this free 30-day trial.

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