Every project that we undertake has to be carried out under certain constraints. Constraints mean limitations or boundaries for the project.
For example, a project needs to be completed by:
The traditional constraints which will be imposed by the customer or stakeholder will be Scope, Cost and Time. The stakeholder expectations and quality have to be defined within the limits of the agreed scope, time and cost constraints.
The basic constrains can be viewed as the below triangle. They are historically referred the Triple Constraints of the project. This triangle also has been referred as the Iron Triangle of project success. A project is termed as successful only when all the agreed constraints are met.
These constraints are interdependent. Any change in one of the constraints, will impact the other constraints. These constraints must be balanced for them to be implementable. These constraints are generally defined as the set of expectations by the customer at the beginning of the project. They become part of the project objective.
For example, a customer who wishes to build a new state-of-art training room in their new office will have to provide a clear project objective. The project objective will include these constraints. The customer in this case may state “we need to build a new state-of-art training room which can accommodate 30 people at a time, to be built within 3 months and within a budget of $10K”. This objective now provides clarity in terms of the traditional constraints.
The project manager will have to understand these constraints at the outset of the project. The project manager will have to prepare a plan which details out a course of action where these 3 basic constraints are adhered to in a balanced manner. The project manager’s prime responsibility includes understanding these constraints and ensuring that the project is managed within these constraints. The project manager, while understanding the constraints, must negotiate with stakeholders if he/she feels that these constraints are not feasible.
Once the triple constraints are understood and agreed between the project manager and the stakeholders, then they have to be met. Subsequently any change to the constraints, must be taken up carefully, by evaluating how a change in any one constraint will impact the other constraints. For example, any scope change subsequently, will require the project manager to evaluate how much this change of scope will impact the originally agreed cost and time. The project manager will have to constantly keep a close watch on these constraints to ensure that they remain balanced.
There may be additional constraints beyond the basic triple constraints. They may include quality, risk, resources, contractual provisions, environmental constraints etc. All the constraints of a project have to be understood as a whole with their interdependencies.
Every project will have constraints all limitations within which the project has to be managed. The project manager is primarily responsible for understanding these constraints and managing these constraints throughout the project life cycle by continuously ensuring that they are balanced.
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