How to Manage Project Constraints
Project constraints are limitations you may face during the completion of your project. They are often closely connected, one restraint affecting others. The triple constraints of project management are scope, time, and cost.
During each project, you have to balance scope against time and cost. When these are balanced, scope is equal to cost plus time. However, if time, cost, or both decrease, your scope will also decrease unless you adjust to the new conditions.
In much the same way, if you want to increase the scope of the project, you’ll have to increase time or cost or sometimes both to ensure balance.
The Six Major Project Constraints
Every project calls for the careful balancing of the iron triangle of constraints. These are:
- 1. Scope is all the work that needs to be done to complete the project. It reflects the size, complexity, detail, and quality of the project deliverables. Put simply, scope is what you envision your project to be if all goes as planned.
- 2. Time brings together all the constraints that may impact the project timeline. It includes constraints that may arise as a result of changes to the project timeline, project stages, and internal calendars.
- 3. Cost encompasses the financial constraints that may affect your project. Many different types of financial constraints can beset a project, including costs associated with equipment, facilities, materials, salaries, and repairs.
In addition to the triple constraints, there are three other major constraints you need to look out for.
- 4. Quality measures how well work deliverables match expectations. It’s often tied to the other project constraints since each of them can impact quality. But it’s important to bear in mind that poor communication between team members, poor skills, or repeated project changes can affect project quality irrespective of other constraints.
- 5. Resources can include people, equipment, software, materials, and facilities. Resources typically cost money so that they are linked with cost constraints. Resource allocation is the process of planning resources to ensure your team have all they need to complete the project.
- 6. Risk refers to unexpected developments that may affect your project, such as low performance, insufficient resources, high costs, or lack of clarity. Risk doesn’t always have to be negative. For example, a new technology that may appear after you started the project that can help you complete it sooner and at a better cost than initially planned.
How to Manage Project Constraints
Managing project constraints is a dynamic process that calls for flexibility and collaboration. There’s no simple recipe for managing constraints for all projects. However, a few key principles can help you manage project constraints more effectively.
Know Your Project Constraints
Constraints are part and parcel of every project—they are often unavoidable. It’s important to recognize them at the beginning of your project and to keep on paying attention to them as the project is underway. Often, constraints will change during the different phases of your project.
Plan Strategies to Tackle Constraints
Include in your project plan strategies to deal with the six constraints. This takes extra time and requires additional planning. But it brings you a measure of safety.
Use Risk Analysis and Manage Risks
You can’t avoid risks, but you can manage them. A risk management plan that includes a risk analysis process can help you spot, assess, and plan for risks that are likely to occur.
Establish a Quality Control Process
Keep an eye on your project plan and regularly monitor processes. You also want to have guidelines in place for change control. Sometimes, changes that can affect your project timeline happen, and it’s best to factor that in.
Make Communication a Priority
Good team communication can prevent some project constraints. If constraints do occur, it makes it easier for you and your team to overcome them. Discuss the project and difficulties openly with your team and have regular meetings to ensure everyone is up to date and working together to bring the project to a successful conclusion.
Staying flexible is crucial to managing project constraints. Without flexibility, it’s hard to alter scope or other constraints even if this is sometimes needed. One way to embrace flexibility is to use Agile methodologies and any other project management tools that enable you to monitor your project and make adjustments on the go.