Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The PM Golden Triangle

To all Project Manager, the Triple Constraint, or as I say - the Golden Triangle, is a key component to almost every meeting they attend.  People will push the boundaries at every opportunity they can take.  As the Project Manager it is vital to accept this and push back to the offender and explain the impact of the change to the project. 

The golden triangle covers the Time, Cost and Scope of the project , which all lead to the quality delivery of a project.  If you change one, you will affect the other two in one way or another. For example, if my technical analyst on the project changes the server architecture from Physical to Virtual, this could effect both the Price and the Time for installation.  If this component is on my critical path, then it could effect the time to completion, in either a positive or negative way.  The Price may increase or decrease and will impact the project budget in a positive or negative way.


Controlling Scope is a key knowledge area in the PMBoK Guide.  Maintaining the scope will ensure that your project will finish as planned and to the budget you have communicated to your management.  Keep a tight control on the scope is not always possible, for example, a new law may come into force during your project and you will need to alter your project to handle the legal implications. I personally find the Scope easy to control as long as I have it clearly defined at the beginning of the project by the Sponsor. This is vitality important to the success of the project and the Project Sponsor must support you in defining and retaining the Scope constraints.


Once you have set the budget on the project, the Sponsor will expect the scoped project requirements to be delivered within the budget you have set.  Controlling the budget is key in terms of delivering the project with the expected manpower, resources and purchases.  Prices that were gathered in the planning phase of the project could be impacted in a positive way, by finding end of quarter discounts, or in a negative way by supplier price increase.  This has happened in a project that I was managing, where the Microsoft prices increased by 24% ! The budget is often out of your hands, as suppliers change their prices, especially if you only have a 30-day period to purchase. Sometimes manpower costs can escalate as internal staff book their time against your project, or a resource, equipment or service was not accounted for in the original budget.


Finishing the project on time, I feel, is more difficult that controlling the Scope and Cost.  The reason I find this difficult is two fold; (1) As sometimes I do not have the technical expertise to understand that time estimates from teams are incorrect and (2) As long as you have a good quality, signed, Scope, you, as the Project Manager can control the Scope Creep.  One issue pressed by the PMBoK is that "Scope Creep is Evil" and you must not implement [GOLDEN NUGGETS] into the project, just because you think the customer would like them.   Simple Rule: If it is not in the authorized Scope document, it is not in Scope.

Time, as mentioned earlier is a little more difficult, unless you are working in your area of expertise. Sometime a Project Manager will have to work in an area that they are not an expert, which is fine, but they have the disadvantage that they cannot sanity check each decision from the experts and they have to rely on others - but a Project Manager cannot know everything about every technology.

If any one of these items are changed, they will impact the others. You must react as a Project Manager to mitigate any new risks and refer to your Project Plan to follow your change management strategy, for example, you may have to raise a Project Change Request to increase the budget or time. Do not think of this as a failure, as this will happen in the majority of projects, but it is how you control the change that defines the skill of the Project Manager. If you hide the change and suddenly you are 25% over time or budget, you will look a failure, but if you have a change request to cover the oversight, then this will look as if you are maintaining control.

So, control the Scope, control the Cost and control the Time and your project should be a success.  It is difficult, but who said being a Project Manager was easy?

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