Time, Cost, and Scope

The Triple Constraint: AKA The Art of Give and Take

Scope time and cost in an infinite triangle by 70kft Dallas Integrated Marketing Agency

70kft is ninja-certified in solving  branding challenges and anticipating client needs through deep brand emersion. Through 70kft’s integrated approach, business leaders consolidate time and ensure expediency of process to solve brand communication problems.

Our agency’s methodology balances client’s needs by aligning our projects with the Triple Constraint method. The Triple Constraint is defined by the project management institute as scope, timeline and budget. At 70kft, our leadership ensures these three elements harmonize to maintain the highest quality standards. Our meticulous project management process centers on the Triple Constraint triangle. I will take you through how it coincides with 70kft projects and more importantly how it can be used to maintain a healthy project.

So let’s get candid. The majority of us have had a project stakeholder request to “finish it early” without any consideration for the budget, scope or how it can affect the quality of the finished product. Since we all work in the real world and have real customers to answer to, I am certain you’ve heard this at one time or another. In truth, as project managers, this type of request is all too common and we as professionals must handle them strategically to prevent unnecessary project risks. Now, this can be tricky. It is for this exact reason the idea of “The Triple Constraint” was developed.

The Triple Constraint, or Project Management Triangle, is the easiest way to visualize the delicate relationship between the elements of the project (time, cost and scope) and how a change in one element can affect the others.

In today’s hyper-efficient society, it has become human nature to expect everything cheaper, faster and without error. We all love haggling and getting what we want so it is no surprise when a project stakeholder requests an adjustment to one or more project element. Now the question remains … how should you respond? At the heart of this dilemma lies a very real fundamental order that governs all projects (and probably life, physics and the universe, but that’s another blog): The Law of Give and Take. This also happens to be the fundamental principle behind the Triple Constraint.

The idea is simple. Anytime there is a need to adjust one of the three elements of a project (time, cost, and scope) there must be a corresponding change to another element. Need something quickly? It’s probably going to cost more. Need something cheap? It may not be exactly what you are looking for, but it will get the job done. Additionally, these three elements must maintain balance in order to achieve project quality standards. If a change is made in one area without a corresponding adjustment in another, the quality of the project is at risk. For instance, if the timeline is reduced but the budget remains the same, it is likely that there will not be sufficient time or resources for quality assurance testing.

Our  integrated marketing agency deals with these types of requests frequently and has the skill set and expertise to manage them effectively. In order to share the love with my fellow project leaders, I’ve decided to exclusively arm you with advice our integrated agency uses as best practice, when dealing with these types of requests. Defined below are four main types of personas that you may encounter throughout your career. I’ve prepared the following candid dialogue to help you spot, respond and overall master these challenging situations:

The Speed Demon

Characteristics: Always in a rush, will often try to find the most efficient methods for completing everyday tasks, may run words together when speaking.

Request: “I’m fine with everything, but can I get it faster?”

Response: Yes, but we will need to bring in more resources or reduce the scope to accommodate a quicker turn-around.

The Bottom-Liner

Characteristics: Money-minded, strives for the best deal, often looks at the project cost before anything else.

Request: “Cut the budget by 20 percent, but keep everything else the same.”

Response: Let’s take a look at the scope together to determine if we can compromise on some of your requirements to reduce the project cost for you. (Another possibility would be to push out the project due date but that does not always reduce costs).

The Deluxe

Characteristics: Wants the most bang for their buck, may often ask for additional items well after a scope has been finalized.

Request: “Make it bigger and better!”

Response: That’s a great idea! Here’s a quote for the additional items we are going to add to the scope and an estimate of the new timeline.

The Triple Constraint Triple Threat

Characteristics: Hides in closets to frighten small children and project managers, can quickly cripple projects with a single request.

Request: “More! Faster! Cheaper! What the heck does compromise mean, anyway?”

Response: This person is either a small child or a crazy person (or your boss). Walk away … Slowly.

It’s essential to remember the Triple Constraint is a leadership awareness tool. It’s not the intention of the clients or other team members to place unreasonable demands on you or a project. Both internal and external audiences are most likely unaware of the harm it could potentially do. It’s best practice at 70kft to educate our clients, taking the time to explain the process, as well as communicating the repercussions of making a change to a project – the Triple Constraint is used to illustrate this. By raising concerns based on strategic reasoning backed by project management tenets, our clients are more willing to listen. So, the next time a project demands you “finish it early”, you will generate the proper response and your team members will praise you for your ninja-like change management skills.

I will leave you with these final thoughts. After reading this post, you may look for additional information on the Triple Constraint and find that there are many variations of this model. I prefer this particular method because it is simple and easy to apply to the scenarios that we encounter at my agency. As always, I encourage everyone to perform individual research to draw their own conclusions, but I would recommend looking into the Project Management Book of Knowledge ( PMBOK) materials prepared by the Project Management Institute (PMI).

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