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How to Successfully Balance the Project Management Triangle?

By Peeyush Singh
January 23, 2020 6. min read
Last update on: July 2, 2020

So you want to make an amazing application.  

Great! 

But seeing your idea materialize into a robust product entails strategizing, assembling the right team, conducting a kickoff meeting… 

And the kick-off meeting implies that you are just getting started. 

Building a mobile app is a long process. While the Scoping session and discovery phase of app development have been emphasized enough, managing the project efficiently has a huge impact on the success of a product.

According to a PwC study, a whopping 97% of organizations believe that project management is critical to business performance and organizational success.

Regardless of how simple or complex your idea is, project management plays a fundamental role in app development. Effective project management ensures that deadlines are met on time and there is a timely flow of deliverables. 

So, if you want to stay on track with your app development project, whether it’s in terms of schedule or getting the app that you want, besides regular communication with the development agency, effective project management is a must. 

And especially your Project Manager must take care of the project management triangle.  

What is the Project Management Triangle, anyway?

Project Management Triangle also referred to as the Iron Triangle or the Project Management Triple Constraint defines the basic constraints that a project operates within, namely, Scope, Time and Cost. 

Project Management Triangle

The Iron Triangle is the relationship between three crucial forces in a project. It is named so because you can’t change one aspect of the triangle without impacting other key dimensions. 

Introducing modifications to any of the three aspects of the Project Management Triangle is quite difficult. 

For instance, Let’s suppose you are a Project Manager and your client insists on adding more functionalities to the product. Increasing the project scope implies that the time required to build the product will increase and that would eventually increase the cost of  a project. 

So, to ensure that the project costs don’t exceed the budget and the product is delivered within the timeframe with the right functionality, it is essential to have an understanding of the mutual dependency of the three constraints. 

Being ignorant of the Project Management Triple Constraint might put you at a risk of making the wrong decisions and it may adversely impact the success of your project.

Why is it important to have balance in a Project Management Triangle?

Keeping the triple constraints of a Project Management Triangle in mind while you spearhead a project will help you adapt to the changing requirements while assuring that the project is delivered on time and doesn’t exceed the budget. 

The concept of the project management triangle finds its reference in Agile methodology, and agile allows us to welcome changes. We can’t really ignore changes in the development process, they are bound to come up. 

Therefore, smart management of the iron triangle is crucial. Being prepared ensures any changes whatsoever don’t impact or jeopardize the entire project. 

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So, before you expand the scope or move the deadline you should know how it can impact your project. 

Let’s explore some scenarios and dive deep into the dimensions of the triangle and measure the consequences of moving the triangle towards one or two dimensions. 

project management triple constraint

Scope 

Scope refers to the extent, dimension and spectrum of the work that needs to be accomplished in a project. It entails all the work that needs to be done and all the services that need to be provided in regard to the product functionalities.

Increasing the project scope impacts the time and the budget. Adding more functionalities or expanding the existing ones require resources that might not have been taken into consideration while planning. 

When requests for additional resources arise, a Project Manager has to take a lot of factors into consideration which can increase the project costs or lengthen the development process. 

Also, having a tight budget and stringent deadlines gives you little or no flexibility in terms of expanding the project scope. 

However, there is an approach which will allow you to add functionalities without expanding the scope of a project. 

And that’s where the concept of an MVP comes into the picture. A Minimum Viable Product is the first version of a product with a basic set of features. It determines whether or not the product has the potential to succeed.

An MVP is launched in the market in the shortest time possible to ascertain whether it sparks user interest. After generating invaluable user feedback and validating with real users, new functionality is added gradually. 

It is a great way to test the waters. Products that are fully functional as MVPs can gradually add more functionalities. Your focus should essentially lay on finding a product-market fit. 

Product-market fit is the extent to which a product satisfies a strong market demand. Finding the right product-market fit is considered the first step to building a successful venture.

More often than not, many clients demand to extend the scope of work while the product is in the development pipeline. Adding new functionalities without making tradeoffs with regard to the time and budget sounds impossible. 

Except, in some cases, it’s really not. 

Adding new functionality by removing initially planned features doesn’t impact the triple constraints as much. When building a new product or application, it is advisable to keep the scope to a minimum- include only the ‘must-have’ features and leave the ‘nice to have’ features. An MVP should include only the core functionality and characterize the value proposition. This way you can avoid wasting the budget on something that users don’t even need. 

While handling complex projects that cater to highly competitive markets, sometimes adding new functionality becomes a necessity. In cases where changes can make a huge difference for the user and the business, they should be accommodated with open and honest communication between the Project Manager and the key stakeholders. 

Time 

The expected timeframe of a project is decided by a couple of factors such as the scope of work, the complexity of the project, availability of the resources and the team expertise. 

While time constraints in project management implies the amount of time you need to complete the tasks, the velocity factor measures how much work is getting accomplished in a given timeframe. 

Since people don’t really work with the same speed and efficiency every day, the velocity tends to vary across days and weeks 

Estimating the time frame becomes difficult due to the changes in the velocity. 

This is why in an agile environment, the scrum work methodology is considered an ideal approach to ensure the project is completed in the given timeframe. 

With efficient communication between team members, daily Stand-ups, Sprint Planning, and Retrospectives, it is easy to map out the team’s workload, work on obstacles and keep the velocity factor in check every step of the way. 

Ideally, after the completion of three sprints, it’s easy to map out if more resources are required in the project or if the deadline needs to be moved. 

Cost 

The third key dimension, Cost, includes the project budget and the number of team members needed to deliver a product. 

To keep the cost factor in check, it is advisable to prioritize elements of project scope that need to be delivered and allocate resources accordingly at all phases of development. 

Estimating the cost and resources required in a project isn’t as easy, especially when it is a complex project. A good Project Manager either makes estimates based on data collected from similar projects done in the past or makes an appropriate guess based on the detailed interaction with the client. 

After making the initial estimate, a Project Manager controls and manages the budget throughout the development cycle. 

How to balance the Iron Triangle? 

The Iron Triangle doesn’t exist to help us detail all the elements of a project management- scope, time and cost. Rather, it goes on to show how these constraints are intricately intertwined. 

Managing and Balancing the scope time cost triangle is quite similar to juggling and it certainly isn’t easy. 

Project Managers divide the entire project into milestones and tasks to balance the triangle effectively. The priorities for the team are defined and there is always open communication with the client in order to meet their unique requirements. 

Here are some of our best practices for effectively managing the Triple Constraints: 

Discovery Workshops:

At the outset of every project, we conduct Product Discovery Workshops with our clients. These workshops are conducted  to define the purpose of the project, establish the project scope, outline the core functionalities and streamline a roadmap to accomplish the work. It provides the client clarity on what needs to be done. 

Estimate: 

After having a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of the project, we provide a detailed estimate of the project timeline and the required budget to successfully develop the product. 

Plan: 

Our Project Managers strategically plan the team’s workloads as per the milestones. By practicing the Scrum framework, we keep velocity in check and there is a timely flow of deliverables. It helps us eliminate obstacles early on and accomplish work in the given deadline. 

Team:  

We allocate a cross-functional team to ensure we deliver the best possible solution on time and within budget. A Cross-functional team brings together people from different functional expertise. Through shared expertise and mutually exploring the prospects of a project, together we accomplish a common goal. 

Communication:

In the product development process, open communication between the team and the key stakeholders is crucial. Our Delivery system ensures proactive updates, which means our client is never in the dark. We discuss any possible changes in the key dimensions upfront and that makes the team adapt to changes quickly. 

Conclusion: 

While balancing the project management triangle is a lot like juggling, it is also a constant reminder of how changing one constraint will cast an impact on the entire project. 

It is a valuable tool that prepares the Project Manager to think strategically, make wiser decisions and effectively manage the project.

Peeyush Singh
Peeyush Singh
Chief Operating Officer
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