Project managers juggle a lot. Companies entrust them with the responsibility of using project management tools to facilitate all aspects of a project: resources, tasks, milestones. While the project manager has resources to achieve the project goals, those resources are not unlimited -- project managers do have constraints. The three classic constraints that project managers face are referred to as the Project Management Triangle, or the Triple Constraint, with each side representing a constraint.
Project managers must deliver project deliverables on time. An agreed-upon time schedule might tie the project completion to a certain activity. For instance, the project contract could specify that project managers complete the project before pests take over the garden. The time stipulation poses a constraint to the manager since she will have to coordinate all activities and contractors and make sure everything takes place within a certain time frame. This time factor forms one side of the Project Management Triangle.
Another constraint for the project manager is sticking to a defined budget. The management determines the budget amount, and the project manager must not exceed this cost constraint. The project manager must have a realistic cost estimate of the entire project, including the cost for hiring project personnel, the cost of materials and indirect costs. This cost factor forms a second side of the Project Management Triangle.
The management sets the goals for the project and the project manager must work within this scope of the project. If the management defines the scope of the project as getting a U.S. car ready for the European market, then the project manager must work to achieve this result. Even though he thinks that the project would be more successful if the aim was to get the car to the South American market, he cannot change the scope of the project. This scope factor forms the third side of the Project Management Triangle.
Managing Within Constraints
To achieve the project goals, the project manager will likely make trade-offs. For instance, she will get personnel to fit the project budget, who may not necessarily be the best persons for the job. And the project manager will have to manage risks in order to meet the project goals. If it is a construction project located in an earthquake-prone area, for instance, then the project manager will have to take this risk into account. An earthquake could delay the project and hike up its costs. The project manager will have to get insurance protection to manage this sort of risk.