Managing Project Constraints
The three constraints or limitations most often discussed at length by project managers – Cost, Time and Scope – are the key metrics used which one can measure a project’s success and in turn the project manager’s performance. These constraints are so closely tied that a slip in one will affect the others. Many a project manager‘s nightmares are centered around them!
Following the PM Best Practices
Managing these constraints effectively is possible by following the project management best practices. The core concept of project Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) needs to be well understood, monitored and controlled for the management of the project constraints. Let us first understand the dependency of the three constraints and the WBS:
The accuracy of the project WBS and the effective management of the activities under the WBS determine the project success. WBS organizes and lists down the project scope in detail and one can say that those activities which do not come under the WBS can be considered to be out of scope. The work package which is formed from the WBS components is the basis for the calculation of project time and cost.
To manage the project constraints it is important to understand the uniqueness of the project WBS. One should create a separate WBS for each project and should stay away from the easier path of creating a WBS from a template. The WBS has to be finetuned based on past experience and done right. This would ensure that your project road map is free of unidentified detours or potholes.
Once the scope statement is framed, the high level WBS needs to be developed which in turn should be approved by the business owner. The detailed WBS should be created using this as the base which helps in estimating the project time and cost. The project scope should be verified and the scope statement updated if required. This helps in accurate estimation thus making the project execution easier and faster.
By focussing on each of the parts instead of the whole, makes it simpler to measure performance and implement right controls. This big picture approach helps in steering the project on track on the three constraints ensuring thus the project success. This makes scope change manageable and helps in getting the scope changes approved or rejected faster.
In conclusion, the key point to stress is that treat each project as unique and then monitor the metrics for better control at the lowest WBS level to be always on top of the constraints!