The Four Elements of Project Management


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Even for experienced project managers, it’s easy to lose sight of the core elements that make up every project. Scope, time, money, and resources—these four elements tie into one another, and together, they form the fabric of a project. Understanding what they are and how they interact can help make you more effective at managing projects, regardless of your industry or niche.

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The Project Management Institute defines project scope as “the work required to output a project’s deliverable.” To know the scope of a project, you need to know what that deliverable is as well as other goals and requirements. You need to know the actions required to make them happen. It’s critical to involve project stakeholders, from team members to clients, when defining scope and crafting a plan.

Scope is often the most flexible of the four elements of project management. It may be possible to shift resources, increase a budget, or extend a deadline. More frequently, you redefine the project scope. Because scope depends heavily on the other elements, any small issue with one element can snowball into a much larger problem with another.

The secret to successful scope management

The secret to successfully managing the scope of a project is to have a scope management plan in place from the start. A scope management plan should include:

  • A scope statement laying out project guidelines.
  • The project requirements.
  • The expected results of the project.

Ideally, a scope management plan will decrease missed deadlines, overspending, and scope creep. Project scope acts as a constraint. It’s one of three that make up the project management triangle. Together, these three elements influence the quality of a project’s deliverables.


When starting a new project, two of the first things everyone involved wants to know are how long it’s going to take and when it needs to be done. That’s the time element of project management. Creating and adhering to a schedule can help prevent stress among employees, and avoiding missed deadlines will improve client experiences as well.

When a project takes longer than expected, it frequently goes over budget and uses more resources than intended. The scope may also have changed. Managing time well makes it less likely that the other elements of project management and the project’s success will be negatively affected.

The secret to successful time management

Communication is the key to time management; although, a good timeline software doesn’t hurt. If communication were as easy as just talking to one another, everyone would be doing it. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to efficient workplace communication, but the tools exist to create a custom solution.

Mixing and matching project management software, a direct messaging app, email, and a calendar with individual and team options can help your team stay in touch and on track no matter where they are or what they’re doing.

Read More: Project Management Terms & Concepts to Know


All of the elements of project management are important, but without money, projects wouldn’t happen. Cash flow goes both ways, so the money element of project management can be divided into two categories: expenses and revenue. Both are necessary for a project’s continued existence and eventual completion.

Paying team members and purchasing the tools and materials necessary to complete a project fall into the expenses category. If employee compensation is low compared to competitors, employee turnover rate may increase. If cutting costs means purchasing substandard materials, the end product may suffer.

Money is just as important when it’s incoming rather than outgoing. If a client is paying for the project, the amount they’re willing to spend needs to be high enough to cover costs and, in most cases, generate a profit. If the goal of a project is to develop a project, the projected sales need to be high enough that it’s worth doing.

The secret to successful money management

The secret to managing project money isn’t actually a secret. It’s one of the fundamental best practices of project management. To have any hope of successfully managing money, you need to have a project budget.

When creating a budget, it can be helpful to reference past budgets from similar projects. Doing so can help predict the cost of labor, materials, and operations. It can also aid in developing a contingency estimate. Inaccurate cost estimates are one of the most common causes of project failure, so having a plan for unexpected costs is critical.


The resources involved in a project aren’t limited to tools and materials, although those are what tends to come to mind. Team members are resources as well, as are the hardware and software used during a project. Time and money are also sometimes considered resources; though, their management is typically involved enough to warrant being considered unique elements.

Anything that provides aid during a project can be deemed a resource. Failure to effectively manage resources creates waste. Wasted time, wasted money, and wasted materials can all add up to negatively influence a project.

It’s worth mentioning that project managers are another key resource; although, they frequently get overlooked. A well-qualified project manager can make the difference between a successful project and a failed one. If you’re a project manager reading this, don’t forget to count yourself as both a resource and a stakeholder.

The secret to successful resource management

When it comes to effectively managing resources, automation is the answer. Automating processes can unlock time and energy for more complex and creative tasks. The processes unsuitable for automation tend to be the most rewarding for employees, meaning automation often increases employee satisfaction as well as productivity.

Every industry, organization, and team is different, but task reminders and progress checks are among the most ubiquitous workflows to automate. Leave and expense request processing, customer support, and other repetitive tasks make good candidates for automation as well.

There isn’t one easy tip, trick, or hack for easily managing all of the elements of project management. However, with the right tools and a plan, it’s more than possible to improve project performance and impress key stakeholders.

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