Triple Constraint in Project Management

You may not have ever heard of the triple constraint theory, but you’re operating under it any time you run a project of any type. That’s because it’s something that happens entirely without your knowledge of it. With the triple constraint theory, you’re referring to three different areas of each project that you’re responsible for. These are scope, time, and cost. Since all three of these areas are part of each project that you perform, the triple constraint theory is also a part of every project that you perform.

Understanding Triple Constraint Theory

The main component of the triple constraint theory is that scope, time and cost are interwoven aspects of any project that you are working on. When one changes the other two must be changed as well. This means if the budget for the project changes the timeline and the scope must immediately change as well. If the timeline changes the scope and cost must change and if the scope changes the cost and timeline must change. It is impossible to change any of the factors without affecting a change on the others. As the project manager, you have to manage each of these aspects and the concessions or changes that happen in each.

Triple Constraints or The Project Management Triangle

Because it is present in all projects, triple constraints are also referred to as the project management triangle with each of the three different aspects referring to an angle or line of the triangle. Together, they represent the most important factors in completing your project properly as everything else falls within these three broad categories. But there’s a little bit more to each of them then you might think about, so let’s take a little bit closer look at just what you’re getting into.

Man moving Tasks on a Gantt Chart Instagantt


The first aspect of this triangle is the scope. Now, the scope of a project is what needs to be completed within the project to get from beginning to end. The scope is what you and the client agree upon when you first start working on the project and it should remain the same from beginning to end. If there are any changes to the scope it will invariably cause changes to the timeline and cost, or at least, it should maintain a fair balance for the client and the project team.

The scope is generally outlined in a document, which lays out all of the goals and requirements of the project. This ensures that everyone involved in the project knows what’s expected of them and can execute it. It helps the client to see what you will and won’t complete for them within the project and makes sure that the team is aware of everything necessary to execute the project properly for the client. It also ensures that you don’t fall into the habit of scope creep, which can become detrimental to all of the aspects of your project.

Scope creep is when you start to add on extras or other tasks to the project that wasn’t agreed to in the beginning. Perhaps you throw in extras because they seem to be part of the project even though they weren’t required to be. Or maybe the client requests additional work while you’re going through the process. Either of these things can start to contribute to scope creep and the bad thing about scope creep is you could end up with a much larger project by the end of things and not even realize it. That means you may not be compensated for it properly either.


The schedule or timeline that you’re going to follow to get the project completed is another important aspect that you need to consider. You need to look at the amount of time it’s going to take to complete the project in the way that the client expects. You need to look at all of the different things that the client wants (the scope of the project) and then consult with the members of your team who will be responsible for getting the project completed to find out just how long it will take.

Getting a project done more quickly is going to be more expensive than a project that has a long, drawn-out timeline. At least, if you’re doing the same type of work. A more extensive project that has a timeline to match but a lot of work to complete will have a higher cost as well. All of this needs to be evaluated and you need to pay close attention to just how it works and what kind of timeline you can stick to with the scope of the project and the cost.

Keep in mind that it’s not just about the amount of time that the project itself takes. It’s also about the amount of time it takes to get other parts of the project completed. You want to know how long it’s going to take to get the research done or how much time you’re going to spend in meetings with the client or anyone else. All of this is going to make it possible for you to budget and schedule your time more effectively and to make sure that you and your team can do what you say you can.


The cost of the project is the budget that you present to your client. This is what you are going to charge them for you to get the project completed and it needs to accurately represent what you’re going to be doing and everyone that is involved. You need the cost to balance out the amount of time you have to complete the project with the scope of the project to be done. All of these factors are going to help you determine what is a fair rate for your entire team.

You’ll need to look at how many hours it will take for you to complete the project directly as well as any supplemental hours for research and meetings or checking in with the client or other team members. You need to think about the hours that each team member is putting in. You also need to look at the cost of the materials that are required to complete the project from beginning to end, which could be as simple as space on your computers or as large as wood, steel, or other physical items. You’ll also want to look at the equipment that you need to use, which could suffer wear and tear as a result of your project.

Make sure that you are open and honest with the client about the budget right from the beginning. You want to make sure that you tell them everything that you’re charging them for and why different things cost different amounts. All of this is going to make it easier for them to understand what you’re charging or what they’re responsible for. It also makes it clear for you and your team what you’ve already budgeted and what you haven’t, in case you need additional materials or the scope changes and requires added costs.

How You Can Manage Better With A Better Understanding of Triple Constraint

You may not even recognize that triple constraint is going on within your projects, but if you are more open to the idea and you start paying a little closer attention you can change the way that your entire team reacts to this and to the rest of the project that you are trying to complete. It’s a whole lot easier for you to complete your projects when you have a better understanding of what to expect along the way.

Know the Scope

Talk to your team about what the project entails. It’s extremely easy to get caught up in scope creep and if you don’t detail to each member of your team what the different aspects of the project are it’s extremely likely that they could go beyond what’s expected of them because they believe something is included that isn’t. The more clarity you bring to communication about the actual scope and what’s being paid for the better off your entire team is going to be and the less you’ll end up with scope creep.

Know the Deadline

Knowing when everything needs to be completed by or when it needs to even be started is another important piece of the puzzle and one that’s going to help you and your team keep all three of these aspects at a minimum. If you can keep to the agreed deadline it’s going to cost you less. And if you can stay on track it’s going to be better for the time aspect of your triple constraint. Keeping track of everything using a Gantt chart, like those available through Instagantt, will help you maintain the timeline you need and keep you on track.

Know the Budget

You should always know not only what the budget is but how well you’re sticking to it. When you give a budget to your client you’ll be able to detail out everything that’s being charged and that’s going to help you keep track of when you’re in danger of going over budget. You want to make sure that you keep the team aware of the budget and how you’re doing about it so you can figure out where to cut or adjust to make sure that you are sticking as close to the original budget and costs as possible.

Using a Gantt Chart to Help

If you’re looking to keep track of everything that’s going on within your business and the projects that you’re creating then you’ll want to look at Gantt charts as a way to get you there. These charts allow you to keep track of all of the different tasks and pieces of your project so you always know what’s in progress, what still needs to be done, and what hasn’t been done yet. Not only that but you’ll know when it needs to be started or completed.

Your Gantt charts can be used to track anything and everything, from the different people responsible for tasks to dependencies between different tasks to how long a project takes compared to how long you expected it to. You can even check in with your team members and converse about different aspects of your project to get each task completed the way you want. Your Gantt chart will allow you to stay on top of everything that’s happening within the business, including multiple tasks and multiple projects at the same time.

What’s even better is that these charts are super simple to set up and simple to use, no matter how familiar you are with them or with any of the programs on your computer. All you have to do is take a look and you’ll see just how easy the process is with drag and drop features as well as customizable options. That will allow you to create the exact chart that you want and the best possible method of tracking what your team needs and what your clients expect.

All About Triple Constraint

When you’re managing a project it’s important to keep track of the scope, the time, and the cost associated. And always keep in mind that even a minor change in one of these areas is going to cause a change in each of the others. By keeping track of them all and working hard to maintain the standards that you set at the beginning of the project and establishing the process with the client, you’ll be able to maintain the triple constraint. So work with your team to make sure that you’re making every aspect of your project work for you.

Our Gantt chart software is great for project managers, marketing professionals, social media and community managers, freelance workers, IT managers, developers, designers, wedding planners, contractors, you name it! We’ve built our software thinking of the features will undoubtedly need when successfully running a project from start to finish. So give it a try, now!

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