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Friday, July 8, 2011

Chapter 83: Big Picture of Controlling Scope, Schedule, and Cost

The nutshell of running a project is delivering the scope according to some schedule, which will cost someone. Completing a project successfully includes delivering the planned scope according to the planned schedule and within the planned budget. The fundamental parameters for budget and schedule are cost and time, respectively. Budget is the cost with a timeline, and schedule is determined from the time estimates for completing the schedule activities. So scope, time, and cost make the heart of any project. These three project parameters comprise a triple constraint that is a framework for evaluating competing demands. A triple constraint is often depicted as a triangle, with each side representing one of these three parameters. Since these 3 parameters are of utmost importance for any project, we are going to refer to them as “The Golden Triangle”

Don’t be confused if you see the triple constraint referred to as scope, schedule, and cost constraint as well as scope, time, and cost constraint. Time and schedule are intrinsically connected.

For example, assume you are being interviewed by a functional manager for a project manager position. Don’t be surprised if you are asked a question based on the following situation:
1. The project is way behind the schedule.
2. No extra resources, such as money or project team members to perform activities, are available.
3. You have to implement all the planned features.

The question is, what will you do to meet the deadline that is approaching within a week?
From a project management viewpoint, this situation is a good example of the triple constraint. The project is behind schedule, which means there is a schedule change (or a change in time available to finish the remaining project). Therefore, at least one of the other two parameters must change. If you want to meet the deadline, either you should be allotted more funds to hire more human resources or the scope of the project should be changed, which means some of the features would be left out. Depending upon the knowledge level of the functional manager about project management, this answer might not get you the job, but as a project manager, you must stand your ground. Project management is not magic; it involves dealing with cold, hard reality in a realistic way, thereby establishing clear and achievable objectives.

You can see the relationship of triple constraint to quality by recalling that a high-quality project delivers the required product on time and within the planned scope and budget. Therefore, while balancing between these three constraints, the quality (and as a result, customer satisfaction) might be affected. The triple constraint is also a good example of how one change can give rise to other changes across the project. This highlights the importance of managing and controlling changes.

These 3 factors are shown as a triangle because – when you try to change the size of one of the sides of the triangle, the other two automatically get changed and it is inevitable. The same is the case with these 3 factors. In any project, you cannot change just the cost or the scope or the schedule without affecting the other two factors. Just hard-wire that into your brain and never forget this.

Changes to scope, schedule, and cost are controlled using the Control Scope, Control Schedule, and Control Cost processes, respectively, which we will discuss in detail. These three processes are at the center of the project action.

The picture below is the big picture of the whole idea.

As you can see, they take work performance information from the project execution and generate work performance measurements that are used by the quality control process to generate quality control measurements and by the report performance process to generate performance reports.

Prev: Introduction to Monitoring & Controlling the Golden Triangle

Cost is incurred in executing a schedule, which depends on the scope.

Don't worry if this doesn't make much sense as of now. We will dive head-first into this topic and cover them until we drown.

Prev: Introduction to Monitoring & Controlling the golden triangle

Next: Controlling Scope

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