Project Constraints

A project should possess identifiable goals and a definite starting and finishing point. Project goals must be defined clearly.  A useful checklist can be developed in relation to project success criteria.  Criteria may be hard and concerned with what the project should achieve, or soft when they will cover how the project should proceed.  The major constraints on the completion of projects are time, resource availability and the need to achieve the required standard of performance/quality for the project. This is also known as Project Management Triangle.

Project Constraints

Each of these project constraints is linked to the other two. If one or more of the constraints is changed, the remaining ones will also be changed. For instance, decreasing the budget/cost of a project is likely to lengthen its schedule or force the creation of a new, more restrained quality. Or an increase in quality generally results in an increase in cost and time. Likewise, an acceleration of the schedule may produce an increase in costs and a reduction in quality.

1. Time

Our definition of a project stated that it was an activity which had a defined beginning and ending point.  Most projects will be close-ended in terms of there being a requirement for completion by a certain point in time.  This point may be the result of an external factor such as new legislation, or may be derived from organizational requirements.  It may also be partly determined by other constraints.  There is likely to be some relationship between the time taken for a project and its cost.  A trade-off between the two constraining factors may then be necessary.

2. Resource Availability

There is likely to be a budget for the project and this will clearly be a major constraint.  Cost constraints may be set in a number of ways, for example as an overall cash limit or as a detailed budget broken down over a number of expenditure headings. Labor resources in particular may be a limiting factor on the completion of the project.  In the short run it is likely that labor will be fixed in supply.  Whilst the overall resource available may in theory be sufficient to complete the project, there may be difficulties arising out of the way in which the project has been scheduled.  That is, there may be a number of activities scheduled to take place at the same time and this may not be possible given the amount of resources available.

3. Quality factors

You need to ask yourself whether the project delivers the goods of the right quality.

Dealing with Project Constraints

The project managers challenge is to balance these constraints to create the best possible scope-cost-time equilibrium. The project manager has to be constantly aware of this equilibrium and trade-off between these constraints while ensuring the project stays on track for its original goals.

There are techniques which can be used to overcome project constraints referred to above.  These include:

An important point to note at this stage is how the various constraints on project completion are likely to be interlinked with each other.  For example, problems with time constraints or resource constraints may be overcome by spending more through working overtime, employing more people or purchasing better machines.  Budget problems may have a knock-on effect on the achievement of deadlines.

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