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Project Planning And Control: Triple Constraint Model Add in library

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Project Planning and Control

Originally conceived as a framework to enable project managers to evaluate and balance the triple constraints of cost, time and scope, the Project Management Triangle, otherwise known as the Iron Triangle, quickly became the predominant measure of project performance. It helps improve design and planning decisions and assists in the effective control of the project during execution phase. At its core is the assumption that cost is a function of both time and scope. However, misguided or impractical trade-offs between these constraints can seriously jeopardise the success of the project even beyond the implementation stage. For example, Merrow (2012) found that 64% of oil and gas projects that failed to meet their initially set cost and time targets go on to experience "serious and enduring production attainment problems in the first 2 years of first oil or gas". Usually, when a project experiences a large cost overrun, it overruns its schedule significantly as well –  the Edinburgh Trams in Scotland being recent high profile examples (Railnews 2012).

• From a control perspective, Critically appraise the strengths and limitations of the triple constraint model

• Discuss two planning and control methods adopted to manage one of the constraints of the Iron Triangle. Wherever possible and appropriate, please make reference to the practice in your own work environment or experience,

• Evaluate the weaknesses and strengths of the methods of control used in your organisation and discuss the avenues to address the identified weaknesses.


1. Introduction

Project Management Triangle or otherwise known as the Iron Triangle or the Triple constraint has become one of the most predominant framework that is enabling the project managers around the globe to improve the project design of their respective business organizations (Chiu 2010, p. 56).

1.1 Review

The Iron triangle or the Triple constraint has become the predominating building block in respective of the project planning that helps the business managers to monitor and control the business processes in the long run (Bloch and Laartz 2012, p. 34).

Figure1: Triple Constraint Model

Source: (Cooper 2011, p. 224)

From the above figure, it can be seen that the Triple constraints in the Iron Triangle are ‘Time’, ‘Costs’ and ‘Scope’. Here, the performance of the project can be referred to as the ‘Scope’ in the triangle while, the ‘cost’ and ‘time’ completes the deliverables of a particular project for its successful implementation.

1.1.1 Evaluation of the triple constraint model

Triple Constraint Model



• Measure of project performance

• Estimation of project budget

•   Estimation of project schedule

•   Estimation of project quality


Incorporate tactical factors only

Success Criteria

Keep the right balance between the project constraints and implement appropriate tools

Critical Success factors

Short term consideration of the performance targets in order to produce specified outputs within the scheduled time line and project budget as well


•   Time Management

•   Quality Management

•   Scope Management

•   Cost Management

•   Project Performance

Table 1: Evaluation of Triple Constraint

Source: (Davies 2014, p. 23)

2. Strength and limitations of the triple constraint model from a control perspective

2.1 Control: Project outputs related with business outcome

According to Humid et al. (2012), the strengths and weaknesses of the project management triangle can be best evaluated when the outcome of the project is compared with the expected outcomes of the business processes of an organization. He, further, states that the outcomes of the business processes includes the benefits including the NPV, ROI, payback analysis and many others. Thus, the scope of the project management triangle can be evaluated by comparing the overall benefits involved with the business processes to the outcome of implementing the project triangle model.

Figure 3: Project Outputs mirror with Business Outcomes

Source: (Cooper and Schindler 2011, p. 243)

2.2 Strengths

2.2.1 Measure of project performance: According to Bond (2015), the project management triangle helps in assisting them in making effective planning decisions and effecting control of their respective projects during the execution phase (Bond 2015, p. 12). Due to this advantage in the project planning and control, the Iron Triangle has significantly become the primary measurement framework of the project performance in this competing world.

2.2.2 Estimation of project budget: Abedi et al (2011) believe that the project management in relation to business involves the proper estimation of the project budget by identifying the lists of the various costs variables involved with the project (Abedi and Mohammad 2011, p. 234). Now, as the Triple Constraint involves the costs as one of the major constraints in the project, the model helps the project managers to identify the costs and budget of their respective projects as well.

2.2.3 Estimation of project schedule: According to Ambituuni (2011), the estimation of the project schedule is very important aspect of making the project to complete within the scheduled time line (Ambituuni 2011, p. 254). As the Triple Constraint involves the time factor as one of its major constraints in the project, it would help the business managers to estimate the time scheduling of their respective projects as well.

2.2.4 Estimation of project quality: According to Babbie (2010), the quality of the project is not incorporated within the Triple Constraint Model but, it is the ultimate objective of the model within a project (Babbie 2010, p. 232). Some authors are of the belief that the higher cost is required to enhance the quality of the project. Implementing low quality resources in the business project cannot accomplish a successful project. Thus, project quality is also one of the important deliverables of the project management triangle.

2.3. Limitation

2.3.1 Strategic Dimension: According to Catanio et al (2013), the success of a project in delivering the benefits is marked by its strategic context. Due to the lack of strategic factors in the model, most of the projects are facing problems mid way in the execution phases in the process. He argues that the Triple Constraints provides a measure of tactical success of project and that it lacks the strategic factors such as the impact, relevance and sustainability of the project for it to be successful in reality (Catanio and Tucker 2013, p. 12).

2.3.1 Case Study: Wembley Stadium

This beautiful stadium built by Mulitplex, an Austarlian firm in 2007, was a failure in 2002 due to inefficiencies in the part of  the contemporary project managers. Though, they had  been able to identify the project quality and the probable risks associated with the project, following  the project management triangle, they were unable to connect with the outcome of the risks with the dimensions of the project quality (Basu 2014, p. 182). Thus, though, they had  been able to deliver  the project within the estimated budget and in time, they were unable to meet with the customer requirements of the end users.

According to Flyvbjerg et al (2011), the Iron triangle is actually outdated but should never be considered as a waste  model. The authors went on suggesting that instead of completely keeping the model from its implementation within a businessframework, the Triangle,  in addition to the three important constraints, already contained within the Triangle, could be modified by including the customers’ expectations as the central theme (Flyvbjerg and Budzier 2011, p. 32).

Figure: Project Mangement Diamond

Source: (Serrador and Turner 2014, p. 80)

3.  Two planning and control methods to manage the cost constraint of the Iron Triangle.

As the cost involved in the project is one of the major constraint of the Triple Constraint model and is required to estimate the project budget, the planning and control methods required to manage the costs constraint can be illustrated as:

3.1 Planning methods

3.1.1 Cost Breakdown Structure (CBS): The Cost Breakdown Structure is similar to the Work Breakdown Structure of a project which enables the breaking down of the entire project into a number of meaningful activities in order to complete the project within the scheduled budget of the project (Flyvbjerg and Budzier 2011, p. 221). Thus, a CBS helps in providing the summary of the costs involved within the project. Overall, the purpose of the CBS is to break down the costs associated with the project in order to plan for the identification and controlling the entire project.

Figure 4: Cost Breakdown Structure

Source: (Flyvbjerg and Budzier 2011, p. 222).

From the above figure, it is evident that the CBS of a project helps in breaking down of the entire project into smaller activities for each departments including the maintenance, operations and man-hours and thus, providing the summary of the costs involved within the project.

3.1.2 Zero based Budgeting (ZBB): Zero based budgeting is the cost planning and budgeting method which justifies all the costs involved in the project for each of the activities involved with it. This budgeting method is initialised with a zero base and the analysis of very processes involved with the project is implicated according to the project cost and requirements as well (Rigby and Bilodeau 2013, p. 134). This method allows the implementation of the top-level strategic goal into the budgeting process of a particular project. This method allows the managers to measure the previous costs with the current expectations of the project.

3.2 Control methods

3.2.1 Earned Value (EV): Earned value in business environment is an approach to control the project plan, work completed and actual work value in order to keep the project on track. It also helps in the estimation of the schedule variance, cost performance index, schedule performance index, to complete performance index and estimate at completion in respective of the project. According to Colin et al (2014), the earned value helps the project managers to compare the work completed (or costs incurred) against the amount of work (estimated costs) expected to be completed at a given period of time (Colin and Vanhoucke 2014, p. 112).

3.2.2 S-Curve: As the name suggest, S-curve represents the shape of a curve in relation to business environment incorporating the cumulative costs involved in the project. It enables the business managers to monitor and track the actual progress of the project corresponding to the cumulative costs incurred in the project.

Figure 7: S-Curve

Source: (Overall and Wise 2015, p. 30)

From the above diagram, it is evident that the S-curve can be distinguished into three phases viz., the initial, expansion and the maturity phases, which is utilized for the evaluation and tracking of the actual progress of the project in respective of the cumulative costs involved with the project.

4. Weaknesses and strengths of the methods of control

4.1 Cost planning methods

4.1.1 Cost breakdown structure Strengths: The cost breakdown structure helps in breaking down the entire project into a number of discrete activities in respective of the various departments involved with the project. It helps in planning the budget involved with the project. Weaknesses: The most prominent weakness in estimating the cost breakdown of a particular project is that it does not provide a hint about where the breakdown process would stop. In addition, the values are also difficult to identify as well (Hui and Mohammed 2015, p. 74). Solution: The CFO (Chief Executing Officer) need to carefully examine and evaluate the business requirements and the criteria needed while implanting a particular project. This would enable them to estimate an appropriate CBS for the project in the long run.

4.1.2 Zero based Budgeting Strengths

  • Provides efficient resource allocation
  • Enables the project managers to identify the cost reduction methods
  • Identifies and eliminates the activities which are not useful in achieving the target Weaknesses

  • It is very complex method which consumes lot of tome
  • Proper training of the employees is required in order to implement the method (Banaian and Nelson 2014, p. 76) Solution: As the method is complex to implement and is time consuming at the same time, it should be utilized for selective processes instead estimating the entire project budget.

4.2 Cost Control Methods

4.2.1 Earned value (EV) Strengths: The earned value helps the project managers to compare the actual costs incurred against the estimated costs required to complete the project at a given period of time. It also helps in the estimation of the schedule variance, cost performance index, schedule performance index, to complete performance index and estimate at completion in respective of the project. Weaknesses: The earned value analysis does not include the quality, which may arise situation where the project is incorporating high-earned value but is not maintain the quality of the project (Lu and Lu 2013, p. 116). Solution: An appropriate software is required which would help in co-coordinating the different criteria if the project including the estimation of the earned value together with the maintenance of the project quality at the same time.

4.2.2 S-Curve Strength: The S-curve help in displaying the path of the project perfor4masnce in respective of the investment of costs incurred in the project. It also helps in estimating the profits and losses incurred in the project at the initiation phase of the project itself. Weaknesses

  • It does not provide any helps to the business managers if there exists any discontinuity in the shape
  • It also does not indicate where should the investment be made or withdrawn in respective of new activities implemented win the project (Thomas 2015, p. 76) Solution: Business managers are required to align the project schedule in accordance with the project budget whenever the productivity line declines.


5. Conclusion

The study of the project management triangle has been one of the most predominant in respective of the project management. By evaluating the various interpretations and perspectives relating to the project management triangle, we have been able to identify a unified model for the project management. The case study as presented has been able to able to demonstrate the business model that enables the project managers to manage their respective business process in line with the specified requirements for a project to be successful in the future. Project management thus, can be represented in the form of a triangle. There are various tools and techniques available for facing the challenges implicated by the three constraints. Hence, the project mangers arid required keeping the balance between the project constraints and implementing appropriate tools in order to make the project successful in the long run.



Abedi , M., Fathi, M. S., and Mohammad, M. F. 2011. Effects of Construction Delays on Construction Project Objectives. The First Iranian Students Scientific Conference in Malaysia.Malaysia: UPM.

Ambituuni, A. 2011. Five Causes of Project Delay and Cost Overrun, and Their Mitigation.

Babbie, E. 2010. The Practice of Social Research.Belmont CA: Wordworth, Cengage Learning

Banaian, K. and Nelson, P., 2014. Smart Budgeting for an Era of Limits. Transportation.

Basu, R., 2014. Managing quality in projects: An empirical study.International Journal of Project Management, 32(1), pp.178-187.

Beischer, A., and Lofstrom, C. 2012. Factors that cause time delays in hardware development projects; A case study of a product development unit atEricsson AB.Chalmers University of Technology, Technology Management and Economics. Goteborg: Chalmers University of Technology

Bloch, M., Blumberg, S., and Laartz, J. 2012, October. Delivering large-scale IT projects on time, on budget, and on value. Retrieved January 31, 2015, from McKinsey & Company:

Bond, U. E. 2015. Project management, leadership, and performance: A quantitative study of the relationship between project managers' leadership styles, years of experience and  critical success factors (CSFs) to project success.Ann Arbor: Capella University. Retrieved from

Catanio, J. T., Armstrong , G., and Tucker, J. 2013, February. Project Management Certification and Experience: The Impact on the Triple Constraint. Journal of Advances in Information Technology, VOL. 4, NO. 1, pp. 8-19

Chiu, Y. C. 2010. An Introduction to the History of Project Management: From the Earliest Times to A.D. 1900.Delft: Eburon Academic.Publishers.

Colin, J. and Vanhoucke, M., 2014. Setting tolerance limits for statistical project control using earned value management. Omega, 49, pp.107-122.

Cooper, D. R., and Schindler, P. S. 2011. Business Research Methods(11th ed.). McGraw Hill Education (India) Private Limited.

Davies, A. (2014). Innovation and Project Management. In M. Dogdson, D. Gann, & N. Phillips (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Innovation Management.New York: Oxford University Press.

Flyvbjerg, B., and Budzier, A. 2011, September. Why Your IT Project May Be Riskier Than You Think. Retrieved February 20, 2015, from Harvard Business Review:

Hui, O.C. and Mohammed, A.H., 2015. The Role of Cost Breakdown Structure in Life Cycle Cost Model. Jurnal Teknologi, 74(2).

Lu, W. and Lu, L., 2013. Extreme Programming Project Performance Management by Statistical Earned Value Analysis. Global Journal of Business Research, 7(5), pp.115-120.

Overall, J. and Wise, S., 2015. An S-Curve Model of the Start-Up Life Cycle Through the Lens of Customer Development. The Journal of Private Equity, 18(2), pp.23-34.

Rigby, D. and Bilodeau, B., 2013. Management tools & trends 2013. Bain & Company.

Serrador, P. and Turner, J.R., 2014. The relationship between project success and project efficiency. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences,119, pp.75-84.

Talebbeydokhti, A. and Sedghi, M.H., 2015. Studying the effect of project schedule and control role and determining their most important tools on oil projects (the case study of EPD projects in southern oil-rich areas company). Advances in Environmental Biology, pp.158-163.

Thomas, D.S., 2015. Social Aspects of the Business Cycle (RLE: Business Cycles). Routledge.

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