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Project Management Foundations
By Marge Tam

As a professional Project Manager, what would the most fundamental sound advise that one would provide to fellow Project Managers at all different levels – entry level, mid-level, or senior level Project Managers? The key to project success and the fundamental principle that every Project Manager needs to know and practice is the management of the triple constraint, or the iron triangle. This involves Scope, Budget, and Schedule.

In the most simplistic words, imagine the triangle in having three sides for each of the constraint area – Scope, Budget, and Schedule. Every time each side changes, the other two sides have to change as well. We have all heard about the request for project results with the low budget, fast cycle, and highest quality possible. To fulfill one’s professional responsibilities, the Project Management’s role is to gather all the facts on project budget baseline, detailed project scope, and timeline to meet all business and user requirements. Then, communicate upwards and within the project team to maintain success throughout the entire project lifecycle. Hence, often times we hear the expression, Project Manager manages strives to achieve “on time, on budget, and on scope” performance for all the project stakeholders.

Going back to the late 1990s, I attended one of the workshops at a Project Management conference for the Introduction to Project Management course. At the beginning of the training, our facilitator asked how many of the attendees were 34 years or younger. Quite a few of the hands went up, and many of the attendees are within this age group, and they were enthusiastic and happy to be attending the training. Afterwards, our facilitator informed us that he has been a professional Project Manager for more than 34 years. He has contributed significantly to the content of the PMBOK – Project Management Book of Knowledge. I was very impressed that he served as a great role model, for someone that has such high level of commitment for the Project Management profession. In addition, he has continued his career for more than 34 years. Certainly, the facilitator had taught me about management of the triple constraint, and this is the key differentiating factor between whether a Project Manager is fundamentally sound or someone that is still learning to be proficient in the Project Management profession.

Time

This constraint is often given by the project sponsor at the beginning of the project to define the timeline that is provided to complete the project from initial inception to final implementation. There are many factors that can impact time, and some of the examples are given and not limited to just this list — time to market for technology projects, competitive advantage over competitors, government regulations, compliance requirements to meet quality requirements, change management, and technology upgrades to resolve obsolescence issues.

Cost

This area addresses the overall budget allocated for this project. Listed below are the Project Management tools used to derive the costs as applicable to each company’s budgeting guidelines:

  • Analogous Estimating: The cost of the current project is estimated based on the cost from a previous similar project.
  • Determining Resource Cost rates: The cost of labor and non-labor costs (hardware, vendor costs) by unit gathered through estimates or estimation.

  • Bottom Up Estimating: The cost is based on the WBS and gathering estimates using the lowest level of work package detail, and rolling it up to a higher level in order to capture the cost of the entire project.

  • Parametric Estimating: Costs are gathered through measuring the statistical relationship between historical data and other variable or flow.

  • Vendor Bid Analysis: For projects that involve outside vendors, the cost estimates are done by taking the average of several bids given by vendors for the project.

  • Reserve Analysis: Determine a contingency buffer that would be required for each activity on the activity on the network path and add up the costs to the end result.

  • Cost of Quality Analysis: Cost estimates are based on the highest quality for each activity.

Scope

The scope entails the overall requirements of the project. Depending of the type of the project, the requirements can differ. Often times, the scope can also be tied to the quality of the project. The scope determines the work that needs to be done for the project.

In summary, it is the Project Manager’s professional responsibility to maintain balance between the three constraints and educate all the project stakeholders when the scope changes, the cost and timeline will also need to be changed. When following this fundamental Project Management rule, the overall project success would be a repeatable process from one project to the next.

Marge Tam, PMP started her career in technology where she practiced project management to deliver multi-million dollar initiatives with consistent on time, on budget and on scope performance. Her strong business acumen has allowed her to help organizations achieve return on investment through continuous process improvement, and innovative technology solutions. She gains tremendous stride in sharing industry best practices in Project Management as well as building high performance teams. Marge can be reached through this link, https://www.linkedin.com/in/margetam.

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