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Constraints in project management are the limits that you must work within to achieve your goals and are, unfortunately, unavoidable.

For project managers, being aware of what limitations and barriers they face is essential for navigating an effective project path and ultimately reaching success. That’s why identifying project constraints is such an important task to be performed at the planning stage, then monitored and adjusted throughout the course of the project.

Let’s have a look at some of the most common constraints in project management.

Common Constraints in Project Management

The standard “Iron Triangle” of project limitations states three constraints: time, scope and budget. Conventional wisdom maintains that you can only ever have two of the three going in your favor – e.g., you can have a project of large scope done quickly, but it will cost you more money.

It has been suggested, however, by the Project Management Institute that there are actually six major constraints in project management to consider.

  1. Time: The project’s completion, or final due date for deliverables. Time constraints can be negotiated but can never be overcome completely.
  2. Cost: The budget of the project delineates how much can be spent on certain things. Maybe everyone in the office would work better with their own helicopter or personal chef, but successful project management can’t be about having the best of everything. Instead, it’s about doing the best you can with what you have.
  3. Scope: What is expected of the project, as outlined in the project plan. This can be somewhat negotiated, but in the end, if you’ve agreed to do something, you’re expected to get it done.
  4. Quality: These are the limitations placed on the project deliverable by the client. For example, if they specifically want a landing page to have a load speed of under two seconds, then not achieving that will be a failure.
  5. Benefits: This constraint relates to the expected outcomes or benefits from a project. Think of a new advertising campaign that’s actually turning people off your product in droves, though the expected benefits were more customers. It’s now projected to actually decrease sales. So, as the benefits of the project are no longer what they were expected to be, the project may need to be canceled before completion.
  6. Risk: The risk tolerance of the project usually can’t be overcome. The risks that are identified and ranked on the project’s risk register therefore need to be constantly monitored to ensure they don’t exceed the risk tolerance threshold of the project’s stakeholders.

Identifying project constraints can be performed at the planning stage of the project but should also be a continuous process. While constraints can never be entirely overcome, their effects can be reduced. By adhering to a plan and schedule that stays within these boundaries, your project is given every chance of success.

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Clarizen’s suite of project management solutions helps teams to identify and track their project’s constraints, through greater clarity and providing a single source of truth for the project. To find out how, arrange a live demo today.

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