Jack S. Duggal, MBA, PMP in his article “Next Level Up: How Do You Measure Project Success? Rethinking the Triple Constraint” (PMI Community Posts, 9 July 2010) poses the question of whether a Project Manager feels trapped by the traditional triple constraint of Scope, Time, and Cost? Mr. Duggal thinks we need to look at the whole concept differently, especially in light of companies demanding that projects fit into the strategic goals of the company. We need to redefine the definition of success:
“Projects that are delivered on time, within budget and meet scope specifications may not necessarily perceived to be successful by key stakeholders.” (Duggal, PMI Community Posts, 9 July 2010)
Other criteria for project success
Mr. Duggal proposes that project managers need to take into consideration other criteria for measuring progress success. In a survey conducted by the “Projectize Group” in 2008-09 project stakeholders listed such things stakeholder satisfaction, meeting business objectives, customer/end-user acceptance, quality, and benefits as being necessary to determining project success.
“An important concept to understand is that time, cost and scope are related to project outputs, whereas the other factors are related to business outcomes.” (Duggal, PMI Community Posts, 9 July 2010)
I agree that ultimately business outcomes along with strategic goals is what drives projects, it is the job of the project manager to ensure that the project stays aligned with those business goals by using the iron triangle effectively. By controlling scope, time, and costs, the project manager can bring the project to a successful conclusion while meeting the strategic goals of the business.
Fitting the “Other” criteria into the Triple Constraint
Stakeholder satisfaction can be met through a clearly defined project scope. In the scope the object and the goals of the project need to be clearly defined to meet the expectations of the business and the stakeholders. Ultimately they are the ones who approve the scope of the project. The project manager needs to ensure that the scope defines how the object of the project will be met. He needs to ask and get answered the question of what is the purpose of the project: What need or problem is the project supposed to fulfil or solve? What business outcome is the end result?
I see the definition of the scope as the first means by which the team begins to make the connection between the stated business goal and the means by which to achieve that goal. One of the tools that incorporate the scope is the project plan, including the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). In the WBS the project team defines the work needed to achieve the business goal. It breaks the work down into manageable work packages, sometimes referred to as activities. The duration of time it takes to perform these work packages is estimated which ultimately leads to our budget. The stakeholders will have to review and approve the schedule that gets produced after the WBS is completed. All this activity brings a greater understanding of the strategic business goal the project is helping the business to achieve.
Mr. Duggal suggests that we “mirror outputs with business outcomes”:
“While focusing on each of the triple constraints, the project manager has to reflect and make project decisions based on the achievement of the corresponding business outcome. Cost and time focus has to optimize business benefits like ROI, NPV, etc.,” (Duggal, PMI Community Posts, 9 July 2010)
He feels that user acceptance in the end has to be the ultimate goal of the project. I agree because ultimately user acceptance has to be achieved in order to bring the project to a successful conclusion. In order to optimize ROI and NPV the project has to successfully meet a business need, a corresponding business outcome. After all, why else would we be performing the project if not to meet a business goal? In my own experience I have noticed that when you have a clearly defined scope you get better performance from your team. The team doesn’t like to do work that has no positive meaning.
Mr. Duggal suggests using a parallelogram, rather than a triangle, as a way to view managing the contending forces that pull at a project. Each side of the parallelogram would represent the following:
4. Business benefits/outcomes
The Project Manager would balance budget with scope and schedule or scope with schedule and budget. Business benefits could include strategic goals, user acceptance, and customer satisfaction.
Diamond of Opportunity
The diamond of opportunity looks at tactical project outputs with strategic business outcomes. In other words, does the project align with the expected outcome; are we getting what we’re asking for. Mr. Duggal feels that multiple sides of the diamond help the project manager include multiple levels of focus that may be relevant to the business.
I think that Mr. Duggal ideas carry merit due to the importance of user acceptance of the projects output. The project has to meet the business needs or solve a problem otherwise it has no real reason to exist. But I also feel that the traditional triple constraint iron triangle effectively incorporates the desires of the business because it forces the team to focus on what is really necessary to achieve the goal.
1. Duggal, J. (2010-09-10). Next Level Up: How Do You Measure Project Success? Rethinking the Triple Constraint. Issue of PMI Community Post