The Iron Triangle in Project Management

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TheIron Triangle in Project Management

TheIron Triangle in Project Management

TheIron triangle, also known as the triple constraint is a key tool usedin project management to analyze and evaluate any difficulties thatmay arise during project implementation and execution. According toSiddiqui (2015), the Iron triangle is an imperative tool that shouldbe used by every project manager in the successful execution of aproject since the tool can be used in any project phase to measurethe project’s progress. All projects have all sorts of constraintsirrespective of their sizes and nature but these should not bebarriers to effective decision-making and project execution. Inproject management, there are three main project constraintsrepresented through the Iron triangle, which are schedule, cost, andscope.

Belowis an equilateral triangle showing a balance between the threeelements, a point to note is that the triangle’s shape may changebecause of the changing effects of the constraints in the projectscycle.

Thesethree elements have a common force, which is “projectaccomplishment”, and are all interconnected to each other. Thismeans that any change in any one of the elements affects the othertwo.

Someexamples are as follows if the project manager decided to (Tsongas,2011):

  1. Adjust the project plan to ensure the project is finished per the scheduled time he/she might have to increase the costs and decrease the scope.

  2. Meet the allocated project costs, he/she might have to reschedule the project, add more repeatedly decrease the project scope.

  3. Increase the project scope, more time and money will have to be added for the project completion to add more resources.

Anychange made to a project plan can affect the Iron triangle in variousways depending on the circumstances and nature of the project.

Resourceavailability and Allocation

TheIron triangle consists of the fourth constraint, which is quality,but in this case, our fourth constraint will be resourceavailability. In regards to the triple constraint triangle, aresource is considered as an item under cost. Therefore, if at anypoint a resource is adjusted to accommodate more or less work or inother words to reflect its availability, the costs willcorrespondingly go high or low. The availability of resources affectsthe project schedule since, if certain required resource is notavailable, the project schedule will have to be added while theproject scope is decreased.

Whena certain resource is concurrently allocated to more than oneproject, chances are that the project’s scheduled time would haveto be added, the scope reduced or else the project manager would haveto discover a similar or a much better resource (Jenkins, 2015).Projects can contest with each other for the same resources in thefollowing ways first, the use of a resource that is limited and canbe fully consumed when put into use e.g. certain chemical agents. Thesecond one a resource that is limited but not consumed when used suchas a system specialist. When two or more projects compete for similarresources, one project will have to be given more priority than theother is which may affect the project both negatively/positively.

Beingpart of a team that was undertaking a project on the development of amicrofinance management system, I was tasked with getting a newsystem developer since the project’s system developer was alreadyinvolved in other projects, thus he could not handle our project.Getting a good developer is a huge problem since most developers arealready involved in other projects or else might not blend in wellwith the current team. I also had to consider the cost factor, a gooddeveloper would likely request for a good pay, one that is muchhigher than what was allocated in the budget. I concluded thatpoaching a young developer I had previously worked with in adifferent project would be the best option.

Thiswas cost effective since I knew his payment estimations from theprevious project and his work technique. Getting the right resourceat the right time and within the budget is quite difficult for aproject manager whose project is already in progress. This only showsthat resource availability is directly related to resourceallocation in project management. This means that for every availableresource, a project manager should adhere to the correct measure andapproach in allocating the resource to avoid any delays in projectcompletion.


Accordingto Ewer (2015), scope creep is the process by which a given projectgrows beyond its initial predicted size. Scope creep occurs when aclient decides to take advantage of a project manager and expand aproject outside the scope of the project but is not willing to addmore money to cover the costs. In the microfinance management systemproject, we experienced this with our client requesting us to addmore functionalities than what was within the initial project scope.As much as scope creep should not be portrayed as a cost of business,it eventually becomes a cost of business since more resources will berequired to finish the project on time. When our client decided toadd more functionality to the system, as the team leader I had toallocate more resources. In this case, a web developer who wouldintegrate our system with the organization’s website.

Initially,the client had not informed us of the system and website integrationthus we had not included any web developer in our team. This meantthat more time would be required or else we would have to add moreweb developers to complete the project on time. Either way, moremoney would have to be spent out of the initial project budget and towhich the client was still hesitant on paying. In such a case, thescope creep was not reversible since some of these functionalitieswere quite significant in this project and would provide real-timesystem functionality, which was one of our key objectives indeveloping this system. If a scope creep does not in any way affectthe project objectives and goals then it is possibly reversible andavoidable.

Scopecreep comes down to an issue of the budget allocated to the project.If the resources spent on carrying out the project surpassed theanticipated budget or rather costs, then the project scope must beredesigned to fit the costs if a client is not ready to part withextra payment. To avoid scope creep, one must not only define thescope of the project but also have an understanding of the costs andresources involved in the project. The following are some ways toreverse and avoid scope creep in a project:

  1. Have a clear understanding of the client’s goals and objectives.

  2. Have a proper definition of the project scope.

  3. Always provide a budget that will reduce the possibility of costs overrun.

  4. Have a clear copy of the agreement in writing.

Everyproject manager should strive to eradicate scope creep from theequation whenever he/she is undertaking a project. Opportunely, theprocedure by which a project leader would be confident in avoidingscope creeps also empowers him/her to provide high-quality servicesabove the projected standards (Ewer, 2015).


Ewer,T. (2015). Steps to preventing scope creep. Retrieved August 28,2016. From

Jenkins,N. (2015). Aproject management primer: basicprinciples – scope triangle. RetrievedAugust 28, 2016. From

Siddiqui,Z. (2015). Triple constraint theory/ Project management triangle.Retrieved August 28, 2016. From

Tsongas,T. (2011). Scope, Time and Cost:managing the triple constraint.Retrieved August 28, 2016. From

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