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Holy Trinity of Project Management

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Holy Trinity of Project Management also known as Project Management Triangle depicts the three constraints which all project leaders face - Scope, Schedule (time), Budget (cost). A successful project achieves the goal by managing all the 3 parameters within the limits as agreed with the customer.


An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Aritra Das Gupta and Joyal.


Applause for all the respondents - Aritra Das Gupta, Sherin Sebastian, Joyal, Sourabh Nandi, Sudheer Chauhan


Also review the answer provided by Mr Venugopal R, Benchmark Six Sigma's in-house expert.


Q 298. What is the Holy Trinity for a successful project? Explain the interactions between the three elements with examples.



Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday.

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The Holy Trinity for any successful project hey are depicted in the above picture. The Success of a project is dependent on 3 important aspect which is schedule ,scope and budget . hey in order to make a project successful it is imperative that one site of the triangle should be in one’s control the other 2 can be in control of the customer.

If scope ,budget and schedule are in control off the customer there can be a challenge in the quality of the project deliverable . there are many organisation who face this challenge sense they have a very demanding customer who tries to have us very tight deadline ,tight budget and an extremely complex scope .this put a lot of pressure on the project team and at times the quality of the deliverable is compromised .this often leads to customer complaint and a vicious cycle where due to the unreasonable requirement of the customer the quality of the project is impacted .

please find below an example which covers examples where hey one side of the triangle is in control of the producer while the other 2 are in control of the customer .

1.    Client : Scope ,Schedule
Producer : Budget 

First example is when the customer has very tight schedule and define scope hey which cannot be altered .a phone manufacturer is planning to launch a new smartphone which has 5G capability .this phone is to be launched in the next 6 month .The mobile company gets in touch with a chip manufacturer and provides him a deadline off 3 months the buffer is kept as this software needs to be integrated with chip. the chip manufacturer in this case is the producer While mobile company is the client . the chip manufacturer is working on a very tight deadline and he has a specific call which needs to be achieved however if he has the budget in his control then he can deploy a subcontractor who can manufacture the chip on the contractors behalf .If the producer has a budget constrain then he would not be able to deploy additional resources in order to fulfil the mobile companies demand . 

2.    Client : Budget ,Schedule
Producer : Scope

In the second scenario the budget and schedule is restricted and is in control of the client whereas the scope is in control of the producer. A builder is approached by a customer  that he needs to build a house in a plot which he recently bought . The client informs the builder that his budget is fixed and since he is retiring he needs to move in the new house by the next 6 month's . In this scenario the client has given a fixed budget as well as schedule .the builder who is the producer in this example can clearly articulate at the beginning of the project that within this short frame of time he can only complete a duplex however certain amenities  like indoor swimming pool Or terrace garden cannot be completed within this time frame and budget .

3.    Client : Budget ,Scope
Producer : Schedule

In the 3rd scenario the budget and the scope is controlled by the client however the producer has control over the schedule . a watch manufacturer approaches a web designer to design their company web page .hey in this example the watch manufacturer is the client and the web designer is the producer .the watch manufacturer has a clear scope which he wants to include in the company website .The watch manufacturer might have already spent a lot of money in designing a new product line post marketing survey and analytics .they might be on a tight budget and hence the producer has to adhere  hey to the scope and budget of the client . In this case the web designer might have other customers who have their priorities and deadline which are very stringent .if the web designer has the schedule under his control then he can ensure that within the desired budget off the watch manufacturer the website is designed which meats the scope of the watch manufacturer.

The idea is to give the best quality by having one of the triangle in control of the producer so that they can do justice to the project deliverable .

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Holy Trinity is also known as Project Management Triangle, Iron Triangle or Triple Constraint. It is an equilateral triangle with Cost, Time and Scope. It outlines the 3 major constraints that a project manager faces. It also dictate the scope of the product you deliver. Together, they outline a space in their center, which is project Quality. Out of all the 3 sides of the triangle in project -the client is allowed to control any two sides of the triangle, but the producer MUST be in control of the third, whichever that is. The amount of control you retain ultimately reflect in the quality of the project/outcome. 

The Cost, Time and Scope is interrelated.

Scenario #1
Client: Scope and Schedule
Producer: Budget

A demanding client isn't interested in slashing the scope of the project, nor are they interested in cherry picking items for prioritization, to get to market quickly. And they want it yesterday. This is the client that needs everything, and there is a hard deadline that just cannot be missed, no matter the cost. This is where the producer must stand firm on budget. If hitting a firm date is mission critical, and nothing can be left out of scope, then the only way this can be achieved is by allowing the producer the budget and resources they need to make this happen. It might mean additional contractors to be hired, putting in overtime, acceleration fees. The client won't be able to fault this logic, and must be open to the idea that things may cost more (variances), or the project might require re-estimation.

Scenario #2
Client: Schedule and Budget
Producer: Scope

The idea is to deliver on time and on budget. The funds are limited and for whatever reason, it's important to get to market quickly, perhaps for competitive advantage. In any situation where you have limited resources and also are limited in the timeframe that you have to work within, the only possible conclusion is that the producer needs to control the scope. There are only so many hours in a day, and if budget is also fixed, there is no chance of doing any additional overtime or hiring help. An open and frank discussion with the client about what is physically possible to achieve in the timeframe for the available budget. The client may insist that everything has to be done, but if they're not willing to pay extra or give you more time, then it's obvious that some requirements are going to have to give. 

Scenario #3
Client: Budget and Scope
Producer: Schedule

The client has a fixed budget, and they know exactly what they want - the requirements are set in stone. They probably also have an idea of when they would like the project to be completed, but unfortunately for them, that call lies with the producer. Of the three possible combinations, this one is the most unlikely. And nobody is saying that the budget doesn't matter - clearly you're never going to build a website for free simply because the client doesn't need it in any hurry. What it does mean is that while the client is set on holding you to your original quotation and they are not wanting to compromise on functionality or requirements, then they are going to need to work in with the producer and acknowledge that timeframes may need to shift here and there. Potentially another job has come in from sales, and it's super urgent. Think acceleration fees, or penalty clauses in the contract for missing delivery deadlines on milestones, etc. The production manager says the schedule has to shift, and the original client is being shunted down the priority queue. A little more time is needed here. It may not be a happy discussion, but at the end of the day, but by retaining at least one side of the triangle and you remain in control. A quality project is still ensured.

Scenario #4
Client: Scope, Schedule and Budget
Producer: None

If you find yourself in the situation where you are not in control of anything, project is not favorable. Don't hold on and fight your way through to the end. You'll end up stressed.

Where it all falls into a pit is when we have to let go of the triangle. Nobody is saying that we can't give the client everything they want, we just need to ensure we are still in control. Our best chance of delivering a quality project on time, on budget and in scope, is by ensuring that you get what you need from the triangle.


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Benchmark Six Sigma Expert View by Venugopal R

A Project Manager is often faced with the challenge of balancing a project amongst multiple constraints, the most popular ones being Scope, Timelines, Cost. Many a time, the competitiveness of a project depends upon one or more of these factors. One of the key responsibilities in Project Management is to coordinate with Project team and the connected stakeholders to successfully manage the variabilities of these elements and their interrelated effects.

The 3 elements of this ‘trinity’ are represented using a triangle as below:




While bidding for a project, the marketing team would want to commit these factors a positively as possible in order to win the project. Once the bid is won, the responsibility of delivering the project within the committed boundaries falls upon the project manager and his/her team.


Any compromise on one of the elements has a risk of adversely impacting the Quality of the product / service, unless it is appropriately balanced by the other elements.


When Timeline is critical


Consider a situation where you are an OE producer of taillamps for an automobile company. The company will have a deadline to launch a new car model for which the initial output of the product has to be made ready. In this case the timeline is very critical. The teams in Design and Production Engineering will have to come out with the product as per the expected design before the deadline. In case they face constraints in achieving the same, they would try to add more resources or resort to very costly production process, since the regular tools may not get ready within given time. This could increase the cost of the project. Another option that they would have is to compromise on the scope (for eg: avoid certain complexities in the design, limit the project only for fewer models, shorten the test cycle etc.). It may be noted that increasing resources will not reduce the timeline for all situations, and beyond a certain limit.

Agile methodology which is popular in software development projects, is one approach where the project scope and timelines are managed in collaboration with the client, by iterative development.


When Scope is Critical


Consider a project which is taken up as a safety related improvement for a product. The scope of the project has been clearly defined, design verified and agreed upon. The scope may include modifications to multiple components, completion of mandatory evaluations, delivering to various locations and so on. In such a situation there is no question of compromising the scope. If there is a challenge in adhering to the agreed scope, the project manager may see if the same can be achieved by additional costs or by availing more time. Additional costs might be needed for additional modifications of tooling, resources for performing reworks or additional testing. Extended time and the costs may sometimes be related to the same reasons, viz. time to perform the tool modifications, time to carry out additional tests etc.


Sometimes, it is possible to have a ‘Scope creep’ which means that the original scope, (or originally understood scope) could expand during the course of the project. This is more common for Service Industries, for instance IT Services, where certain services are outsourced or taken up with as a ‘partnership’, and not based on strict contractual agreements. Usually when such scope expansions occur based on mutual agreement with client, a timeline extension and / or price negotiation might be done. For certain services, penalties are charges for falling short of Quality requirements as per SLA. However, for planned scope expansions, grace period for relaxed Quality may also be sought from client.


When cost is critical


The cost budget for a project is determined based on initial information available. Invariably, the costs are dependent upon the price agreed / expected from customers. The fixing of cost might have been done based on certain assumptions. For example, an assumption that developing automation to take over 60% of the manual effort within a certain period of time, would have had a significant influence on the cost budgeting for a project. However, in reality, once the project progresses, we may realize that only 40% automation is possible within the given timelines, then the resource cost has to be increased for the additional manual effort. In this case, it may not be possible to adjust the other elements viz. Scope and timelines to overcome the cost constraint, especially on contractually agreed projects.


An example where the scope of the project might be altered due to unprecedented cost pressure could be in real estate. A builder may downsize the scope for a residential project by cutting down on discretionary common facilities. Similarly, if we consider airlines services as a project, cost pressures tend to alter the scope of certain ‘frills’ or make them available only on extra payment.


For all situations, it may not be practically possible to adjust the other two elements to accommodate the variation in one element.




In the context of the subject being discussed, we see that people sometimes confuse between the two terms “Scope” and “Quality”. It is important to understand the differences and also operate accordingly. While the project manager may work on balancing the three elements, viz. Time, Scope and Cost, great care has to be taken to ensure that the ‘Quality’ of a product or service is not adversely impacted. Even if a product / service is offered at a reduced scope, any deficiencies of the product / service within the agreed scope will amount to drop in Quality, which has to be monitored and kept in control.

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The Triple Constraint


The project management triangle is practiced by project managers to analyze or understand the challenges of implementing and completing a project. Every project, irrespective of its dimension, will have typical constraints. Although there are many such project limitations, these should not be barriers to triumphant project execution and effective decision-making. There are three main interdependent constraints for all projects; time, cost, and scope, also known as the Project Management Triangle, Iron Triangle, Project Triangle, and Holy Trinity.


Let's deep dive to understand each component of the project triangle and then face hurdles related to each.



The Three Constraints


1 - Time
A project's activities can either take a shorter or more protracted amount of time to complete. Completing tasks depends on several factors, such as the number of people working on the project, experience, skills, etc. Time is a crucial factor that is uncontrollable. On the contrary, failure to meet deadlines in a project can create adverse outcomes. Most often, organizations' main reason to fail in terms of time is a lack of resources.


2 - Cost
It is compelling for both the project manager and the organization to consider the cost when undertaking a project. Budgets will assure that project is developed or implemented below a substantial cost. Sometimes, project managers have to allocate supplementary resources to meet the deadlines with a penalty of other project costs.


3 - Scope
The scope looks at the result of the project undertaken. Which consists of a listing of deliverables, which require to be directed by the project team. A successful project manager will know to maintain both the project's scope and any change in scope that impacts time and cost.


Quality is not a component of the project management triangle, but it is the ultimate purpose of every delivery. Therefore, the project management triangle represents implies quality. Numerous project managers are under the perception that 'high quality comes with high cost, which, to some extent, is true. By using low-quality resources to accomplish the project, deadlines do not ensure the overall project's success. Like with the scope, the quality will also be an essential deliverable for the project.


During project initiation, project stakeholders define the project's high-level scope; for example, say a group of people is building a pulley to draw water from the river. In this scenario, the scope is to create a simple machine to pull water from the river that required a certain length of material, ropes, and spherical object from which the strings will pass. Based on the scope, stakeholders estimate the cost of material (including human resources) and time to build this machine. If all the resources work together in an ideal scenario, then the device can be completed at the scheduled time. However, imagine the river started flowing heavily or due to heat. The water level goes down, then the scope will immediately change, affecting the cost of resources as we need better equipment, and the scheduled time will increase.


Similarly, imagine a situation where the material to be used gets costlier due to a sudden demand crisis. The cost will impact, which will directly impact the schedule as procurement time will increase to bring the right material, and scope will also affect the core to get water for some purpose. Finally, imagine a situation where the schedule estimates were incorrect. Time will impact, which will affect the cost as we have to hold on to resources to make the device at the scheduled time. As similar to price, the purpose or scope will also impact specific objectives to be met.



Project management is quite often represented on a triangle. A successful project manager requires to balance the triple constraints so that the quality of the project or outcome is not compromised. There are many tools and techniques possible to face the challenges related to the three constraints. A good project manager will use the appropriate tools to execute the project successfully.


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Holy Trinity of Project Management

Basically, Holy trinity is a ratio of Time, Cost (budget) and Scope of project. In business literature it is called triple constrains. This ratio is important to deliver the successful project – “what is required, within the budget and on time”

Project manager can take a decision based on this ratio that project is viable as per customer requirement within the given condition or not.

As geometric representation of trinity if we change length of any one then it will impact at least one of other side of tringle



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