10 Project Constraints That Endanger Your Project’s Success


Fast, cheap or good — choose two. Are you tired of hearing that? One of the biggest challenges of every project manager is project constraints. They limit a project, and they can quickly endanger your project’s success. Hence, it’s important to know all possible constraints, their influences on each other and the project management tools that address those constraints.

Classic Project Management Constraints

Every project manager knows (and often fears) the classic project constraints in project management:

Time: What’s the deadline for delivering the output?
Scope: What exactly is the expected outcome?
Cost: How much money is available to achieve this outcome?

It’s called the triple constraint for a reason. If you’re pulling one constraint lever, it will directly affect the other two constraints. For example, if you decide to extend the scope and build 20 webpages instead of 10, you’ll need more time and money to achieve that adjusted goal.

The triple constraint is well-known, so it’s already been discussed a lot. But even if this type of constraint is balanced, issues can occur. So I started wondering why.

Most project management books will tell you this: If you make sure that the triple constraint is covered, you won’t have any problems. But you actually need to optimize further constraints as well.

Project Management Constraints Graphic

An Extended Approach to Constraints in Project Management

A project is often defined as successful if the project’s objectives are achieved by the deadline and stay within the budget. But apart from time, scope, and cost, there are six additional constraints that limit the process of properly accomplishing the project’s goals.


While this constraint is quite similar to scope, it’s slightly different. Scope defines the exact desired outcome. For example, your project’s scope may involve creating 10 webpages. Quality concentrates on the attributes of each of these webpages. It can be defined by answering this question: “How closely does the outcome match the expectations?”

In our example, the quality doesn’t define the number of webpages, but there could be a quality tolerance regarding the number of words. Perhaps you’ve requested 1,000 words, and you have a quality tolerance of +/- 100 words. So if a webpage contains 900 words, you’d approve it. And if another webpage only contains 850 words, you’d reject it.

Quality interrelates with the other constraints. Let’s assume you’re running out of time and need to meet a certain due date. You could possibly meet the deadline by enlarging the quality tolerance and decreasing the number of words to 800.

Tool for Handling Quality

You probably know about the seven basic tools of quality. One of these tools is a Cause and Effect Analysis (also called a Fishbone Diagram), which allows you to quickly identify the roots of quality problems. That way, you can ensure that you’re always keeping quality high (or that you at least know how to put quality back on track).

Fishbone Diagram Project Management


Managing risks is an important task for project managers. But what does this term actually mean? When you estimate probability, a risk will have a certain impact on your project. Perhaps you’re creating a wireframe for your website, and you decide to skip the client-review step because you’re running late. If so, there’s a risk that the client will reject your final webpages.

Of course, you can control risk to a certain extent. For instance, you could decide to avoid the risk and insist on the review step. But this decision would affect your timeline and your related costs, since the client would review each of your designs, and a project manager needs to oversee this process.

Tool for Handling Risk

Use the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) approach to mitigate both identified and unidentified risks. Applying FMEA will help you prioritize and control risks while involving your team in the process.


Resources are strongly connected to the project cost. The amount of money that’s available for achieving the desired outcome will restrict the use and acquisition of resources, which creates a separate constraint.

Sometimes, even an infinite amount of money couldn’t allow you to acquire the specific resources you need. For example, it’s going to take longer than you expected to receive a physical resource in the project (such as a chip), which will cause you to miss the deadline. If this resource is essential to the project, you’ll have to sacrifice making the deadline, because no reasonable amount of money could reduce the delivery time.

Tool for Handling Resources

You can use software such as ProjectManager.com to optimally manage your resources. This kind of tool will help you properly identify and allocate your existing resources.

Workload Management For Managing Constraints


The sustainability of a project can play a major role in the long-term strategy of a company, and can often affect a project’s success. There are three parts of sustainability: social, environmental, and economic. Even if the first two ones don’t apply to your project, the economic component shouldn’t be neglected by project managers.

Basically, managing a project’s economic sustainability refers to the way you handle its possible impact on the future of the the organization behind it. For example, if you’re managing an automotive production line, you could use cheap resources to build some parts of the cars, in order to save costs. But you’ll also be sacrificing sustainability, since cheaper parts tend to bite the dust more frequently than high-quality pieces.

Tool for Handling Sustainability

Apply the P5™ standard for sustainability to your projects. The P5 standard explains the important metrics, and offers instructions about how to integrate P5 with the existing processes of your project.

P5 Table for Project Management

Organizational Processes & Structures

The organizational structure of a company can greatly impact the project’s success, since it’s defining the project’s environment. Stakeholders could have a significant influence on decisions that need to be taken. Or the slow communication flow between executives and project managers could result in unpredictable project decelerations.

Coping with organizational structure and limitations can be difficult. You’re often not able to break through the organization’s existing patterns, make the deadline, and stay within the budget.

Tool for Handling Organizational Processes & Structures

Make sure that you know ways to properly cope with existing organizational processes and structures. Start depicting your workflows by using a tool like Process Street. That way, you can more accurately foresee any processing issues that might appear in the future.


Obviously, you’ve heard about Scrum, Agile, and Kanban. Different project management methodologies can be used to approach a project.

Each of these methodologies manifest various limitations. If you use Scrum, you’ll need to organize daily meetings and get plenty of reviews, so you’ll have to acquire decent resources to cover these efforts. But if you use Agile, you’ll be more likely to deliver excellent quality.

However, with Agile, it’s harder to estimate the needed time upfront, which will increase the risk of missing your deadline. Hence, to choose the right methodology, it’s important to assess the project’s situation.

Tool for Handling Methodology

If you have a lot of options, it can be difficult to choose the most suitable methodology for a project. So step back and assess your project’s situation. Use the NTCP framework to:

  • Analyze the different dimensions of the project (novelty, technology, complexity, and pace).
  • Select a suitable methodology for project management.

Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction measures how much you’re meeting the customer’s expectations. If your team handed over excellent deliverables on time and within the budget, your client will probably be happy.

But, if your cost turned out to be higher than expected, it would force you to make a tradeoff. Perhaps you’re sacrificing customer satisfaction, since the product isn’t meeting your client’s expectations anymore. In the end, customer satisfaction will highly affect the project’s success.

Tool To Handle Customer Satisfaction

There’s no real tool for making sure that your customers are satisfied. So start by talking to them and getting their feedback! You should regularly discuss the progress of your project with them.

Ask questions such as:

  • Are you satisfied with the progress of the project?
  • Are we moving forward as you expected?
  • Does anything need to be changed?
  • Do you need more transparency and information?
  • Do you expect any bottlenecking that we haven’t talked about?


It’s crucial to know the different constraints of a project. The only way to control them is to understand them. So when making important decisions, don’t just consider time, scope, and budget, but also factor in quality, risk, resources, sustainability, organization, methodology and customer satisfaction.

Balancing all the constraints within project management requires robust tools for tracking and reporting. ProjectManager.com is an online project management software with real-time dashboards and reporting tools to monitor project progress, budgets and more to ensure that your projects reach successful conclusions. See for yourself and take a 30-day free trial.

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