One of the many things that make marketing such an interesting career choice is the fact that it touches on a wide variety of areas within a business. The marketer’s role can encompass product development, sales, customer service, technology and even HR.
As such, many marketers will find themselves in the course of their careers in the midst of a project involving other departments and people outside their own organisation. Often these will be marketing driven projects such as a website redesign or a product launch.
Some of these projects might have project managers – people who formally push the project forward from planning right through to completion. Others, either because they are too small to warrant it or because of a lack of human resources, will not.
In these cases as a marketer who has a stake in the successful completion of the project, you might find yourself fulfilling the role of Project Manager. When this happens you will need to know the one project management principle that every marketer should know.
The Triple Constraint
Often called the ‘Project Management Triangle’, ‘Project Triangle’ or even the ‘Iron Triangle’, the triple constraint is a core principle of project management. It describes the three interdependent elements that affect every project – time, cost and scope.
Having an awareness of the triple constraint can help you avoid, identify and effectively manage issues as they occur in any given project. Keep reading to find out more about these three constraining factors and how they can affect the quality of your project.
Every project, or even task, has a time constraint whether it’s formalised or assumed.
Most people realise that it’s important before starting any project or task to first establish the deadline for completion. However a secondary often overlooked but equally important step is to also establish why this deadline was chosen.
Is it an arbitrary deadline that has been set to ensure that the project is completed in a time-efficient manner allowing those involved to move on to other priorities? Are there other projects or pieces of work that are dependant on this project’s completion? Are there external factors fixing the deadline to a hard date such as Black Friday etc.?
Finally, is this the absolute deadline or has a buffer been put in place to allow for delays?
By understanding the reasons for a deadline before a project starts you can evaluate whether time can be sacrificed when the project comes under pressure or whether you will instead need to adjust the cost or scope of the Iron Triangle.
Many large projects have a budget but others, especially those handled entirely by internal staff, do not. This doesn’t mean that cost is not a consideration for all projects.
If a project is being managed internally with no set budget it is still important to know whether a budget could be made available if the project were to come under pressure.
For example, with a content project in order to deliver on the time and scope could a discretionary budget be made available to spend of freelance writers? Or in the case of a delayed web project could you outsource some of the development or design work?
When there is a budget associated with a project in order to maintain the scope or time constraints you can usually increase the external vendor or agency costs.
Despite the best of intentions, the extent of a project’s work is often underestimated.
When this happens you can, as mentioned above, extend the timeline or throw money at the problem. Understandably, neither of these options tend to be particularly popular.
An often overlooked alternative is to adjust the scope of a project. For example, with a web design project which is experiencing time pressure, you could reduce the scope to only include core site sections. With a marketing campaign which is coming under cost pressures, you could reduce the scope to target a smaller geographical region.
Adjusting scope is a more complicated solution as it requires an in-depth understanding of the project. However, it can also lead to more long-term rewards for a variety of reasons.
- Adjusting scope requires critical assessment which can identify future problems
- Adjusting scope streamlines a project which cuts out unnecessary elements
- Adjusting scope can lead to an increase in the quality of items delivered
Finally, it’s important to note that adjusting the scope does not necessarily mean permanently giving up on a project’s vision. It can often be possible to schedule a future or phase II project to deliver the elements which were sacrificed by a reduced scope.
As mentioned above when one element of a project comes under pressure another has to give. So, for example, if the deadline is under pressure increasing cost allows a project to deliver. If the scope comes under pressure then you can increase the timeline etc.
If you don’t adjust Time, Cost or Scope when necessary then you are sacrificing Quality.
Those who ignore, or are unwilling to bend to the restraints of the Iron Triangle will eventually see the quality of their output suffer. Quality is often unwittingly sacrificed.
You may get lucky. You might go through your entire career never encountering a project under pressure, but chances are that eventually, your luck will run out.
The Project Management Triangle can be applied from the largest scale projects to the smallest of tasks. In fact, you are probably already using it without realising it. So, from today start making those sacrifices consciously and do what you do deliberately.