Most project managers are familiar with the Project Manager Triangle and they use it to plan the project in terms of Scope, Time, and Cost among other key determinants such as Quality, Resources, and Risks. Next, measures are put in place and then the project is managed with a key focus on achieving or not exceeding those measures. Hence, a project miss in terms of a schedule miss or budget miss is typically viewed as bad project management.
But is this the right way (or only way) to use the Project Management Triangle?
How about using it to discuss with sponsors their biases for the project? For example, is the product of the project time sensitive such as a time-to-market or first-to-market project? Or are there penalties incurred or business issues associated with being late or over budget? Or is it perhaps the case that the product of the project benefit is so enormous that the actual project budget and costs are insignificant in the broader scheme of things and should be viewed and managed accordingly.
In the spirit of sharing and learning, how do you use or how do you recommend using the Project Management Triangle? And in your organization, is the Project Management Triangle a helpful concept or is it used in a manner that actually fosters missed opportunities and poor management and delivery of the benefits of the product of the project? I hope we hear and learn from others..!
The project management triangle is simply a prediction in time - it is a baseline. The role of the project manager is to accurately report how reality diverges from predictions and recommend appropriate responses. These responses range from increasing budget and schedule to cancellation of the project. Expecting the project manager to be an oracle of the future is unfair; the project manager should provide his best projections and then report reality going forward. Saving Changes...
Hans, just read and liked your two part series on the Devil's Quadrant. Great points and advice. Also liked Wayne's point about providing best projections and reporting reality which is precisely the spirit and point of my post.
Many projects, not all of course, can have a tremendous, yet delicate, product of the project benefit. When tools and techniques like the Project Management Triangle are used incorrectly, there can be a resulting focus on the wrong data points. Hence, and to Wayne's excellent point, project manager projections do not include the right projections and supporting information and the reality of the project effort is compromised.
The example of a time-to-market project serves to illustrate this point where the desire to not exceed the project schedule/budget estimates trump the desire to achieve the earliest possible time-to-market and benefit realization for the product of the project. Put another way, is it worth it to miss a project budget by $100,000 to realize an immediate product of the project benefit of $10,000,000? And should project managers understand this dynamic in the context of managing a project and the use of the Project Management Triangle or is it better to not exceed that project budget and forgo the time-to-market opportunity altogether?
Naturally, these are sponsor calls not project manager calls, but does not the project manager (and PMO manager) need to know the reality of the project? As my good friend and mentor often tells me, this is the difference between twenty years of experience and one year of experience twenty times..! Saving Changes...
Thanks for the reply. Reading your reply I do feel you mix project management with business case management and you would like to use the triangle to manage the business case.
In my opinion the business case consists of two parts benefits and costs. The project costs are a part of the cost, in case a business change project runs in parallel. Often organisation separate the IT proejcts from the business change projects. So the costs are one thing and can be controlled by the project triangle or the devils quadrant whatever is most appropriate
Managing benefits and deciding to expedite the project, increasing the costs, to gain additional benefits is a decision by the business case owner. This is normally not the project manager since the benefits of the bc only kick in after the project is completed. In a lot of organisations the bc owner is the project sponsor/ executive, chairing the steerco, who delegates it to a change manager to ensure the benefits are realised.
Once the bc manager sees there are opportunities to increase the benefits he needs to sit with the pm to discuss the potential additional costs. If there is a positive cost benefit outcome a cr should be raised against the project which will than allow for a change in the project triangle, devils quadrant
Hans, you are exactly right. If the project manager and PMO manager behave as you advised (raise a CR to deliver the product of project in the most effective way related to the BC) there would be no problem; end of story. But when their focus is primarily, if not solely, on making the project schedule and budget, and they view that behavior as "good" project management, that is when problems can and often do arise.
Further problems are added when project managers and PMO managers do not bring to the table good business acumen and understanding of Time Management concepts such as the Time Value of Money, Money Value of Time, and Time Cycles such as Business Cycles, Economic Cycles, Technology Adoption Life Cycles, Product-to-Market Cycles, etc, of which none of these Time Management principles are addressed in the Time Management Knowledge Area of the PMBOK. One might ponder, how can project managers manage the time constraint if they (1) do not understand the business case context of the project and (2) do not understand time, and (3) do not have the business acumen and leadership skills to effectively engage.
So, getting back to the PM Triangle, do folks use it as a way to reveal stakeholder biases for the project? If yes, then fine.
Or do folks use the PMO triangle as a way to set measurements (time and cost) for the project that serve as the main, and sometimes only, indicators of whether the project was well or poorly managed? If yes to that, and to Mr. Langley's advice, we need a new and more contemporary PM triangle; one that has at its three points - technical project management, business acumen, and leadership.
But back to your point, you are spot on, this is a bit of mixing project management with business case management and they should run in parallel. Perhaps if we had a Business Case Triangle of some kind, folks would manage projects with a mindful eye on not just time and cost. Saving Changes...
Thanks we are aligned. The only difference is the way we would like to resolve it. After reading your reply I am more convinced it is a governance issue. But if a complete organisation or the steering committee is unaware you can ask yourself what are the criteria to start a project and is a business case considered at all.
Seems to be a great opportunity to train the organisation and the pm and establish a pmo to manage the cost and the benefits of the bc.