The Iron Triangle of Project Management to Succeed in 2020

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The Iron Triangle of Project Management to Succeed in 2020

The Iron Triangle of Project Management basically consists of three factors. Scoping, Scheduling, and Costing. These Factors will result in Good Quality of products or services.

What’s Inside?

Introduction: The Iron Triangle Of Project Management

First, there are few other names of The Iron Triangle of Project Management like

  • The Project Management Triangle
  • The Project Triangle
  • The Triple Constraint

So let’s Look into the Iron Triangle.

The Iron Triangle Represents Scope, Schedule, Cost, and Quality. 

So each line in the triangle represents something. This line, which is red, represents the scope. The entire line represents the scope of the project.

Another blue line represents the schedule of the project. Thus like that, the cost is also represented by a line that is in green color.

So these three lines are interconnected to form a triangle.

Between the Scope, Schedule, and Cost, the area covered is the quality of the project. So the entire area is the quality of the project. 

To have a good quality project, you need this area to be large enough. That is why the whole triangle is shaped so that the scope, schedule, cost and are given significant importance because they are the three constraints of the project and the most imp parts of the project.

The triangle emphasizes how scope, schedule, and cost are necessary and how quality is also essential and results from where these three falls.


project management

Now let’s say you want to keep the cost projects as it is and wants to increase the scope of the project. What would that project look like?

The project will look ugly, doesn’t it because its cost is as it is. We have significantly increased the scope of the project here. 

We have a lot of requirements like the scope of the project is increased that automatically increases the schedule of the project if you would have noticed.

So if you want to maintain the quality or if you want to maintain a high standard of quality. 

The increasing scope here means that the schedule will also increase so you keep your cost as the base or keep your cost unmoved or you don’t change your cost.

If the cost is static and the scope of the project is to increase, then the schedule will also increase.

project management

But the right way of doing this is by increasing the cost as well. If you increase the cost, the scope can be increased, the schedule can be increased, but it won’t be a dramatic increase in the schedule.

If you increase your base cost of the project, then schedule can also come down a bit, and you will be able to deliver a lot of scope with the quality that you desire in the timeframe or in the schedule which is not significantly large, so that is why these are the competing constraints.

These are triple constraints. If you increase the scope, make sure you increase the cost, and the schedule doesn’t go out of the boundary.

3 Points To Keep In Mind

1. The quality of the work is constrained by the project’s budget, deadlines, and scope.

Above we have seen that the quality was stuck in the between where the quality is the entire area of the triangle. Now the quality of work is constrained by the project budget deadlines in scope.

So, If you increase the budget and do not increase deadlines and scope appropriately, quality is going to worsen budget; what do we mean by budget here as.

The budget means the cost available for the project.

The deadline is the time which is available to complete the project.

Scope ( features) is what must be accomplished or done to produce the projects’ results. To complete the project or what all the project team does.

Quality of your project work will be constrained by these three competing constraints, which is again the other word for all these three constraints, i.e., competing constraints.

2. The project manager has the authority to trade between the project constraints.

So it is a project manager who has authority who will decide on which project constraints he should trade against the other project constraints.

If the project scope increases and the schedule does not increase as per project manager authority as per business requirement.

If you deliver a project within a specific time frame, but its scope is increased, what you trade with is you trade the scope with the cost you have to increase the cost of the project. The project manager has the authority to make this trade.

3. A change in one project constraint will be going to lead change in others to compensate.

If you increase the scope, you have to increase the cost or increase the schedule the deadline of the project or make an appropriate increase in both cost and schedule to compensate for the change in scope. But if you don’t do that, then the quality of your project is going to suffer.

Project Management Triangle Example

By increasing the budget or cutting scope a project can be completed faster. If you want to have a project of a 10-month, which you need to be delivered in 8 months, you need to either increase the budget or cut the scope.

Increasing the scope requires equivalent budget and schedule.

Cutting the budget without adjusting the schedule will result in quality down..

If you increase or decrease just one part of the triangle one constraint, if you just cut the budget, then your schedule and scope, if you don’t change it or don’t adjust it, keep the schedule and scope the same. You just cut the budget, and then the quality is going to decrease.

How does the Iron Triangle look for a Waterfall Project?

project management

Let’s see if you can figure it out. We’re going to build a bridge. The bridge will take one year to build and cost one million dollars.

Cost: $1m

Time: 1-year

Scope: 1 bridge

What if it goes over budget? Not ideal.

What if it comes in under budget? You’d be okay with that.

What if it overruns? Not great.

What if it takes just nine months. I’m 100% sure that you will love it.

What if only 3/4th of a bridge is completed??


What about the 1.5th of the bridge is done?

Yes, you are right; both are silly. We need precisely one complete bridge. So for a Waterfall project, the scope is fixed. And cost and time are variable. Most project managers will choose to fix the second parameter.


For completing an Awesome project, there is a big role of project managers. As they need to manage the constraints of the project carefully and effectively. Because the change in only one will influence others as well as it will affect the quality of the project.

Everyone will choose different approaches for different projects. A Responsible Project Manager will make a complete plan by his/her understanding to get the best quality of the project.


The Iron Triangle of Project Management is typically concerned with which three factors?

The Iron Triangle of Project Management is concerned with three factors which are Scope, Schedule, and Cost 

Who Invented The Iron Triangle of Project Management?

Dr. Martin Barnes introduced the Iron Triangle of Project Management model in 1969.

How to estimate the project cost?

We can estimate the project cost by following ways like
Previous or Historic Data, Costs of Resources, Average Bids on Project, By Quality analysis.

What Strategy to follow when there is Fixed Scope, Cost and Schedule?

If the client doesn’t provide any flexibility in the project then you should simply Cancel the Project.

The Iron Triangle of Project Management to Succeed in 2020
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