Project Management Triangle – Definition, Basic Concepts, and Applications with Templates,

Project management is a complex field. A manager has to oversee everything — from employees working on a project to the limited resources to the possibility of risks that might crop up at any time. To ensure the project is delivered as required, project managers follow several approaches.

One popular concept that has recently gained immense popularity is the project management triangle. As the name suggests, it covers the three core concepts—time, cost, and scope. Keep reading to get a closer look at the project management triangle, its uses, and how it can help managers deliver projects successfully.

What is Project Management Triangle?

The project management triangle consists of the three main elements of any project, namely time, budget, and scope. This triangle aims to establish a relationship between these elements, helping the manager to balance the triangle.

If there’s a change in one of the elements in this triangle, the manager has to adjust the other two elements to maintain the balance. If these variables aren’t adjusted, the triangle might break, ruining the quality of the project. Simply put, a project management triangle must be balanced to maintain quality while adhering to the deadline and the project’s specifications.

For example, if the project’s scope increases, the manager has to increase the deadline and cost to ensure all resources are available and there’s adequate time to complete the project successfully.

The Triple Constraints

The project triangle consists of three constraints. Let’s understand each in detail.

1. Scope

The scope of the project refers to its size. It specifies the goals of the project, based on which the manager can estimate the total cost of the project, the labor required to finish it, and by what time they can deliver it to the client without affecting the quality.

The scope is the most crucial component of any project, which is why it’s discussed at an early stage (before commencing a project). It’s obvious that any change in the scope of the project will affect the whole triangle. As mentioned above in the example, increasing the scope will result in more time and cost to complete it. As a result, the manager might have to add more cost, extend the delivery date, or do both to keep the triangle intact.

2. Cost

The cost constraint covers the expenses you will incur in completing the project. This may cover the cost of labor, machinery, raw materials, and all resources required to achieve the scope. Most clients are cost-sensitive. That’s the first thing they want to know before finalizing the project. A project manager must be able to give a proper estimate of the cost. If there’s any change in the scope or timeline, the cost must be adjusted accordingly.

The cost in the project management triangle isn’t just the dollar amount, but it covers your labor and all the resources you have invested in completing the project. This might include your team members, equipment, and facilities. It’s important to factor in everything that has a financial value when estimating cost. For instance, in a project that requires more employees than your in-house team, you need to add their salaries to the cost. Or, if your project requires keeping your workplace open for longer than normal duration, you have to estimate the electricity usage for extra hours.

3. Time

Time constraint refers to the expected delivery date. Your client will assign you a project with a deadline. This is one of the most crucial yet complicated variables of the project management triangle. Managing deadlines while keeping the cost and scope of the project aligned can get tricky. A sick employee, an unmanaged workforce, not getting the required resources on time, and a delay in getting materials can result in time constraints that may eventually make it difficult for you to finish a project within your desired timeframe.

Since it’s a vital part of a project management triangle, any problem with the time can increase the cost, as you might need more labor for a simple task, or it might affect the project scope. Besides, clients are often strict about deadlines. The inability to finish the project within the deadline, irrespective of the reason, can affect your relationship with the client. They might terminate the contract with you.

How to Manage the Three Constraints?

Each variable of the project management triangle must work together to ensure your project is completed successfully. Here are a few strategies for managing the three constraints well.

Set Your Priorities

The main purpose of the project management triangle is to balance the three variables, without which it’s impossible to complete the project. When developing a project triangle, you must decide which variable is flexible enough to be adjusted. For instance, if staying within the budget is your main priority, you can extend the deadline instead of hiring more labor. If your client has a strict deadline, it’s wiser to ask them to increase the budget so that you can employ more labor to finish everything within the assigned timeframe.

Update Frequently

Any change to the project triangle must be reported to the stakeholders immediately. Even if you are just pushing back the deadline for 1-2 days, you must inform the stakeholders. Likewise, your business associates, investors, and all parties involved in the project must stay up-to-date with your progress. Inform your project team of any delay, requirement for an additional budget, and other challenges. Keeping everyone informed about the project’s status and the triangle ensures that your goals are met, and the project is completed on time and within budget.


Before starting a project, the manager must make a project triangle that describes each constraint. You must involve stakeholders, clients, and other parties involved in the project to discuss these constraints and decide which one must be adjusted to what extent if the need arises. This will give you a better idea of where you can accommodate changes and which areas of the triangle are flexible enough to be adjusted.