A Triangulated Marriage: Project Scope, Schedule, and Budget

  In project management there is an interdependent relationship between project scope, schedule and budget.  This relationship is best demonstrated as a triad (below).  A quick look at each of these areas will easily show their interdependence on one another in relation to project management.

    Projects often emerge in an organization to close the gap between the current situation and some unachieved organizational goal.  The goal could be a specific product, service, or internal improvement.  A project’s scope is the concise statement of the effort to achieve that goal.  It articulates the work that needs to be done.  Some examples include, construct a building, install new servers, implement new customer service program, and improve human resource management system.  Marchewka correctly adds that the scope should also include “what will not be part of the project’s scope” (Marchewka, 2015).  In order for the triad model to work there must be clearly defined boundaries.  So too with the project.  In order for the project to take shape it must have a clearly defined boundary between what it is and what it isn’t.

    The budget on any particular project is the apportioning of resources aligned to accomplish the stated project scope.  These resources include finances, available equipment, available manpower, and time.  As the scope increases the budget also necessarily needs to increase.  While this brief increasing example is based upon the scope the scope could also be based upon the availability of resources identified in the budget.  Projects have been and continue to be scaled back based upon budget limitations.

    It has long been understood that time is money.  Mathematically speaking money would also be equated with time (if Time=Money then Money=Time).  Scheduling in project management involves calculating the project’s required efforts with regards to time and overlaying those efforts on a common calendar in an efficient sequence.  An increase of project scope will result in an increase in the length of the project’s schedule.  An increase of the project’s budget can facilitate an increase in the project’s schedule.  An inefficient schedule will lengthen the time required to complete the assignment, cost more money, and increase the project’s scope by forcing the project to incorporate the inefficiencies as part of its efforts.  Down-time would have to be listed as one of the tasks performed during the project.

    IT projects are no exception to the interdependence of this triad.  Cyber has become a buzzword in recent years in part due to the massive breaches at Sony (Schneier, 2014) and Target.  Autopsies of these breaches provide a wealth of circumstantial evidence that both companies were constrained in their solutions by the available budget, scope, and schedule given to accomplish their tasks (Radichel, 2014).  It appears that full information security measures that would have protected the companies from their breaches were not a part of the project scope due to budgeting or scheduling constraints.  It is the responsibility of a project manager to leverage their experience to employ the proper balance of these three areas to move their company towards its unachieved organizational goal.

    In conclusion.  The triad relationship between scope, budget, and scheduling affects all projects and especially those in the IT field.  A decrease or increase in one area will necessitate a respective decrease or increase in the other areas.  A project manager’s role is to find and communicate the right balance between these areas to move the organization towards its unachieved goal.  Failure to employ the right balance in the IT field can lead to major issues as illustrated by Target’s 2013 breach and Sony’s breaches.

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