Scope, Cost, & Time: The Iron Triangle Of Project Performance
June 15, 2023
In this article, I want to discuss the canonical Iron Triangle of physical scope, cost, and time.
Of course, we could add additional dimensions such as safety, quality, or the environment. But what we’ve learned with our customers is that companies are obsessed with cost, but they waste all of their time — and this is a big mistake.
Focus on Time, Save on Cost
With cost, there’s a huge amount of fiduciary control. In accounting, we have a sound system of checks and balances that is designed to reduce errors and improve outcomes. This includes an internal audit with several people handling every invoice and an external audit.
But with regard to time, there’s neither that level of vigilance nor collaboration. Teams simply do not place enough focus on the time aspect of project management, instead opting to focus on measuring cost. This is a mistake.
Time is the best proxy for value. Time is money. Time overruns become cost overruns due to standing army costs and creeping inflation. Money loves speed. Projects that don’t open on time also don’t earn their revenue on time.
Time is also a scope. The nouns of whatever you’re trying to build, if it was well-specified will become verbs in your program. So by focusing on time, you get two-in-one value: you get a better focus on what you are actually trying to build and get it done on time.
Shift Your Focus
If you treat this iron triangle as a mind map of executive attention, you can now shift your focus on the revenue or benefits, or capability that you’re trying to build, thereby providing a more accurate overall view of your projects. All the elements of the Benefit-to-Cost Ratio are now represented in the Iron Triangle.
That’s our mission: to help our customers increase their focus on time. This is not to say that they should dilute their focus on the cost or safety, but that time is an overlooked dimension where increased vigilance and increased collaboration would yield immediate dividends for a very small investment.
Better Control Time With AI-based Narratives
So how do we help our customers increase their focus on time? From an AI perspective, time data comes in a neat machine-readable package of a Primavera P6 or MS-Project file.
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, Foresight analyses project data from Primavera P6 and MS-Project. It draws on proprietary industry data as well as teams’ past project files to predict future outcomes. Users can see their entire portfolio on one screen — risks and bottlenecks included.