Anyone that has worked on a project had to deal with certain constraints when it came to execution. Some were pulled back by the project cost or overwhelmed with additional scope, but the complaint we hear the most is that there was a lack of time. So how can you deal with the time constraints effectively? Find out below!
According to the project management theory, there are 3 constraints of project management that can affect the outcome of your efforts – Time, Cost, and Scope.
The Time constraint talks about how to manage a project in a way that it meets the set deadlines and allocates all the resources effectively.
The Cost constraint refers to handling the project to stay within a given budget. This includes not only the materials but labor, vendors, and all other costs of a project.
The Scope constraint is all about the goals and deliverables of the project. It defines priorities and the most important parts of the project, specifying what has to be done.
All three project constraints can make or break the project. Thus, keeping to them and making sure you do not forget about any is crucial. By not monitoring the time constraint, you will get behind schedule and will have to fight in trying to come back the rest of the project. By not monitoring the cost, you run the risk of losing the profit or in extreme cases – even running into bankruptcy. And by not managing scope you can easily lose your way and start focusing on things that are not actually important.
While traditionally constraints in project management have been viewed as the three mentioned above, recently there have been some suggestions to expand this definition. Some modern project management literature is now quoting these six as the main constraints of a project – Time, Cost, Scope, Quality, Risk, and Resources. The six constraints can be paired due to their direct dependency on each other. For example, the time constraint is dependent on resource constraint. Availability of resources in a well-planned project is a direct solution for time constraints, and extension of deadlines allows to complete a project with fewer resources. Similarly, extending the scope of a project increases the number of risks to complete it, where reducing the scope can be the solution to minimize risks.
In this article, we will get deeper into the management of time constraint, since it is ever more relevant in the new era of remote work.
In its essence time is a limited resource and in a project setting this could not be any more true. The time constraint limits a project in two ways – deadlines and resources. First, a project has a set timeline and a date when it has to be completed. You will rarely encounter a project that can last indefinitely and thus you have to keep to a certain schedule. Secondly, each project has a certain amount of people and those people have a limited amount of available work hours. Once again, the project is constrained to this amount and has to be completed within it.
While cost and scope constraints can be adjusted a little more easily, moving the deadline or finding more people to work on your project can be challenging. This is why keeping to the time constraint plays such a big role in each project’s success.
To make sure you do not run off track, here are 8 tips for managing the time constraint successfully.
The work on managing the project constraints starts before the actual project begins. The project manager and the client or management board or shareholders have to set the project scope, cost, and timeline. It is important to take this step seriously and evaluate all factors before signing off on any numbers as this will greatly affect your capability to manage the time constraint once the project begins. So take your time and make sure to come up with a project deadline that can be achieved with the resources you have and for the scope that is expected.
Once the project begins, take some time to create a Timeline for what has to be done. Specify your project stages and estimate a deadline for each of them thus creating a view similar to a Gantt chart. By doing this, you will be able to see all the major parts of the project and when they have to be executed to meet the overall deadline. No matter which project management technique you are using, this will be a great reference point as the project gets going.
Creating a project timeline will be easier if this is not your first time working on a similar project. However, it is always a good idea to consult with your team and get their input on how long each phase will take. Also, consider planning for an earlier deadline, giving yourself some space for mistakes or unforeseen issues.
One more important thing to do at the beginning of your project is to check the availability of your resources. Ask your team members how much time they can spend on your project. This will help you in managing the workload and assigning time sensitive tasks once the project gets going.
Using a Workload view can be of great help as you are able to see the availability of all your team members and ensure no one is overworked.
Once you have the overall timeline set and know the availability of your team, consider estimating how much time each of the tasks is going to take. By doing this, you will be able to see if each phase of the project can be completed in the given time. It will also help you better understand how much work each of your team members has.
This way, you will have even more control on how the project time is spent and will proactively manage the time constraint.
Once the work begins, ask your team to track the time they spend on tasks. This is not to monitor their work, but rather to see if your team can keep to the set schedule and rework plans when needed.
By seeing what time constraints were estimated for each task and how much actual time the team is taking to complete them, you can spot issues early on and replan the rest of the project in a way that you can still meet your schedule constraints. If, on the other hand, the tasks are being completed ahead of time, you can execute the project faster and consider adding additional features.
By tracking time spent on tasks, you can take even more control of the time constraint. It will allow you to analyze all of the tracked data and better estimate what can be expected of the team in the future.
A Timesheet report will show you the difference between each task’s estimation and actual tracked time. You can group tasks by projects, tags, teams, and other criteria and then review the overall result for that group as well. Thus, allowing you to better understand how each team performs and know what you can expect from them in the coming projects.
It is important to monitor your time constraints, but you should also think about staying flexible in your process. Implementing short Agile iterations for planning and execution of tasks will allow you and your team to shorten the reaction time and regroup faster.
For example, if you see certain tasks are exceeding the time constraints, you will want to replan the rest of that phase or project to make sure it is still done on time. By working in short iterations, you will be able to take action almost immediately and regroup by focusing on the most important tasks for the moment. However, if you planed the whole project in advance, this review may take a lot longer.
Lastly, no matter how well you know your team, the project, and the risks, when we talk about time constraints you have to be prepared to change your plans at any moment.
Only this way you can ensure that if and when changes happen you do not panic and freeze, but find a way to solve the issues and move forward in the best possible way.
The success of most projects is dependant on the project constraints. While all three (or six) of them are of great importance, the time is usually the one that causes most issues.
Not following time constraints can mean you are doomed from the very beginning of your projects and do not even have a fighting chance. While carefully monitoring and understanding the time constraint will help you reach the finish line victorious. So make sure you respect the project timeline and always stay mindful of resource availability to execute your projects on time.
Try out Teamhood for planning, visualizing and effectively tracking your projects. The portfolio view will let you set up the project stages, Kanban boards will let you visualize and track progress and task estimations and due dates will allow for easier understanding of the progress.