We always make assumptions and are bounded by constraints. These are an important part of our life whether we realize it or not. We always deal with them in our daily life.
For example, suppose you plan to go shopping at a big mall, which is far away from your home, and it will take one hour to reach there by car.
You made the assumption that you will leave your home around 6:00 PM and reach there by 7:00 PM. After that you can enjoy shopping.
This was your assumption. What about the constraints?
At first glance, you can think of two constraints. The first constraint is the amount of money to be spent on shopping. If you have $500 in your hand, you cannot spend more than this amount. This is your first constraint. The second constraint can be the mall’s closing time. If the mall closes at 10:30 PM, you cannot continue your shopping after this time. You have to wrap up everything before this time.
Likewise, projects also have assumptions and constraints. It is very necessary for you to understand them if you want to complete your project successfully. A successful project manager always keeps an eye on his project’s assumptions and constraints.
The assumptions and constraints can be identified and documented throughout the project’s life cycle. These parameters play an important role during the planning process. Your risk management plan is heavily dependent on assumptions. If you failed to properly analyze them, it may affect your project’s outcome.
The assumptions and constraints are an important aspect of your project. Although they are not managed like the requirements or risks, a proper documentation of them helps protect you from many troubles.
You can find your project’s assumptions and constraints in the project scope statement.
Okay, let’s discuss them one by one.
An assumption is a belief of what you assume to be true in the future. You make assumptions based on your knowledge, experience or the information available on hand. These are anticipated events or circumstances that are expected to happen during your project’s life cycle.
Assumptions are supposed to be true, but do not necessarily end up being true. Sometimes it may turn out to be false, which can affect your project significantly. They add risks to the project because they may or may not be true.
Suppose in our shopping example, you assumed that it would take one hour for you to reach the destination. What will happen if due to traffic, you don’t reach the mall on time?
Your assumption is false and your plan for shopping is endangered.
This can also happen to your project. For example, you have made the assumption that some particular equipment will be made available to you whenever you need it. However, when the time comes, the equipment is not available.
Now you are in a difficult situation.
Assumptions play an important role in developing the risk management plan. Therefore, as a project manager you must collect as many as assumptions you can. It will assist you in developing a sound risk management plan.
The following are a few examples of assumptions:
- You will get all resources required by you.
- During the rainy season, cheap labor will be available.
- All important stakeholders will come to the next meeting.
Constraints are limitations imposed on the project, such as the limitation of cost, schedule, or resources, and you have to work within the boundaries restricted by these constraints. All projects have constraints, which are defined at the beginning of the project.
The PMBOK Guide recognizes six project constraints: scope, quality, schedule, budget, resource and risk. Out of these six, scope, schedule, and budget are collectively known as the triple constraints.
A constraint can be of two types:
- Business Constraints
- Technical Constraints
Business constraints depend on the state of your organization; for example, time, budget, resource, etc.
Technical constraints limit your design choice. For example, let’s say you’re constructing a pipeline, and according to the design your pipeline should be able to withstand a certain amount of pressure. This pressure limit is your technical constraint.
So now you know that every project has constraints; therefore, you must identify all your project constraints (such as any milestone, scope, budget, schedule, availability of resources, etc.), and develop your plan accordingly.
Constraints are outside of your control. They are imposed upon you by your client, organization, or by any government regulations.
There is an interesting fact about the constraints: If the constraints become false or are no longer valid, it is more likely that your project will benefit from it.
The following are a few examples of constraints:
- You must complete 25% of the work within the first 30 days.
- You have to work with the given resources.
- You will be given only two site engineers.
So you can see how important the assumptions and constraints are for your project. An assumption is anything that you think to be true but there is no guarantee, and a constraint is a limitation on you and your project. Assumptions and constraints can be anything; they might be related to human resources, budget, time or any kind of functionally.
Assumptions need to be analyzed and constraints need to be identified.
As a project manager you must analyze how assumptions and constraints affect your project and what will happen if any assumption fails or any constraint gets resolved or turns out to be false. If you handle your project constraints and assumptions appropriately, it will help you deliver your project on time while meeting stakeholders’ expectations.
Here is where this blog post ends, and I hope that you now have a better understanding about assumptions and constraints. If you have something to share, do so through the comments section, and I will be happy to respond your comments.
This is an important topic from a PMP certification exam point of view. You may see a question on this topic on your test.