Benefits of the Three Sides of Project Trade Off Triangle

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Benefits of the Three Sides of Project Trade Off Triangle

Project management is a practice that has been around for hundreds of years, and while methods and styles have evolved over time, the core elements remain the same: quality, scope and time. This trio of forces drives and determines the success or failure of any project, regardless of experience or industry and come together to form what is known as a tradeoff triangle; read on to find out more and why this principal is being taught in organizational leadership degree programs.


Distinguishing a project from day to day business practices is simple – a project has a specific objective, with a budget and timeline. While the complexity of the project may vary, the goal is the same; to gain control over the following variables:

  • Cost
  • People
  • Quality
  • Risk
  • Scope
  • Time

Control and results are achieved through the use of the tradeoff triangle consisting of three sides indicative of the three primary factors of project:

  • Cost – the budget and resources allocated to the project.
  • Scope – the specifics or features of the project.
  • Time – start and completion dates, including project makers or milestones as defined by the project timeline.


At the heart of every project trade off triangle is quality, and as changes occur on any of its three sides, quality may be affected as a result. Successful project management requires a watchful eye on all aspects of the triangle, to ensure balance and harmony. The benefit of the three sides of this triangle is a type of synergy and heightened awareness of each component as the project moves forward and is ultimately resolved, allowing the project manager to make informed choices as inevitable trade-offs occur.


Once the parameters of the project triangle are established, changes made to any of its sides will require an adjustment on the others in order to maintain balance. For example, a change made to the time of the project may result in an increase in cost. Conversely, a change in the cost as in a reduction of the budget, may affect the scope of the project.

In most projects at least one side of the tradeoff triangle is fixed or static, preventing it from changing. Whether the fixed side is the budget, time frame or deliverables, it’s important to know so the triangle can be optimized accordingly.

  • Optimizing to meet budget – If there is no flexibility on the budget, the scope of the project may need to be scaled back, or more cost effective resources used in place of the existing ones.
  • Optimizing to meet schedule – A fixed schedule may affect the scope of the project as elements may need to be eliminated or scaled back. In an effort to achieve the desired completion date, the cost of the project may be compromised as additional resources are required.
  • Optimizing to meet the scope – Both the budget and schedule can have an adverse effect on the scope of any project. An increase in either may result in better quality, while a decrease may have a negative impact.

“A project trade off triangle is an effective tool, used to track and keep control over the variables in any project. The benefits are clear: the project manager is able to prioritize and implement any changes required during the scope of the project, while maintaining the desired level of quality, resulting in a successful project completion. Next Gear Solutions is one such tool that can help you achieve these objectives.


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