Beyond the Iron Triangle- Infusing Your Projects with Value

Beyond the Iron Triangle- Infusing Your Projects with Value

Beyond the Iron Triangle- Infusing Your Projects with Value
Beyond the Iron Triangle- Infusing Your Projects with Value

What is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about project success? Most Project Manager will start with the The Iron Triangle - achieving time, cost & scope constraints. This sounds easy enough, however if the Project Manager only delivers on time, within budget and meet scope specifications he/she may not necessarily be successful. In addition to these constraints, project managers must consider other criteria to achieve project success such as customer satisfaction and delivering business value from the project and transferring it into their organizations. 

How do we, as Project Managers, create a project that actually provides value for your customers? How can project teams ensure alignment of the project to business goals? No longer is project management just about getting things done on time, on scope and on budget (or achieving the triple constraints) – but project success requires tapping into the inherent needs of the customer and delivering added-value aligned to their expectations.

There is no doubt that project managers are expected to manage the main project constraints (scope, time & cost), which are the performance variables that over time, enable project managers to run a project. Nevertheless, project managers must also be the guardians to ensure that the project is stacking up against the business case and also delivering business value aligned to customer requirements.

Project managers have a role to be drivers of value creation by making constant checks back to the business case. In fact, many project management standards and methodologies recommend this. For example in PRINCE2, "continued business justification of the project" is one of the fundamental principles of this methodology. This principle prevents organizations from starting or continuing projects that cannot be validated in terms of corporate strategy or that are not aligned to the business objectives of the customer organization. If such a check is not done, the business case could achieve financial results but the actual deliverables of the project could be completely contrary to the objectives of the organization or the customer expectations. 

Project managers must be empowered to challenge the business case if it doesn’t align to organizational objectives, but in order to do so must have the appropriate knowledge, tools and business acumen (and organizational culture). PMs should be free to ask difficult questions about why the project needs to happen and how the deliverables make a contribution to the business goals.The problem is that too many project manager find themselves disconnected from the business and are working on projects separated from the organizational big picture. And in many companies that I have worked for, the organizational culture is such that project managers are isolated from the business strategy. 

The most successful organizations create a culture where project management goes hand-in-hand with corporate strategy – and this link is open and transparent. It's important that your organizations overcome this dis-connect with PMs – this perception that for certain business topics “you're on a need-to-know basis, and you don't need to know”. And yet PMs are expected to deliver outcomes to achieve those results. And so how does a project manager deliver value and achieve business expectations without a real sense of the expected value they are supposed to deliver?

This and may other hurdles must be overcome by organizations to set course on delivering project management value. It's not enough just checking whether you are still on track to deliver against the business case to achieve project success – but a focus on value creation must be at the heart project management. Here are a few tips to help you overcome these hurdles, and ensure your team is at the top of its game for defining and achieving business value together with your customers:

3 Helping Tips for Compelling Project Management Value

1) Capture Voice of Customer

The “voice of the customer” is a process that I learned to appreciate while learning about Lean Six Sigma. It is a process used to capture the requirements/feedback from the customer (internal or external) to provide the customers with the best in class service/product quality. This process is all about being proactive and constantly innovative to capture the changing requirements of the customers with time. The voice of the customer can be captured in a variety of ways: Direct discussion or interviews, surveys, focus groups, customer specifications, observation, warranty data, field reports, complaint logs, etc. There are two methods to help you capture and translate VoC needs into critical quality requirements: CTQ trees and Kano Model

1) CTQ trees (critical-to-quality trees) are diagram-based tools that can help you develop and deliver high quality products and services. You use them to translate broad customer needs into specific, actionable, measurable performance requirements. From the example below try to quantify the stated and unstated needs of your customers:

2) Another powerful tool for VOC analysis is Kano model developed by Professor Noriaki Kano of Tokyo Rika University. It is a tool which can be used to classify and prioritize customer needs. The Kano model is a tool that can be used to prioritize the Critical to Quality characteristics, as defined by the Voice of the Customer, which can broken down into three categories identified by the Kano model are:

Must Be: The quality characteristic must be present or the customer will go elsewhere.

Performance: The better we are at meeting these needs, the happier the customer is.

Delighter: Those qualities that the customer was not expecting but received as a bonus.

2) Define your Project Value proposition

Now that you have identified your customer needs and translated them into customer requirements that are critical to quality, we can proceed to putting together a value proposition. This is a business concept that a company uses to summarize why a consumer should buy a product or use a service. This can also be applied to your project outputs and an be integrated into your project planning process when defining scope. 

There is an interesting canvas that can help you to focus on the identified customer needs, wants and fears and translate them into a value proposition from Strategyzer. You can use this canvas for your project or specific ouputs to identify the measurable improvement based on project outputs. Your project value proposition can also be integrated into your project charter and help to guide your benefits planning process.

3) Integrate these concepts into your Communication Management Process

Having a defined your project value propositions and infused your project scope with your CTQ requirements, it's time to tie this into your communication plan – to ensure that your customer needs and requirements will be at the forefront of your communication objectives, content, frequency and targets. You should use a variety of communication methods to share information among stakeholders, specifically what, how, and when to use each type of communication method. 

The PMBOK defines project communications management as “processes required to ensure prompt and appropriate generation, collection, distribution, storage, retrieval, and ultimate disposition of project information”. This is further outlined in chapter 10 in the PMBOK, where project communications management processes include the following:

- Identify Stakeholders 

- Plan Communications 

- Distribute Information 

- Manage Stakeholder Expectations 

- Report Performance

Keep in mind that Project managers spend more than 90% of their time communicating with team members and other project stakeholders — internal (at all organizational levels) or external to the organization and so do not underestimate the importance of communicating continuously with the customer.


Now that you have taken the steps to infuse your project with value, you will see that when it comes time to close your project and evaluate the benefits you will not only bring to your organization a measurable improvement resulting from the outcomes of your project, but also one that your customers will take great pride in – and so will you! When project managers ask their sponsors and key stakeholders what ‘value’ means to them, the organization and the project, have a better chance of aligning the project to focus on business goals. 

And an aligned project is one that is far more likely to be successful, to deliver a worthwhile outcome and make a positive contribution to the organization overall – achieving that elusive value proposition! And as such you willl make the leap from the Iron Triangle (triple constraint) of cost, time and scope to the Value Triangle focusing on Voice of the Customer, PM Value Proposition and Focused Customer Communications.

The Author : Kamil Mroz

About : 
I am an award-winning project leader with director-level & site-leadership experience, strong communication skills and a strategic long-term view enabling the connection between strategy and operational execution.

I am driven and energized by coaching, mentoring and developing talents, while overcoming transversal organizational challenges. My experience in people management has enabled me to discover my passion for the leadership of intercultural, diverse and technical teams composed of both direct reports and cross-functional matrix project teams. I have been awarded global distinctions from both the largest PM organizations, IPMA and PMI for advanced project management expertise, strong team work, communication & leadership.

I owe my servant leadership approach to the time I have dedicated to social and volunteer-causes where I focused on several high-impact philanthropic projects in Europe. I am also proud to have also been the first ever student to be awarded the Young Alumni of the Year by the Faculty of Engineering from the University of Ottawa and I also Chair of the ISPE BeNeLux Steerco on Project Management.

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