The Interior Design Project Management Triangle

There is a project management framework called The Triple Constraint, Project Management Triangle or Iron Triangle that states that all projects contain three constraints: time, scope and cost. You can prioritize two, and any time a change is posed to one of the chosen elements, something else must change. For example, if you want your project to be quick with a complex scope, then it will cost you more money. If you want your project to be quick and cheap, the scope will need to be reduced. This project framework has never been more applicable than in interior design. Interior design projects are highly complex and require many factors to be successful, making it impossible to have all sides of the triangle. This article will help you understand why the triangle is important to project success and how to choose the two elements that are your priority.

The importance of the Project Management Triangle in interior design

Every project, big or small, needs guardrails. They help set clear expectations between designer and client, which contributes to transparency and overall satisfaction with the work being executed. At Urbane Design, our seven-step process includes a design agreement that outlines all of the project details about time, scope and budget that were collected in our initial consultation.

Interior design projects require a lot of people to complete them: designers, project managers, builders, architects, plumbers, painters — this list goes on. For projects this complex, it is crucial that everyone on the working team has a north star to guide their decisions. This is where the project management triangle provides clarity.

In a perfect world, clients would get a large scope of work for a low cost and on a quick timeline. However, anyone that works in a service-based industry knows this is just not possible. Two of the three constraints must be prioritized. Is keeping costs low your top priority? Do you need the project completed quickly? Or, is the most important thing your specific list of services you want executed? It is crucial that you know these things before you hire a designer so that you can discuss your priorities before the work begins.

Even the most perfectly planned projects hit roadblocks sometimes. The project management triangle provides a framework for how to adjust priorities when delays happen. For example, imagine a backyard remodel is set to be completed in 8 months — just in time for the client’s daughter’s backyard wedding. But then the wedding timeline shifts up, making it crucial that the backyard renovation is completed 3 months earlier. Since the element of time is now being prioritized, one of the other elements needs to be adjusted by either diminishing the scope of the project or increasing the price of the project in order to add extra resources to the job and get it done in time. Understanding that these tradeoffs may need to happen during a project lifecycle will keep everyone on the same page (and sane!)

How to determine your Project Management Triangle priorities

  • Think about your timeline. Is there a specific life event you want your design work completed by, like the wedding example above? Having a hard stop date will be crucial in helping your designer determine what scope and cost will be possible in the amount of time you have.
  • Determine the exact scope of services you want completed, and how flexible you are willing to be with that list. Do you have a precise vision for your remodel, like a kitchen with specific finishes and appliances? Are you open to adjusting specifications based on cost, or are you willing to pay more to get exactly what you want? Know that the less flexibility you have in this area, the more you may pay or the longer the project may take to get your parts in.
  • Decide how much you’re willing to spend. Do you have an exact dollar amount allotted to your remodel? Or do you have a range that allows for flexibility when needed? Your budget will help your designer understand what other shifts may need to happen along the way to keep the project within your overall price point.

If you’re thinking about beginning an interior design project, consider the above questions before you get started. Already have your priorities set? Reach out to Urbane Design to get started.

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