Are Time, Cost, and Quality the only defining criteria for successful project management?


Background information

According to Antony (2007), doubts are still raised concerning the real determinants of project success. The issue of project success has been discussed from different viewpoints. The iron triangle (scope, time, and cost) are been used for the past 5 decades to as the indistinguishable factors of project success (Du, Johnson, & Keil, 2004). Surprisingly, these three incidences have widely accepted as the determinants of project success.

Despite these clear criteria, various projects still fail to meet the expectation (Engwall, 2012). Therefore, many people have been questioning why projects fail despite the scope of its success being clearly defined by the iron triangle.  This has made some researchers to start asking whether the project management has been reluctant to adopt other criteria that can be effectively be used to gauge the success of the projects. It is possible that projects are using new elements to reach success but continue to use the same old measurements of project success (Humid & Asarani, 2012).


Most projects are continuously assessed by the project management’s iron triangle (time, cost and quality) to determine if they are or are not successful. The aim of this research paper is to determine if these criteria are an accurate measurement of project success or failure, if the iron triangle can still be generally applied and if other criteria need to be added.


  • To investigate whether the iron triangle is an effective tool for contemporary projects
  • To establish if the iron triangle can be used as a de facto standard.
  • To investigate if a project can be deemed successful even though it does not meet the cost, quality and time criteria.
  • To recommend if there are criteria that should be added to the iron triangle model.

Rationale of your study

This study helps to determine if there are some possible success criteria that can be used to measure the project success apart from the iron triangle. Therefore, the research will provide the answer to the question that has been asked for decades. In addition, the research will add important information to the literature concerning the project success.

  1. Theoretical Framework

Iron triangle: These are three attributes of scope, quality, and time as they related to project constraint (Judge  & Mathur, 2013). The triangle illustrates that a project needs to be understood and explained from these three constraints. The premise of the three aspects of the iron triangle is that any change on these areas will shift the balance of the project success (Mathur et al, 2014). Therefore, any change in one area will definitely affect the initial plan of the project. The project triangle is represented by the diagram below.

  1. Brief literature review

According to Atkinson (1999), there is a thing line between a project success and a project failure. In this regard, the lack of clarity between the project success and failure has always been the source of dispute for project assessment. On the other hand, there are very many known causes of project failure and vigorous attempts have been made to eliminate the causes of such failures (Kiznyte, Welker, & Dechange, 2016). However, these causes of project failure can also be the pillars of the project success. Research has established that the project failure and success also depends on the environment and the complexity of the project (Thomas & Adams, 2005).

Quality of a project is a significant aspect for all the concerned stakeholders (Baumann, Krokos, & Hendrickson, 2014). The quality of a project can effectively be achieved after the project has met the established criteria and requirements. Therefore, the dimensions of quality, time, and cost have largely been used to define the scope of project quality.

  1. Research methodology

The right research design is critical to the success of the project. On the same note, choosing the right research design is important in realizing the success of the project. This research will be qualitative in nature.

Since this research is qualitative in nature, the data will be collected from the secondary sources. The data will then be analysed through thematic analysis and the results presented accordingly.

The research will also take care of the ethical considerations such that all the sources consulted will be acknowledged during the research process.

Most of the information used for this research will be collected from the libraries and online databases. The research will heavily rely on academic sources of information.

  1. Potential outcome

The approach taken by this dissertation is of great significance to the field of project management. This study determines whether the iron triangle is an effective approach of gauging project quality. The implication of this study is that it will provide additional information to the body of knowledge concerning the metrics of project quality.


  1. Bibliography

Anthony, E. (2007). Development of project management systems. Industrial and Commercial Training, 39(2), 85-90. doi:

Atkinson, R. (1999). Project management: cost, time and quality, two best guesses and a phenomenon, its time to accept other success criteria. International journal of project management, 17(6), 337-342.

Baumann, E., Krokos, K. J., & Hendrickson, C. (2014). Building Algorithms to Estimate Training Resource Requirements. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting. 58 (1), pp. 2335-2339. SAGE Publications.

Du, S. M., Johnson, R. D., & Keil, M. (2004). Project management courses in IS graduate programs: What is being taught? Journal of Information Systems Education, 15(2), 181-187.

Engwall, M. (2012). PERT, polaris, and the realities of project execution. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 5(4), 595-616. doi:

Humaidi, N., & Asarani, N. A. M. (2012). Investigation on project management performance UsingKnowledge project management PerformanceAssessment model: A pilot study. International Journal of Innovation, Management and Technology, 3(6), 769.

Jugdev, K., & Mathur, G. (2013). Bridging situated learning theory to the resource-based view of project management. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 6(4), 633-653.

Kiznyte, J., Welker, M., & Dechange, A. (2016). Applying Project Management Methods to the Creation of a Start-up Business Plan: The Case of Blendlee. PM World Journal, V(V), 1-24.

Kutsch, E. (2008). The effect of intervening conditions on the management of project risk. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 1(4), 602-610. doi:

Lim, C. S., & Mohamed, M. Z. (1999). Criteria of project success: an exploratory re-examination. International journal of project management, 17(4), 243-248.

Mathur, G., Jugdev, K., & Fung, T. S. (2007). Intangible project management assets as determinants of competitive advantage. Management Research News, 30(7), 460-475. doi:

Mathur, G., Jugdev, K., & Fung, T. S. (2013). Project management assets and project management performance outcomes. Management Research Review, 36(2), 112-135. doi:

Mathur, G., Jugdev, K., & Shing Fung, T. (2014). The relationship between project management process characteristics and performance outcomes. Management Research Review, 37(11), 990-1015.

Thomas, M., & Adams, J. (2005). ADAPTING PROJECT MANAGEMENT PROCESSES TO THE MANAGEMENT OF SPECIAL EVENTS: AN EXPLORATORY STUDY. Academy of Strategic Management Journal, 4, 99-114.

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