In our everyday lives, we are constantly operating under assumptions. We assume our alarm will go off as scheduled and we’ll wake up on time. We assume our cars will start each morning and we’ll get to work without a hassle. And, as PMs, we make assumptions in project management, too.
The fact of the matter is that assumptions can be proven wrong at any time, effectively throwing a wrench in our plans. That’s why, as a project manager, it’s critical to understand what project assumptions are and how to properly identify them during each project’s planning phase.
Read on to learn more about project assumptions, including how they’re distinguished from project constraints and dependencies.
What are assumptions in project management?
According to the Project Management Institute, an assumption is any project factor that is considered to be true, real, or certain without empirical proof or demonstration. Realistically speaking, it’s impossible to plan a project without making a few assumptions. The key is knowing how to spot those assumptions and putting safeguards in place so that if any assumption is proven false, the impact on project delivery will be minimal.
It’s important to note that every project assumption poses a potential risk. This is why assumption analysis is such a critical component of risk management planning, and why every PM should understand how to properly assess, document, and communicate assumptions when planning a project.
Project assumptions examples
Let’s look a little more closely at the assumptions that can impact any project. Project assumptions can fall under a few different categories, including resource assumptions, budget assumptions, and scope assumptions.
Here are some more specific examples of project assumptions:
- You’ll have access to all the resources you need to complete the project, both human and material.
- Project team members will have the resources they need to complete their individual tasks on time, from specialized equipment and software to electricity during working hours.
- Personnel costs will not change during the project cycle.
- Other material and resource costs will remain consistent throughout the project.
- The overall cost of day-to-day operations will not increase.
- All equipment will be in working condition through the project cycle.
- The scope of the project will not change throughout the life cycle.
What are project constraints?
For many new project managers, the distinctions between project assumptions, constraints, and dependencies aren’t so clear. Let’s look at project constraints and how they differ from assumptions.
Simply put, constraints are the limitations that you and your project’s team members must work within. In project management terms, constraints often look like the following:
- Your project’s budget
- Your project’s timeline
- Your project’s resources
All three of these elements have pre-defined limits that constrain the completion of your project. You must work within the project’s designated budget to deliver it according to the scheduled timeline, using the resources allocation assigned to you, your team members, and your project’s stakeholders.
What are project dependencies?
Now that we’ve distinguished constraints from assumptions, let’s talk about project dependencies. Essentially, a project dependency is any task or activity that is reliant on the completion or initiation of another one. For example, if your project cannot move into the next phase until a particular element is approved by the client or a stakeholder, then that next phase is a dependency.
In some cases, project constraints lead to dependencies. For instance, if you only have one designer on your team working on multiple design elements, then each of those elements becomes dependent on the other. The constraint of having one designer produces dependencies.
What are project risks?
Identifying your project's assumptions, constraints, and dependencies is all very well, but if you don't also understand and prepare for project risks, the whole thing could go off track very quickly.
Project risks are any unexpected events that can affect your project, both positively and negatively. Risk identification is an essential project management process that helps teams manage and mitigate potential risks.
You'll never be able to completely eliminate uncertainties on a project, but having a plan for dealing with risks can help avoid disaster.
Planning for project assumptions, risks, constraints, and dependencies
What is scope management? As a project manager, planning for all possible assumptions, risks, constraints, and dependencies is crucial to ensuring project delivery that is on time and on budget. Of course, both planning and execution are made much simpler with reliable project management software like Wrike.
With Wrike’s customizable and interactive project management tools, you’ll be able to visualize and map out a project’s entire timeline, find out how to explain hours to a client for a project, scope baseline vs. scope statement, and critical path in order to identify dependencies and plan for assumptions, risks, and constraints. You’ll also be able to manage your team’s workload with easy-to-use resource management tools and monitor project progress in real-time.
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