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07 October 2022 | Posted by angela.tuduri

Has the polygon to PMI's iron triangle been overcome?

Aligning objectives with strategy is critical when leading a project; the project manager establishes a clear roadmap that outlines the steps to be taken during the plan.   

By using techniques and tools that keep the project on the roadmap, managers can break down the project into small tasks. In doing so, they estimate the time and effort required, the totality of the work and where risks or bottlenecks may occur.  

How do we start to work out the basics of a project? What does the project manager need to establish a roadmap? In this post we will give you the answers! 


What are project baselines?    

A project baseline is the set of deliverables that must be met for the project to be considered successful. It usually includes meeting certain milestones, budget and quality standards.  

They can also be useful for tracking changes over time. A baseline allows everyone involved in a project to clearly understand what needs to be achieved and provides a benchmark against which to measure progress. Without a baseline, it would be difficult to determine whether a project is on track or not.  

For a good baseline, it is essential:  

  • Have a clear and precise definition of the problem to be solved (if you don't know what the project is for, it will be difficult for it to succeed).  

  • To have an exhaustive study of all the existing solutions (it is not about reinventing the wheel, but to know what has been done before).  

  • Have a thorough understanding of all the needs to be covered.  

There are several ways to establish baselines. The most common method is to take a snapshot of the data at a specific point in time. This allows us to take stock of the weakest points of a project before starting to make changes. Another method is to track progress against specific indicators.   

Both methods have advantages and disadvantages. Snapshots provide a static view of the data, while tracking progress against tasks provides a more dynamic view. Snapshots can be taken at any time, while tracking indicators requires setting them in advance. 


The iron triangle is the main basis of the PMI (Project Management Institute). It encompasses the most necessary elements in project management: Scope, Time and Budget. Project management consists of controlling these three factors for the project to be successful.   

The iron triangle is also known as the triple constraint.  

The three corners of the triangle represent the main elements that project managers must balance. If one of these elements becomes unbalanced, it can have a negative effect on the entire project. For example, if there is a slippage in the scope of a project and more features are added, it is likely to affect both the project budget and schedule.   


The scope of a project defines the steps that will lead to success. This translates into tasks, deliverables and milestones that must be met to achieve the objectives set out in the project roadmap.   

Project managers create a work breakdown structure (WBS) that understands the deliverables and breaks them down into smaller, more manageable parts.  

Both the project manager and the team use the scope as a guide throughout the plan. By understanding what needs to be delivered, when it needs to be delivered, and how it will be delivered, everyone stays focused on achieving the objectives.  


Time equals project duration. It determines both the duration of tasks and the sequence in which they are to be completed. Time in project management is divided into three categories: past, present and future.   

The past represents the history of the project, which is used to learn from past mistakes and successes. The present equates to the current state of the project, including any risks or problems that need to be addressed. The future is represented by the goal or objectives of the project, to be considered successful.  

Project managers must constantly balance these three-time frames to effectively manage project time.  


The budget is the amount of money that can be spent on the project. It includes the cost of materials and labor, as well as overhead associated with the project.  

Cost can be direct or indirect and can include both tangible and intangible items. When considering the cost of a project, managers must consider all aspects of the project, such as scope, schedule and risks.   

Project managers must closely track all costs associated with their projects to stay within the budget. 

The project polygon  

Project management has evolved over the years. From the implementation of agile methodologies, scrum, waterfall... and new techniques that offer support to managers; to the development of new tools that help to establish criteria and objectives in the management of any project.   

In a new framework for project management, the iron triangle is evolving into a polygon. But... What does polygon mean in project management?   

The polygon serves as a guide for the organization and management of a project. The baselines of the figure are the main elements to be considered: scope, budget, time, people... it encompasses all the stakeholders of a project, as well as the actions and tasks to be carried out to make the plan a success.   

From this new perspective, project managers can identify strengths and weaknesses when managing a project. 

About the project polygon  

Unlike the iron triangle, the polygon transforms as the project progresses. Therefore, the baselines of the plan will have an impact on the development of the plan. That is, if the scope, budget or any of the major elements of the project change, the rest of the lines will move with it, indicating how the project will need to function/work to achieve project success.   

Why are polygons important in a project?  

Polygons are essential for projects because they act as guidelines for what needs to be done. By having a clear idea of what each individual area entails, managers can more easily identify potential problems and address them before they cause too much damage.   

In addition, if any part of the project deviates from the polygon, the polygon would reflect this in its baselines, making it easier for the team to make decisions.   

Triangle vs. polygon - pmi   

How do project managers understand the triangle and the polygon?   

The differences between these two concepts are not so great. They both indicate the steps to follow within a project, as well as the strengths and weaknesses we need to focus on for its success.  

The polygon, on the other hand, allows us to see the evolution of the project in real time, allowing us to act with greater agility in the face of future risks.   

In addition, the polygon includes all the areas of knowledge that will be part of the project, providing a greater vision of the tasks to be performed. Communication is also streamlined from this new perspective, and the teams contrast all the information so that risks do not arise throughout the project.   

The iron triangle allows us to analyze a first perspective of what will be the development of the project, while the polygon serves as support and validation in the roadmap of the plan.   

Related studies   

If you are thinking of expanding your knowledge in relation to the direction and management of projects, La Salle URL offers pioneering and advanced training for more than 20 years. You will be trained by professional experts in the area, and you will discover the necessary concepts to become a PMP (project management professional) and access the PMI accreditation.   

The Master in Project Management provides training in planning, control and organization of projects, acquiring the most demanded skills in the world of work. La Salle-URL is the first and only university in Spain that has the PMI Global Accreditation Center accreditation, thanks to which you can add 1 year of experience among the requirements to obtain the PMP certificate from the PMI once you graduate from the Master.   


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