Resource Constraints 101: Identify and Resolve

Resource Constraints 101: Identify and Resolve


Resource constraints in project management are akin to the ever-present turbulence in a flight; they can disrupt the smooth journey to project completion. These constraints manifest in various forms, often putting pressure on the “iron triangle” of project management – cost, time, and scope. In this blog, we will explore what resource constraints are, how to identify them, discuss the “iron triangle,” and present five solutions for effectively managing resource constraints.

What are Resource Constraints?

Resource constraints encompass limitations and restrictions on essential components required for a project’s execution. These components encompass various resources, including financial, human, equipment, and time resources. When any of these resources fall short of the project’s demands, it can lead to delays, cost overruns, and potential project failure.

At it’s core, resource constraints are the reality that we all live in – our resources are always finite by their nature. we cannot do everything at once and therefore we need to be conscious of what we do with what we have.

The Iron Triangle in Project Management

The “iron triangle” in project management is a fundamental concept that represents the interconnectedness of three critical project parameters: cost, time, and scope. These parameters are often in tension with each other, and altering one will inevitably affect the others. For example:

  • Cost: Increasing the scope of a project without additional resources can lead to cost overruns.
  • Time: Reducing the project timeline may require more resources to meet deadlines.
  • Scope: Expanding project scope without extending the timeline or increasing resources can lead to quality compromises.

Understanding the iron triangle is crucial because it highlights the delicate balance required in project management. When resource constraints are identified, project managers must carefully navigate this triangle to make informed decisions that maintain equilibrium among these parameters.

Strategic Approach to Resource Constraints in Project Management

Resource Constraints may look like something to be afraid of and many project managers try to avoid them at all costs. The problem is that resource constraints cannot be eliminated entirely. But luckily, there is a theory that resource constraints can be used to drive improvement.

The Theory of Constraints (TOC) is a management philosophy that has a profound impact on project management. TOC centers around the idea that every system, including a project, has one or more constraints that limit its overall performance. In project management, these constraints can be resource shortages, bottlenecks, or critical dependencies that hinder progress and impact project timelines and outcomes. By applying TOC principles, project managers can identify the key constraint(s) within their project, focus resources and efforts on improving or circumventing them, and optimize the overall project workflow. This approach helps in better resource allocation, reducing delays, and enhancing the project’s chances of successful completion. Essentially, TOC offers project managers a systematic way to identify, address, and mitigate constraints, ultimately leading to more efficient and effective project management practices.

Identifying Resource Constraints

There are may ways in which to identify resource constraints, but the key is to identify potential problems as early as possible in the project  as part of your resource management strategy. To identify these constraints, you need to have a good understanding of the project and it’s objectives, the client’s expectations and the resources on hand to complete the project.

One smart way to identify resource constraints is to look at all the tasks that need to be completed and then creating an estimate of the not just the project resources you have, but how much of each resource you will require in best-case and worst-case scenarios.

This is where a good project and resource management tool like the TimeTracker for Salesforce plays an important role in the planning and project management process. As you envisage the completion of a project from end to end, having a centralized way of tracking your progress and project resources is key.

1. Resource Allocation Assessment: Commence your resource constraint journey by conducting a meticulous assessment of resource allocation in your project. Understand the project’s requirements and evaluate the availability of necessary resources. Scrutinize the budget, the skills of your team, and the project’s timeline. Any disparities between what’s needed and what’s available may indicate resource constraints.

2. Resource Utilization Tracking: Monitoring the utilization of resources during project execution is indispensable. Various tools and software can aid in tracking the allocation and usage of resources. If you observe consistent overuse or underutilization of specific resources, it may signify constraints that require immediate attention.

3. Stakeholder Communication: Regular communication with project stakeholders, including team members, clients, and sponsors, can be instrumental in identifying resource constraints. Team members might express feeling overwhelmed, while clients may voice concerns about project delays. Heed these early warning signs.

4. Risk Assessment: Incorporate a risk assessment phase in your project planning. Identify potential resource constraints as risks and scrutinize their potential impact. This proactive approach facilitates planning for contingencies and more effective resource allocation.

5. Benchmarking: Comparing your project’s resource allocation with industry benchmarks and best practices can yield valuable insights. It provides a frame of reference for evaluating whether your resource allocation is reasonable or if you are grappling with constraints that others have effectively managed.

5 Solutions to Overcome Resource Constraints

1. Resource Leveling: Resource leveling is a technique used to adjust the project schedule to accommodate resource constraints while maintaining the iron triangle’s balance. This involves shifting tasks within the project timeline to balance resource usage. For instance, you might delay non-critical tasks to free up resources for critical ones. Project management software can automate this process.

2. Resource Reallocation: When certain resources are overburdened while others are underutilized, consider reallocating resources. This may entail moving team members from one task to another, hiring additional personnel, or outsourcing specific project components. Transparent communication with your team is crucial to ensure everyone understands the reasons behind these changes.

3. Scope Adjustment: Resource constraints can sometimes be alleviated by revisiting the project scope. This may involve removing non-essential features or functionalities to reduce resource demands. Scope adjustments should be considered carefully to ensure they align with project objectives without compromising quality.

4. Risk Mitigation Planning: As part of your project risk assessment, develop mitigation plans for resource constraints. This can include establishing contingency budgets, identifying alternative suppliers or vendors, or cross-training team members to fill resource gaps when needed. These plans help you respond swiftly to unforeseen constraints.

5.Resource Acquisition: In cases where resource constraints are severe, you may need to acquire additional resources. This could mean securing additional funding, hiring specialized contractors, or expanding your team. Ensure that you have a clear process for obtaining these resources and that they align with your project’s objectives.


Resource constraints are a prevalent challenge in project management, and effectively addressing them is essential for project success. Identifying these constraints early in the project life cycle allows for the implementation of solutions that maintain the equilibrium of the iron triangle. Through resource leveling, reallocation, scope adjustment, risk mitigation planning, and the application of the Theory of Constraints, project managers can navigate resource constraints successfully. Remember that effective communication with stakeholders and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances are vital elements in managing resource constraints in project management. By striking a balance between the constraints and the iron triangle, project managers can steer their projects toward successful completion.