Assumptions Vs Constraint

As we have been talking again and again, there are very few project which begins with absolute clarity. At least I haven’t been involved in any such projects. We have already talked about risks and how to manage risks. However, two more important things you need to understand are

  • Assumptions and
  • Constraints

Assumptions and constraints could be related to resources, delivery, functionality, environmental, budgetary, etc. Let’s look at their definition to understand exactly what they are.


As per merriam-webster, assumption is a fact or statement (as a proposition, axiom, postulate, or notion) taken for granted – without any proof of demonstration.

In general, things that you assume, when they are true they will often help you in executing the project. However, if assumption goes wrong then it will have adverse effect. Hence, it is important that the involved stakeholder understands that if assumption will not be correct then we are running with some risk.

Example of assumption could be that – Client Test Environment will be available for developers from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM.


A constraint is the state of being checked, restricted, limited or compelled to avoid or perform some action.

In general, things that are constraining, will act as a hurdle during the project execution. However, by documenting them appropriately, you can manage stakeholders expectation.Great thing about constraint is that if it is not true then your project may benefit from that.

Example of constraint could be that – Client Test Environment will not be available for developers from 8:00 PM to 9:00 AM.

I have often seen people mixing constraint and assumptions. Worst, many times people try to put business rules also inside assumptions or constraints. While sometimes you may have to design and code for assumptions and constraints as well, it is strongly recommended that you should not mix them with business rules, which of course you consider as base lined and there is no if-and-buts.

As a project manager, you need to understand how constraints and assumptions may affect the project schedule and budget if assumption becomes invalid or constraints become true. You should also understand what advantage you can derive if the constraints gets resolved and it is no longer a hurdle.

Also, remember that assumption and constraints can appear in any project document. It is not necessary that only requirement document can introduce constraints or assumption. At Walking Tree we have tried to maintain transparency with our customers and that has helped us in managing the expectations really well. Many times customer asks for few changes – where we come up with appropriate impact analysis and based on that we either go ahead with implementation or document them as constraints.

I hope you have better understanding of Assumptions and Constraints and I will be happy to respond if there is any comment / query.

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3 comments on “Assumptions Vs Constraint
  1. Salim says:

    Not a clear distinction between an assumption and a constraint. Your examples seem to overlap.

  2. Noor Hazim Bin Jamalludin says:

    Hi, so what are the common assumptions made and constraints faced when building a website?
    Thank You

    • wtcindia says:

      First of all assumptions and constraints depends on the business context. For example – when you are developing a website, one of the assumption will be that Joomla! framework will be used to develop the website. If you intend to use any existing template then you may like to put detail about the same and emphasize that customer will be paying for the template.

      Again, if you are using specific libraries to build rich internet application then it may become difficult to support all the browsers. Hence, in such case you may like to put some constraints that so-n-so library may have issue in supporting the so-n-so browser and your scope doesn’t provide support for that browser.

      I hope above examples give you some idea about how to identify assumptions and constraints.

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