What are Project Assumptions?

assumptions in project management

Do you know what the difference between Project Assumptions, Constraints and Dependencies is?

As a young Project Manager I was always confused about 3 Project Management terms.  I was confused about the meaning of Project Assumptions, Project Constraints and Project Dependencies. I could not differentiate one from the other. I used to think that it hardly makes a difference if one term is replaced with another.

I have learned many things in professional life since my early days. However, when I interact with  many other Project Management Practitioners, I can sense that similar kind of confusion confounds them. Let me try to bring some clarity around these simple looking, confusing terms. Believe me, they are simple English words. They have been made difficult by Project Management Experts.

In this post I will talk only about Project Assumptions. I have written other two posts on Project Constraints and Project Dependencies. After reading all three posts, you would be able to understand the finer points about these terms and recognize the difference. These three terms have immense utility in Project Management if they are used appropriately.

What are Project Constraints?

What are Project Dependencies?

What are Project Assumptions?

According to PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition, Project Assumption is “A factor in planning process that is considered to be true, real or certain often without any proof or demonstration”.

Another definition could be “Project Assumptions are events or circumstances that are expected to occur during the project life-cycle”.

You can also look at Max Wideman’s Glossary for the definition of Project Assumptions.

It simply means that some things are supposed to be true. We, as human beings, work on some presumptions and suppositions. Sometimes these Project Assumptions come out to be true while at other time…Alas! they prove to be false.

Let’s understand Project Assumptions through an example.

Situation – PM requires an Approval on Design Artifacts from the Customer during the course of the project. Project cannot move ahead without this Approval.

Project Assumption – “Approval is likely to come within 2 weeks of submitting the Design Artifacts.”

Only time will tell if the above Project Assumption holds true. However, much before that, Project Plan is prepared based on similar Project Assumptions. Project Team must do a complete Analysis before documenting the Project Assumptions and preparing the Project Plan.

Let us talk about few key points which can help in analysis of Project Assumptions.

  • A Project Assumption is believed to be true either through Experience or high-level Historical Data.
  • A Project Assumption is stated without any empirical evidence.
  • All Project Assumptions are potential risks. Assumption Analysis is one of the important techniques for Risk Identification.
  • Project Assumptions should be well Documented and well Communicated. Poor Communication of Project Assumptions can, sometimes, lead to Project Failure.
  • Project Assumptions can be documented in any formal Document but preferably they should be documented in a separate Project Assumptions Log.
  • Bigger Project Assumptions must be Validated with other Stakeholders.

Over To You

But, I still cannot fully understand how Project Assumptions are different from Project Constraints and Project Dependencies?

You will have to read my posts on Project Constraints and Project Dependencies to understand the difference. Do leave a comment, if there is still some confusion.

A question for the readers. Is following statement an Assumption or a Fact?

“There would always be few Assumptions in every Project”

Related Articles

Difference Between Similar Project Management Terms

Praveen Malik, PMP

​Praveen Malik ​is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) with a rich 23+ years of experience. He is a leading Project Management Instructor, Coach and ​Advisor. He ​has successfully trained thousands of aspirants for the PM certification exams.

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