Resource Management and the PMO
We kicked off a series of sessions which allow us to explore some of the most challenging areas for PMOs today. Earlier in 2022, we asked PMO practitioners, what is the most challenging area for you today.
Four themes emerged – they were benefits management, resource management, low maturity and hybrid delivery.
We decided to feature all four of these at the PMO Conference in 2022 – using boards at the conference to try and get deeper into each one of them.
This is the template we used [you can download a PDF version here]
The Summer Series is designed to be interactive, to gather people’s insights and to help us build up the board.
The ultimate objective is to gain some actionable insights – things that the House of PMO can further work on – whether that be further sessions or something more tangible like a White Paper for example.
You can listen to the session here and also see where we are with the board.
What’s the Real Challenge?
Resource management has long been a challenge to anyone and everyone working in project management. In our session we could distil that into three different areas.
Resource management is all about people – and by their very nature that makes managing/supporting/motivating.. them in a project management content very complex
In project management ‘we’ are still not great at planning / estimating / scheduling which of course impacts resource management.
Just like benefits management, resource management is also strongly impacted by the organisation’s culture and how senior executives want their projects and programmes to run – it starts at the top.
You might expect the PMO to dive right in and get into the granular level of detail – which of course they did! – but in essence each one of the challenges they highlighted fall into one of the three above.
With resource management, the main focus is on capacity management and demand management – with capability management still important but not as important as the first two.
Ultimately the main challenges are about supply and demand – does the organisation have the right people available at the right time to deliver what’s needed.
Easy to explain, difficult to do and here are some of the main reasons why it’s difficult to do:
- Poor estimations of time required
- Resources being assigned to multiple projects
- BAU work taking priority over project and change work
- Lack of responsibility and accountability – who has the right?
- Difficult to do capacity management without timesheets
- Timesheets – people don’t like to be tracked
- The project view – programme view – portfolio view – all different and often conflicting
- Not enough resources
Siloed approaches to resource planning across departments and a reluctance to centralise the process to enable portfolio management
What Didn’t Work – Blockers
We looked at what PMOs have previously tried to help them overcome the problems around resource management.
Interestingly, timesheets are considered to be both a positive and negative – and that conversation kicked off another discussion about using tools to help with resource management.
Also something which came up on the summer series about benefits management – and appeared here too. If resource management is important to the business, why do we still tend to talk about resource management using different lingo, acronyms etc which the business find difficult to understand?
There was also some insights into the data side of resource management. Whilst some PMOs struggle to gain good data which could provide some useful insights for the business to make better, more informed decisions on resource management issues – be careful for what you wish for. Even with the data available, it is still a challenge to get those decisions made!
Data is just one element – resource management is fundamentally about people and behaviours, which is why it’s so hard.
What Would the PMO Like to See?
If money or time was no object – what would be a dream outcome for the PMO in terms of overcoming the resource management challenges?
No forced overtime and turnover, fast, predictable delivery of quality, valued work. That’s my dream.
- Having permanent teams aka the lean, agile approach which sees the same team work together all the time, from project to project.
- Nailing the planning, estimating and scheduling problems – is it worth the investment in really finding out the root causes for this not working in the organisation and doing something about it?
- A great discussion on what planning horizons are and what predictability really means – could the PMO help here?
- Not starting too many projects until we have the capacity to deliver
- Which means having portfolio management in place
- Good behaviours from people working in projects – if a timesheet needs filling out, just do it.
- Dynamic data and real-time reporting
There are a couple of things you can check out in the session which may give you some food for thought. Check out the part where we discuss the link between resource management and risk management – and the whole part about predictability.
If the data show low variability, you can plan that way. If reality is unpredictable, no amount of data helps.
What Has Worked?
We love the question ‘why?’ and for PMOs that are overcoming some of the challenges of resource management it has started with the simple approach of understanding exactly what problem we are trying to solve with resource management.
This has meant that they can focus on what’s the most important for the business – and know that if they’re going to invest the time and energy they are going to be deliver the service that is most required.
For some that has meant focusing on resource management at a higher level. Rather than worrying about resources across the entire business, they just focus on the SPODs (single point of dependency) – those critical, in-demand resources.
For others they have focused on the tools – because timesheets are important (actual time = project cost) or dependency management is crucial. Focusing on the data side of resource management is deemed to be crucial for making informed decisions and to get better at forecasting.
In some organisations it’s more about capability management – making sure the business is skilled – or has the right kind of people with the right experience for projects now and those coming down the line.
>> You can find more examples and insights from our Inside PMO Report on resource management here.
Where Are You Going Next?
Resource management is one of those areas of project management which will always present problems – it’s all about people so it is never likely to be static. The challenge for the PMO is about really understanding what their organisation is trying to achieve with resource management and where the PMO can support that.
Some of these challenges are areas where the PMO can only advise – ultimately the accountability and responsibility lays elsewhere in the business (the Board? Senior executives? Heads of PM?)
What the PMO can do is understand what resource management is – and what it isn’t, so that’s on the PMO to be educated and informed. There was a recommendation work checking out called – The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook.
It is also then applying theory and best practice into the realities of the businesses we work within. That means the PMO should be working closer with anyone and everyone who has a role to play in resource management and understanding what their problems are, where they need support etc.
The PMO should be looking for sources of help – outside their organisations, to understand how others are tackling the same resource management challenges. The House of PMO will be looking for more success stories to share with the community.
To finish the session, we ended up with the question – why focus so much on trying to overcome the challenges of resource management when actually we should be focusing more on the wider areas of planning, estimating and scheduling? The group talked about the investment costs of trying to do resource management right versus the returns on that – and asking the question, should we bother at all?
At the House of PMO we will continue to feature resource management sessions and this session has given us a lot of different areas we can be looking at.
Why not leave a few comments of your own – what is your current challenge in relation to resource management?