The Role of the Resource Manager

When we think about resource management, we tend to think about how it impacts projects and the project portfolio.  After all, if we don’t have the resources to execute work, our projects don’t get done.  What we sometimes forget is that resource management and the role of the resource manager goes far beyond assigning people to projects.

So what is a resource manager and what do they do?  Anyone who manages people is a resource manager.  It is the resource manager who  is responsible for ensuring that their organization has the right people with the right skills available at the right time to accomplish the work that needs to be done.  In addition to managing people, a resource manager frequently has functional responsibilities in the enterprise; he or she is responsible for running a group that may provide resources to projects, but may have day-to-day operational responsibilities as well.

The successful resource manager is someone with the ability to do a number of things well.  Obviously, they need to have top-notch people skills and be able to effectively set and articulate performance goals and standards.  They need to be able to evaluate individual performance against those goals and provide meaningful and constructive feedback to the people that they manage.  They also need to be mindful of team dynamics (the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals in the team and how they interact with one another), resolving issues or conflicts and supporting team morale.

The effective resource manager is also adept at managing a limited supply of resources against constantly changing demand.  This requires a good view of what is coming up and creating short-, mid- and long-term resource plans:

Long-Term Planning is taking a longer view of resource demand that is anticipated for six, eight, ten months out, or beyond.  In the long-term plan, the resource manager is not planning an individual’s time against specific tasks, but rather looking at general roles, skills and/or the locations of resources needed against general categories of demand (ongoing operational work vs. strategic projects, etc) using forecasts based on historical data or trends.   The long-term plan gives the resource manager the ability to anticipate resource needs and proactively plan for staff acquisition, training or other activities that typically have longer lead times or may represent their own drain on resource capacity.

Mid-term planning focuses on the next one month to six months and identifies commitments for a specific type of resource or even an individual.  But typically the mid-term plan represents these commitments as a level of effort as opposed to a specific date or time.  For example we may identify that we need an engineer for about 30 hours over 2 months for a specific project – not that the engineer will work for 10 hours on a specific task in a specific week.  The benefit of the mid-term plan is that it can be more accurate and provide more detail than the long-term plan, but is not subject to constant adjustment.

In the Short-term plan, the resource manager can look out a limited amount of time at specific task assignments – either for projects or ongoing work.  The short term plan then provides the information needed to make last minute adjustments due to emerging priorities, schedule changes, scope changes, or changes in the available resource pool due to illness, resignations or reassignments.  Because the short-term plan focuses on a limited timeframe it can be more precise than the long- or mid-term plans since we have a higher level of confidence in what is going to happen.

As a part of planning, the resource manager needs to be aware of the changing needs and priorities of the enterprise to ensure that the resources available to do the work have the requisite time and skills to do the work.  This means that the resource manager needs to understand the skills and interests of the team, and make sure that those skills are being developed to meet both current and future needs of the organization.  Changing business strategies, technologies, regulations and a plethora of other factors can all require significant changes in job responsibilities and the skills needed.  The best resource managers will follow developments across the enterprise, their discipline and in their industries to anticipate and prepare for these changes.

Last, but not least, getting the right things done is more important than working on everything and getting nothing done.  The best resource managers understand both the strategic and tactical priorities for their organization and communicate these clearly and consistently to their teams.  Likewise, they set realistic expectations for people outside of their team regarding delivery dates and standards – and they are able to say ‘no’ when appropriate.

While the scope of responsibilities for a resource manager may vary from enterprise to enterprise there is no question that the resource manager controls a most valuable asset – people.  Applying the skills and talents of that asset to provide the most value to the organization requires understanding and setting priorities, looking to the future to develop capabilities and capacity, and proactively working with the individuals and the team to develop skills and cohesion.

Survey Finds Resource Management is the Top Business Challenge for Senior Executives

We recently surveyed 100 senior IT executives at the Gartner PPM and IT Governance Summit from May 20-22, 2013 to gauge and analyze the key business challenges faced by organizations in today’s economy. Interestingly 67% of respondents considered resource management as their top business challenge, 28% of them found it difficult to justify the value delivered by the Project Management Office. 22% stated that keeping track of time and money leakages was a concern. Only 5% considered delivering change without overburdening their staff as their main issue, which can likely be attributed to their usage of PPM software and resulting benefits.

“67% of Senior Executives Identified Prioritizing Work to Fit Available Resource Capacity as Their Biggest Business Challenge”

Project Management Offices are increasingly seen as custodians of the resource management process within organizations, and this is validated by another study conducted by pmsolutions research – “The State of the PMO 2012”.  The study looked at a broad spectrum of companies across the globe and found that the number one priority for the PMOs is to “Improve Resource Planning and Forecasting Process.” Pointing towards similar findings, both the Daptiv survey and the pmsolutions’ study reveal that overcoming resource management challenges will be vital for PMOs to justify their value in the future.

You can find the details of the survey here.

Introducing and Setting Up a Project Management Office

In my last article we delved into organizational maturity for setting up a PMO; this article will deep dive into how to introduce a PMO without disrupting the established system. The first step is good communication–clear and complete information reduces confusion and eliminates resistance based on fear and conjecture.

Communicate the mission, objectives and purpose of the PMO. Be open and transparent regarding the decisions and activities of the PMO. Inform the enterprise of the reason(s) the PMO exists, what it will do and how it will bring value to the enterprise. Also, demonstrate how the PMO will be a partner and not a hindrance in working toward the success of everyone in the enterprise.

Once the need to set up a PMO has been identified and the communication campaign is actively underway, the PMO must be designed from the beginning to meet the specific needs and environment of the business it supports. Project Management Offices take on many roles depending on their mission and objective, hence setting up a PMO is not a short-term activity. It requires significant effort to complete analysis, design, planning, review and implementation. Cooperation and involvement from the business is essential to ensure the PMO meets their needs. Involving the business early and often by keeping open communication channels and soliciting feedback will allow you to manage expectations regarding the amount of time and effort required to set up a PMO.

Setting the priorities of the PMO
In order to move ahead with the planning process, the business should first set the priorities of the deliverables and services of the PMO. Next, assemble a planning and implementation team that includes stakeholders in addition to the PMO subject matter experts. In my opinion, business stakeholders must be involved throughout this process to analyze and take ownership of business needs and progress. On the planning side, it should be phased out, using a rolling wave approach as opposed to a “big bang” approach. These phases should be scheduled out using the roadmap model with detailed planning occurring at the initiation of each phase. This makes the planning current and more relevant to the prevailing business condition.

Laying down project management processes
The next major task is to identify processes and tools required to support the services and functions the PMO will perform. Depending on business needs and budget, an organization may either develop in-house tools or purchase tools from vendors to help streamline projects. Project management processes should be designed to guide the project managers in the performance of the project. PM processes need to be adaptable to meet the needs of any project. A simple project with little risk may require a very light application of the process, whereas a complex project or a project with high levels of risk will necessarily require a more rigorous process.

Project management processes are generally based on standards or best practices such as PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), PRINCE2 and agile. In addition to general purpose standards, organizations may also require and benefit from specialized project management best practices such as process improvement (Six Sigma), new product development and Go-To-Market.

Project Portfolio Management (PPM) is another function often found in PMOs. Organizations turn to PPM to manage their entire portfolio of projects, much like a portfolio of investments. In fact, projects are investments and companies expect to get the maximum return and benefit from these investments. PPM is the process by which they achieve this. Through project selection, project mix evaluation, portfolio monitoring and other activities, PPM is used to maximize returns on the portfolio.

Resource management (RM) often becomes the responsibility of the PMO because it is a natural partner with project management and project portfolio management. Within every organization there is a finite supply of resource types–including people, financial, and physical assets. Resource constraints affect both project work and operational work, the normal day-to-day work of the business. Accordingly, resource management processes should track the operational work (the day-to-day activities) in addition to project-specific work being done by the business in order to paint a complete picture of the total capacity or work an organization can truly deliver.

It is evident that these PMO functions are integrated and integral to the success of an organization. While organizations can adopt some of these elements, ultimately an organization needs to implement each of these disciplines to some degree to manage its program office effectively, even if they are being managed at different degrees of maturity. The project portfolio lifecycle encompasses elements of the project management process, the resource management process and financial management.

Keeping the PMO Relevant
To complete the whole cycle of project implementation and as part of a continuous improvement program, regular feedback from teams/project managers will help maintain the efficacy of the PMO at all times. It’s helpful to develop a continuous improvement program that includes:

  • Periodic reviews of the PMO objectives against the needs of the business
  • Measurements of the processes and tools such as effectiveness, adoption and consistent use
  • Identify areas for improvement

In the end, be sure to give new processes and tools time to be used long enough to overcome learning curves and to gather enough feedback and data to be able to make well-informed decisions. By their very nature, program management office teams are change agents. They institute new processes, implement new tools and may bring about changes in the way organizations conduct business. When planning for organizational change, the PMO must create conditions for change. Be aware of the politics of the organization, and build a base of support for change within the organization.

The third and final part of this series will touch upon metrics and how to measure success of PMO.

Daptiv to Provide Resource Management Capabilities to Delta Dental of New Jersey

Delta Dental of New Jersey has selected Daptiv PPM for its resource management capabilities to manage resources, streamline processes and standardize projects across the organization. Delta Dental of New Jersey (www.deltadentalnj.com) is New Jersey’s leading dental benefits company, providing or administering coverage to more than 1.5 million people through contracts with employers in New Jersey and Connecticut.

Delta Dental of New Jersey selected Daptiv’s SaaS-based PPM solution over competitive alternatives based on superior process improvement methodology, metrics tracking, usability and low total cost of ownership. Delta Dental of New Jersey’s decision to deploy a PPM solution comes at a time when economic conditions are forcing organizations to improved efficiency and accuracy, particularly as they relate to IT projects. By streamlining established processes, Daptiv PPM enables Delta Dental of New Jersey to improve resource utilization, better prioritize projects and lower overhead costs.

Daptiv’s SaaS-based PPM solution enables Delta Dental of New Jersey to integrate all of its projects and provide real time visibility into the status of multiple projects across its portfolio. High-level dashboards for C-level executives keep track of developments on a regular basis, and an intuitive interface helps executives and managers identify resource bottle necks, manage resource utilization and more accurately plan projects.

You can view the complete announcements here.