Sep 13, 2013

Resource Management and PPM Maturity: An Interview with John Casey, PMP

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin in Culture & Change Management, Demand Management, Portfolio Management, Project Management Events, Project Management Research | 0 Comments

"Resource management is pretty much a disaster everyplace, and everyone realizes that."

In our third interview in this series, we asked PM Solutions senior consultant John Casey to address webinar participants’ questions about resource management. (Missed the webinar? Click here.) We weren’t surprised that this was an area that drew many questions; in all our research studies over the years, resource management has loomed as the thorniest problem facing PMOs. PPM offers opportunities to rationally allocate resources, but there are cultural barriers to using these tools.

Q: Do you believe that resources are an afterthought and a product that is driven by prioritization, or oppositely, resources drive prioritization, because resource availability must be factored in to what can actually be accomplished?

Casey: The answer is yes. What I’ve seen is that companies have really grown in prioritizing what they are going to do. At one time, they weren’t that concerned about aligning priorities with goals. Maybe we’ve driven into their heads that you must start there! But of course, it really depends on the organzation, and the project. Different things are important to different organizations. It’s important to involve the whole organization in creating a standard criteria that identifies projects that you want to pursue. Once you have allocated funds for these, then there is the question: Who will do this? There are some types of subject matter expertise that you can’t buy, you have to grow. That’s particularly true in companies that have a culture designed around iconic products. In that case, you can’t always purchase additional resources. You have to determine what resources you need early on.

Q: PM Solutions Research studies never fail to identify resource management as a sore point. What are the barriers?

Casey: Resource management is pretty much a disaster everyplace, and everyone realizes that. We advise rolling up to the enterprise level from the project level so you know who is available and when, tieing that to the scheduling efforts, and everyone agrees that’s the way to do it, but I’ve only ever seen one company do it. The barriers are many. To begin with, the tools they have in place don’t support across-organization databases and assignment of resources.

Another is the matrix situation, where resources owned by one organization and to gain a commitment for a specific resource for another project it’s a complicated process. So in estimating resources, they end up going after numbers of people rather than specific individuals or skills. Always a mistake!

Generally, there’s no real capacity planning. Most people use MS Project as a scheduling tool, as a standalone tool. It takes care of a project or some programs. But it’s rare that you have any insight into how those resources can be used on another project or non-project work. Even on a recent $95 million dollar project, where they spent a ton of money training everyone on resource leveling, once the project gets rolling, the processes are ignored. They will swear that they are drinking the Kool-Aid, but they are not – work habits are powerful and hard to break.

Q: Tell me about that one company that was successful that you mentioned earlier.

They were beginning to develop processes to be successful; they had a resource database of skills across the enterprise covering all the major construction projects, and – and here is perhaps the differentiator—they had a commitment to reach Level 4 in PM maturity. In order to do that, they had to have good resource management in place. Senior management drove them to do that, HR was involved, scheduling was integrated, and, quite frankly, their bonuses were tied to it. So there was a lot at stake.

This company happened to be in construction, so that may be a factor, but I think if that same group of managers had been in another area, they would have had the same success. It didn’t hurt, though, because construction people are familiar with the concepts of PM.

Q: Describe a phased approach to take the organization to the next level of PPM maturity.

We were recently involved in an engagement like that, actually. We got the enterprise portfolio management board together and discovered there were discrepancies about what they were supposed to do as a board, who their stakeholders were, and how to manage their expectations. To move from that level of uncertainty, we organized a session with EPMO staff and the board where everyone shared what they perceived as their role, and roles of fellow board members. This was an open, frank discussion about roles, and who they were impacting. They basically applied the rules of stakeholder analysis to develop plans to communicate and keep people informed. That’s a positive step in moving to that next level of maturity.

Next: Allen Fein answers your questions about organizational structure for PPM: The business vs. the PMO.



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