Jul 17, 2017

Expert Series 5: Project Manager Bandwidth

Posted by Victor L. Allen | 1 Comment

“How many projects can a project manager manage?”

Editor’s Note: This week we welcome back Vic Allen, director of project management,  DTE Energy, and co-author of Project Management for Experienced Project Managers, with the fifth in our “Expert Series” of blogs. You can read the whole series if you start here.

A few years ago, one of my peers asked me “how many projects can a project manager manage?” At first, I discounted the question as I thought to myself, nobody knows the answer as every project is unique and temporary.  My initial response was “I don't know.” 

A year later, the same peer asked the same question. I repeated my earlier response and shared that we use an integrated resource plan (IRP) that maps our project managers to projects, based upon expert judgement over a multi-year period. This answer did not seem to satisfy my peer, perhaps because the IRP is directionally correct (versus exact) and the primary input is highly subjective because it is based upon a variety of assumptions. I thought, perhaps a tool to help drive these inputs would be useful. At that point I realized that my peer's question was a good question after all.

I started by conducting extensive research using advanced research tools at my disposal … such as Google. After a few weeks, I still had no answers. I contacted big name consulting firms and had one of them come in and share what they found. They had no tool to speak of. I contacted colleagues, business associates and known experts in project management … some were intrigued, but most responded with blank stares. I decided it was time to develop a solution myself. With a framework in mind and a great deal of passion for the topic, I enlisted the help of one of my managers, Dr. Ahmed Awad.

Based on my vision, Dr. Awad developed the prototype solution  and together we worked to turn it into a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use, modeling tool  capable of estimating - with a high degree of accuracy - how many projects a project manager can manage. The Project Manager Bandwidth Estimating Tool takes into consideration a dozen project-specific factors such as: type of project, experience level of the project manager, vendor involvement, project phase and so on.

Today, I have much more confidence in staffing project managers across projects because I have a great tool to replace “expert judgement” with fact-based input for our IRP. I still can't answer the question how many projects can a project manager manage as it does depend upon the project characteristics and a variety of other factors. However, I can answer the question how many project managers are needed for a given project or portfolio.  Using the tool, I can identify when a project manager is overloaded or has additional bandwidth to take on more projects, which is  the question my peer wanted answered. Dr. Awad and I have plans to publish a white paper later this summer where we will explain the tool in more detail. The tool is available for free download at www.pmcompaniontools.com.

Editor's note: Must be something in the zeitgeist ... we had another client ask us about this same issue. Here's my blog on the topic.

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1 Comment on Expert Series 5: Project Manager Bandwidth

Debbie Bigelow Crawford says:

What a great blog!  To think there is a tool out there to potentially answer this question is just terrific!  Can’t wait to share this with others!

Posted on July 18, 2017 at 2:36 pm

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