Feb 19, 2015

Resource Bottleneck Rx: Make AND Buy

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin in Project & Program Management, Demand Management, Human Capital, Project Management Office (PMO), Project Management Research, Project Management Training | 0 Comments

We're happy that the Harvard guys agree with us.

To continue my diatribe about talent and capital … a recent Harvard Business Review article sent me back to our own recent research studies. The article, “Talent Management for the 21st Century,” likened the problems companies now face with finding or developing talent to the issues faced by manufacturers in times past. The question was, “Make or Buy?” And in that era, it referred to equipment, hardware, software, or other critical elements of a manufacturing process.

Of course, human capital was then—as it is now—a critical element of any business process. But today, in our "knowledge economy" we are more aware of this fact.

When it comes to making sure you have no bottlenecks in your processes, nothing is more critical than the identifying the “critical resource”: that point at which a particular skill is required for x number of hours and the person with that skill may be out sick, on vacation, or just overloaded with work and does not have the hours to give to your project. Or perhaps the skill is one that the company has not developed or hired for in the past. Business changes rapidly these days, and sometimes HR processes can’t keep up with the speed of the marketplace.

What’s a project-oriented company to do? According to the findings in our 2014 State of the PMO study, project management leaders in organizations already know the answer and it’s “Make AND Buy.” Over half of PMOs rely on contracted resources to manage projects and programs; and 19% of them contract for higher-level skills to help manage the operations of the PMO itself. More significantly, Best-in-class PMOs are most likely to contract for these management skills (43%, as opposed to only 15% of PMOs at the “Basic” capability level.) And when you look at PMOs in high-performing organizations, more of them are likely to use contracted resources for both PMO management and project/program management, as compared to the low-performing companies.

So, there’s wisdom in “knowing what you don’t know” and contracting to fill that gap. Yet, at the same time, these companies come to rely on contracted resources less as the PMO matures over time. Why? Because they are also “making” those resources in-house, via a rich mix of training and development activities. PM coaching and mentoring is provided by 86% of best-in-class PMOs; they also develop PM career paths (57%), and deliver training (71%). When it comes to PMOs in high-performing organizations, 65% develop career paths (vs. 34% in the low performers) and 82% offer PM coaching and mentoring (contrasted with only 59% of the low performers).

So, we’re happy to find that the Harvard guys agree with a strategy that PM Solutions and PM College have long espoused (wink, wink), and which savvy PMO leaders have been pursuing for a number of years (these figures have not changed much since our 2012 PMO study). Contracting for immediate needs, while keeping an eye on the blue horizon and developing the talent that will answer future needs, is the hallmark of a successful enterprise.



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