This best practice explores the potential issues that inhibit effective resource and project management, offering tips on how to address them.
Real World Implementation Issues
Typically, when designing its end-to-end project and resource management processes, an organization will do some or all of the following:
- Institute a project management methodology, from initiation through closure
- Define one or more pools of resources, typically by department
- Create one or more governance committees to prioritize and approve projects
- Declare a PMO (Program Management Office) to oversee the methodology and serve other functions of varying degrees
- Implement software to facilitate the project and resource management process, as well as the demand and capacity planning process
While all this is fine in theory, a number of common issues prevent it from working effectively in practice:
- Not all demand is captured in the software, so there is an unclear picture of what the real demand is (i.e., smaller efforts are often not considered in the overall demand picture, which is a mistake).
- Capacity is overestimated, because the organization doesn’t realize how much time is taken by general administrative tasks and unplanned activities (often due to emergencies and shifts in priorities).
- Project and resource managers fail to keep the data current, generally because they’re “too busy” delivering the project or managing their department, but also because of the belief that “nobody’s using the data anyway.”
- People (i.e., customers, functional managers, other project managers, etc.) “poach” resources for emergent needs and other work, taking those resources’ time away from planned project activities.
- Project and resource managers rarely communicate (and even more rarely in person), so there is a disconnect between project and departmental priorities.
- Nobody likes to deliver bad news, so the problems are hidden until it’s too late to resolve them. Thus the organization is always in “reactive mode.”
- Senior managers, even if they buy into the overall process, resist enforcing and selling it to their management staff. They’re focused instead on business and strategy issues, and delegate operational processes to middle management.
- Sometimes, “accidental project managers” are assigned to lead projects, and their lack of effective training in managing up and sideways compounds the problem.
Despite the best of plans, the items above often reflect reality in many organizations. The remainder of this best practice offers suggestions for implementing processes and tools that can proactively address these issues.