IT PEOPLE - Doing too much with too little

We’ve all heard the over used phrase “Do more with less.” 

The road is only so wide

The road is only so wide

It is a real conundrum.  In an attempt to drive profitability companies laid off workers during the recent financial crisis.  In many cases workers assume responsibilities that don’t match their skills.  Those left behind felt the pressure of additional workload without complaint out of gratitude to have a job or fear of losing the one they have.   

At the same time companies are looking to drive productivity and profits through innovation putting more stress on the same pool of workers teetering on burn out.  Burnout is a top driver of stress. Stress breeds sickness.  People come to work when sick out of fear further impacting productivity.  It really is a vicious circle.   It is unsustainable in the long term.  

Information Technology workers are frustrated.  Many times they are required to maintain the production environments while being asked to deliver new technology solutions required to drive business innovation.  They are torn as they really want to do a good job.  In some cases there isn’t enough time in the day. In some cases they don’t have all of the skills needed.   Project invariably fall behind, managers spend more in an attempt to get the projects on track.  The vicious circle continues.

It all comes down to resource and demand management.  Many times we think of these disciplines as one and the same. They are connected but distinct.  Let’s start by discussing demand management. 

Demand management is balancing orders for its products or services with its ability to produce them in terms of resource or scheduling constraints.  Without managing demand, a company might produce too little or too much.  Driving more production than resources can handle most likely will create quality issues resulting in customer dissatisfaction.

Though IT is not a business in the purest sense, it is comprised of resources that produce highly complex products and services. The request for services is generally well understood with project requests in the queue for months if not years ahead.  Yet most of the time as IT leaders we do a fairly poor job of managing supply against demand. I challenge any IT leader reading this to answer a simple question:  “What does your resource utilization look like over the next quarter, much less the next year?” 

We spend a great deal of time and effort on the supply side – the how (project management, software development, asset management) to the detriment of the demand side – the what (capturing and prioritizing demand and having the knowledge needed to assign resources based on business objectives)   We believe our criteria for success is delivering on time, on budget and within specification as many projects that are demanded of us.  We are not held accountable for the delivery of solutions that drive business results. 

Right now many of you are asking – what does this have to resource management?  Or – “Where is Mary going with this?” 

Let’s circle around to resources management. 

Resource management is the effective deployment of resources when and where needed.  In this case let’s focus on human resources.  A service or product requires specific skills sets and the time required from people to maintain them.  We can expand the boundaries of time required using productivity tools but these tools most often will increase the skills required to operate the tools.  These productivity tools do not take away the physical capacity or increase hours available in a day. It is the primary responsibility of the IT manager to understand the capacity and capability of the resources balanced against the demand for their skills and time.   

The Project Management Institute (PMI) through the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) supplies a formula for demand management that requires data outlining the demand for resources, a forecast by time period into the future, and requirement for skills mapped against the supply of resources availability  - again forecasted by time.  Rarely have I seen these tools or techniques applied to the demand for resources needed to support and deliver IT as a whole.

Instead I see IT managers without the necessary skills and techniques needed to manage resource utilization against demand resulting in overworked and stressed team members. Overworked and stressed team members will only guarantee dissatisfied customers and less than optimal results.   You will see an exodus of your best employees.  Neither is the outcome we want from doing more with less.

You can count on it.  

So what do you do? 

Develop the courage to implement Governance to assure that the business accepts the cost and outcome of the decisions made.  See our   IT Governance Whitepaper  for a little help here.

Then build, train, and deploy the skills needed to manage resources against demand.   

Until next time, have an effective week!  Next week we will discuss resource management approaches and techniques.  

Conversations sponsored by ITeffectivity.com – an IT management consulting practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people, process, and technology management.