The “P” in PM is as much about People Management as it is about Project Management. – Cornelius Fichtner
We’ve all heard the overused phrase “Do more with less.”
The road is only so wide.
It is a real conundrum. In an attempt to drive profitability, companies need to keep headcount to a minimum. IT leaders cringe when an employee resigns as they may not be allowed to backfill the role. In many cases, workers assume responsibilities that don’t match their skill set. Those left behind take on the pressure of additional workload without complaint, out of gratitude for having a job, and out of fear of losing the job they have.
At the same time, companies are looking to drive productivity and profits through innovation which places more stress on the same pool of workers teetering on burning out. Burnout is a top driver of stress. Stress breeds sickness. People come to work when sick out of fear that taking time to recover will further impact productivity. It is a vicious circle. It is unsustainable in the long term. In today’s high demand for technology work, it is also irresponsible on the part of the employer.
Information Technology workers are frustrated. Many times, they are required to maintain their production environments while being asked to deliver new technology solutions required to drive business innovation. They are torn as they want to do a good job, but often, there isn’t enough time in the day. In some cases, they don’t have all the skills needed. Projects invariably fall behind, and managers spend more time keeping projects on track. IT executives struggle to manage customer expectations. The vicious circle continues.
It all comes down to resource and demand management. Many times, we think of these disciplines as 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 will most likely 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 in advance. 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 the many projects demanded of us, on time, on budget, and within specification. IT is rarely held accountable for the delivery of solutions that drive business results.
Right now, many of you are asking – what does this have to do with resource management?
Resource management is the effective deployment of resources when and where they are needed. In this case, let’s focus on human resources. Human resource planning begins with a forecast of the number and types of employees needed to achieve the organization’s objectives. Planning also involves job analysis, which consists of the preparation of job descriptions and job specifications. 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 needs, and they do not 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 period into the future, and the 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.
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? We will lay out some of your options next week when we discuss resource management approaches and techniques.
Until next time, have an effective week!
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