Managing Capability And Workload: Balancing the Project Portfolio

What’s the biggest cost element in delivering and implementing a new system or major upgrades to an existing system? Most of the time it’s staff costs which can be, and often are, the single biggest item in the budget. The delivery organisation needs some key information so that it can make best use of both funding for additional or contract staff and the skills available within the organisation and its delivery partner ecosystem. Simply hiring staff at the point of need on short-term contracts may look attractive: each project has the staff it needs when it needs them, and there’s no long-term overhead of staff “on the bench” between assignments. The reality can be somewhat different. A fresh person, even a short term subcontractor, takes time to become familiar with the organisation and the environment in which (s)he will be working. Simply getting the person hired may take anything up to a month, and longer if there is a need for background checks or security clearances to work on the site or project. Add to that the time required for briefing on the project, the current status of the implementation and the working environment and it’s quite possible to add another month before the new hire becomes truly effective. Also bear in mind the overhead of interviewing candidates, making offers and negotiating compensation and the simple solution suddenly becomes much more complex, and a “Just in Time” or “on demand” model quickly becomes complex and onerous. Don’t forget training. Investment in training for your staff brings more capability and versatility and also helps with retention of staff in the longer term. Here’s where the project management office (PMO) can add value to the organisation in five ways: 1. Know your people – who are your staff – what skills do they have – at what level is each skill set – what are their holiday/training plans – what is the fully allocated cost per day (or per hour) for that person? 2. Know your workload – which skills, and at what levels, does each project need? – when does the project need those skills? 3. Manage availablilty, commitment, development and recruiting – plan ahead so that resources are allocated to projects in good time – make your people aware of what they’ve been committed to and the timescales – identify gaps so that people may be recruited or trained in good time 4. Balance the workload over time – adjust schedules in consultation with project managers to make optimal use of resources and control monthly costs – planning early and planning well may appear to lengthen timescales, but committing to and meeting firm dates is much better than constantly “firefighting” or managing crises. 5. Review and refine your staff capability and assignments constantly – change is inevitable. Things will happen which delay completion of assigned work which will have a knock-on effect on planning. Early visibility of problems ensures an issue won’t become a crisis. – keep the staff/capability planning for each project up to date – monitor the use of skill sets over time. In the fast moving world of IT/IS today’s key skills are tomorrows legacy knowledge. – identify emerging trends and plan staff development, recruitment and training accordingly. The project management office doesn’t just provide cost savings, but can generate value through project visibility, process optimization, and applied best practices. Balancing the high cost of resourcing with the cost savings of an effective project management office.

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