Saturday, October 27, 2012

Who is on the project team – A response

A colleague responded to my last blog with the following remarks:
I would imagine, as a customer always wanting the "best" resources, that internal (at the PSO) collisions for top talent are a frequent occurrence.  How is that typically handled?
In a PMO
A Project Management Office (PMO) should be structured in such a way that the next available resources that have the necessary technical abilities will be chosen for the project. This does not mean that a project sponsor or end-user cannot request a specific project resource(s) for their project. This does happen, but depending on the strength of the management of the PMO, this request may be denied. As much as this is a compliment to the specific resource(s), it diminishes the charter of the PMO. It must be explained that the reason why a PMO is there in the first place is to staff the approved and funded projects for the organization with the available resources that have the technical ability necessary to complete the project.
In a PSO
So, as my colleague asked, how often does a request for a specific resource(s) happen and how is it handled? In a Professional Service Organization (PSO), the first thing we must admit is that this “problem” exists. First, a PSO has a good problem when the client employing their services requests a specific resource or resources, and this happens more often than we like to admit. This means not only that the resources are doing their job very well, but also that clients recognize this.
Now, after all the accolades, we must resolve this conflict. There are multiple ways to handle this; let’s go over a few:
·         Can the PSO start a project if another project is on hold?

If the project that the requested resource is currently on is in holding pattern for whatever reason, that presents an opportunity for that resource to begin the project of the newly requesting client. Now, the project manager (PM) has a balancing act to perform. The PM must be able to convince the current client that nothing will slip if the resource goes off project and then comes back. The proof is the execution of that promise.

·         Can the current project share resources with a new one starting up?

Depending on the type of project, sharing resources must be an option to be discussed. If the current project cannot support full-time resources, then it is obvious that the requested resource can, and most times will be used as a shared resource. This is what happens most times anyway and must be shared with the current client as soon as the project begins. In other words, the PM must be transparent about the project’s resources. If this is a surprise to the current client, then the PM must set their expectations straight. 

·         Can you switch resources on the current project?

This depends on the depth of the PSO’s bench. If the current project has just started or is about to close, then the requested resource can often be pulled from the current project and sent to the new or requesting client. Once again, the PM must be transparent and explain this switch with the management of the client that has the current project and with the project team. This is the least desirable choice because it may leave a bad taste in the mouth of the current project. However, this becomes a choice if there are no other options and the requesting client has an immediate need.
There is one other option that I haven’t mentioned and that is to say no to the requesting client. Now if the requesting client is insistent about the requested resource(s), then the start of their project may be delayed until the resource is available.
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine.You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Who Is On the Project Team?

Resource management is a crucial part of any project. A project manager (PM) must have the necessary people with the necessary experience to complete the project. What a PM needs just as much is the tools (i.e., SharePoint, MS Project), an accessible senior management team, an informed sales team, and just as important, a project team with the right attitude.  In this blog, I will discuss the importance of resource management and the PM’s juggling of those resources, senior management’s response to critical issues, and the team attitude.

The PM’s Resource Management Juggling Act
Whenever a PM begins a project, that PM has to assemble a team to plan and execute the project. In a Professional Service Organization (PSO), the PM must be ready to have a team as soon as the statement of work (SOW) is signed, sometimes having the team begin work the next day. This means the PM in a PSO has to begin putting the team together as soon as the client is close to signing the SOW. In a PSO, the PM must be an exceptional time manager in the sense that the PM may have to juggle resources between projects.  The PM must be careful not to jeopardize the progression of one project just to begin another. Conversely, the PM must be careful not to jeopardize the beginning of another project just to advance the established project. What can help here are virtual workers. More and more clients are accepting the new reality of having virtual resources work on projects executed by vendors. This is an advantage that the PM must utilize, but tactfully so as not to give either client any cause for concern.
This juggling act comes with multiple risks that must be acknowledged and controlled by the PM. The PM must be in constant communication with the members of all teams. This should be the least of the PM’s risks. As a PM juggling more than ten projects at any given time, I have been contacted for almost every single type of issue, sometimes for very small matters. However, if a PM wants to have the finger on the pulse, sometimes the PM must be informed of the smallest of issues to resolve.
Senior Management Response
The PM must discern which issue is minor and which is a major issue. Hopefully there are fewer major issues, but we know that is not a reality. In a PSO, clients believe almost all issues are major. As a PM, we must set expectation levels regarding project deliveries and project issues. The PM must keep the salesperson informed in case that salesperson drops in to visit the client at an inopportune time. The PM does not want to “blind-side” the salesperson. Also, PMs must discern which issue must be brought to senior management’s attention. Project show-stoppers must be raised immediately to inform senior management of a possible angry call from the client. So as not to be labeled as the boy or girl who cried wolf, the PM cannot bring every single issue to senior management’s attention.  A properly kept issues list identifies issues as show-stoppers, or as critical, high, medium, or low issues. This gives senior management the information it needs to address the client in future endeavors and to help the PM if necessary. 
Which Resources to Choose
The PM has to select from a resource pool to fill various project roles. Whether the role is a business analyst, a subject matter expert, or a developer, the PM must be able to get the right mix for the project. I am convinced that most resources have the tools necessary to fulfill a project role. The PM becomes a juggler in selecting individuals with the right attitudes to complete the project.  There was an author who wrote that “attitude is everything.” Although attitude may not be everything in an IT culture, it represents 80% of the need in picking the right resource. That may seem like a high percentage for an attitude, but a bad attitude is poison for a project team.
Availability is the next selection criteria. You may want a specific resource for a specific role, but if that resource is not available for your project, then you better have a second resource in mind. In a PMO or PSO, resources are stretched thin, even in good economic times. I do not know of many organizations that have a deep “bench” of resource that are sitting around waiting for their next assignment.
Having a resource that has worked with a client before and is familiar with the clients’ personnel is a nice-to-have. This is not always available, but can add value and continuity for your client.
The last criterion is ensuring the resource has the tools to complete his or her tasks. Although I have left this for last, it is critical that the client view you and your team as the experts in your respective fields. Delivering quality project deliverables and quality personnel to the project is crucial for the successful completion of your project. 
Selecting the right resources can result in a successful outcome for a project. This is as important as delivering a SOW that properly defines a project.

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine.You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.